Aeroméxico Flight 498, registration XA-JED, was a Douglas DC-9-32 on route from Mexico City, Mexico to Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, United States (with stops in Guadalajara, Loreto, and Tijuana[1]) on August 31, 1986. N4891F was a privately-operated Piper PA-28-181 Archer owned by the Kramer family en route from Torrance to Big Bear City, California. The two aircraft collided in mid-air over Cerritos, California, killing all 67 aboard both aircraft and 15 people on the ground. In addition, eight people on the ground sustained minor injuries from the crash.[2]

Collision and crashEdit

The Piper aircraft, N4891F, with the pilot and two passengers aboard, had departed Torrance, California at about 11:40 PDT. At about 11:46 Flight 498 began its descent into Los Angeles with 58 passengers and six crew members aboard. At 11:52, the Piper's engine collided with the left horizontal stabilizer of the DC-9, shearing off the top of the Piper's cockpit and decapitating the pilot and both passengers.[2] The heavily-damaged Piper fell onto an empty playground at Cerritos Elementary School.[3]

The DC-9, with most of its vertical and all of its horizontal stabilizer torn off, inverted and fell to the earth in a residential neighborhood at Holmes Avenue and Reva Circle in Cerritos,[4] killing all 64 passengers and crew aboard the jetliner and 15 people on the ground. The impact and fire destroyed five houses and damaged seven more. A fire sparked by the crash contributed significantly to the damage. When the air traffic controller assigned to Flight 498 could not find the aircraft on the radar, he called up an inbound American Airlines jet for assistance. The pilot on American Airlines Flight 333 replied that he saw a large smoke plume off to his left, indicating that Flight 498 had crashed.[5]

Breakdown of casualties in the DC-9Edit


Thirty-six of the passengers were citizens of the United States. Of the Mexican citizens, 11 lived in the United States and 9 lived in Mexico. The Salvadoran citizen lived in the Bay Shore area of the Town of Islip, New York, U.S. Of all of the passengers, 10 were identified as children.[6]

Of the passengers on the Tijuana-Los Angeles leg:[7]

  • 2 boarded in Mexico City
  • 6 boarded in Guadalajara
  • 31 boarded at Loreto Airport
  • 19 boarded in Tijuana

Investigation and aftermathEdit

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that N4891F, the Piper, had entered the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area without the required clearance. The TCA included a triangular slab of airspace from 6000 ft to 7000 ft altitude reaching south to 33.714N 118.007W, across the Piper's intended route; the Piper could legally fly beneath this airspace without contacting ATC, but instead climbed into it. The air traffic controller had also been distracted by another flight entering the TCA without clearance.

The Piper was not equipped (and was not then required to be) with a Mode C transponder, which would have indicated its altitude, and LAX had not been equipped with automatic warning systems. Finally, apparently neither pilot sighted the other aircraft because neither attempted any evasive maneuvers, even though they were in visual range. When an autopsy revealed significant arterial blockage in the heart of the Piper's pilot, there was public speculation that he had suffered a heart attack, causing incapacitation and contributing to the collision; further forensic evidence discounted this, and error on the part of the Piper pilot was determined to be the main contributing factor to the collision.[2]

As a result of this accident and other near mid-air collisions (NMAC) in terminal control areas, the Federal Aviation Administration required that all airliners be equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS), and required that light aircraft operating in dense airspaces be equipped with "Mode C" transponders that could report three-dimensional position.[8]

A jury ruled that the Aeroméxico plane bore no fault,Template:Citation needed instead deciding that Kramer and the FAA each acted equally negligently and had equal responsibility. U.S. District Judge David Kenyon agreed with the notion that the FAA shared responsibility.Template:Citation needed


This crash was featured in the April 24, 2007 episode of the television show Mayday (Air Crash Investigation, Air Emergency) titled "Out of Sight" in the original and Air Emergency versions and "Collision over LA" in the Air Crash Investigation version.


File:Cerritos Air Disaster Memorial.JPG

On March 11, 2006, the City of Cerritos dedicated a new sculpture garden featuring a memorial to the victims of the accident.[9] The sculpture, designed by Kathleen Caricof,[10] consists of three pieces. One piece, which resembles a big wing, commemorates the victims aboard the Aeroméxico jet. A similar, but smaller, piece (which also sits atop a smaller pedestal) commemorates the victims aboard the Piper. A third piece, a bench, commemorates the victims on the ground. The bench also allows visitors to sit and reflect on the disaster.[11]

The names of the victims are listed on the pedestals holding the two wing-like pieces. The smaller pedestal is dedicated "in loving memory" of those who perished on the ground, and the larger pedestal is dedicated "in memory" of those who perished aboard the two planes. The names on both pedestals are listed in alphabetical order.


See alsoEdit

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  • Allegheny Airlines Flight 853 - A similar crash that occurred in Fairland, Indiana in 1969.
  • PSA Flight 182 - A similar crash that occurred in San Diego in 1978.



  1. "Collision in the "Birdcage"," TIME
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 NTSB Report-87/07
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. "Aircraft Collision Over Los Angeles Suburb," (diagram) Daily Herald (Chicago), September 2, 1986, p6
  5. "Out of Sight," Mayday
  6. "Collison Victims on DC-9." The New York Times. September 2, 1986. Tuesday, Late City Final Edition. Section D, Page 17, Column 5. National Desk.
  7. "List of Casualties on DC-9." The New York Times. September 1, 1986. Monday, Late City Final Edition. Section 1, Page 7, Column 1. National Desk.
  8. Larry Gerber, AP, "1986 Cerritos crash changed the way we fly," The Intelligencer Record (Doylestown, Pa.), September 1, 1996, p A-13
  9. Template:Cite web
  11. Template:Cite web
  •, Brief of Accident, NTSB, adopted March 7, 1988,
  •, Collision Over Cerritos, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

External linksEdit

Template:Aviation accidents and incidents in 1986 Template:Coord