Shortly after 6:30pm on December 20th, 1995, American Airlines flight 965 departed Miami International Airport bound for Cali, Columbia. On the 757's flight deck that night was Captain Nicholas Tafuri and First Officer Don Williams. In addition to six other crew members, there were 156 passengers on board for the three hour flight. After an uneventful flight over Cuba and into Columbian airspace, 965 began it's descent into Cali shortly before 9:30pm with First Officer Williams at the controls.

Cali approach cleared 965 to 15,000ft direct to Cali VOR. Shortly after this, Cali approach asked 965 if they were able to accept the runway 19 approach, which would allow them to go direct into the airport instead of having to go past the airport to Cali VOR and then flying the ILS into runway 1. Flight 965 accepted the approach and was cleared down to 5,000ft and was told to report crossing Tulua VOR, which marks the beginning of the approach. A few minutes later, the captain asked if 965 could proceed direct to Rozo NDB and continue the approach.

Cali approach cleared 965 to Rozo and a few minutes later, the aircraft impacted the mountainside at 8,900ft over ten miles off course, killing all except four on board.
As with most accidents, flight 965 left investigators with nothing but confusion initially. ATC readouts left no clue as to any malfunction or difficulty on the flight deck. Though it was night, 965 was in the clear during the descent. Recovery of the CVR and FDR gave a clearer picture of what really happened during 965's approach.

When the flight was cleared for the 19 approach, it was just north of Tulua VOR. As the crew was entering the approach into the FMS, the aircraft passed over Tulua continuing southbound. Because Tulua marks the beginning of the approach, once the FMS was programmed, the autopilot attempted to turn the aircraft back to Tulua which resulted in the aircraft flying on an easterly heading for approximately one minute. The crew then reoriented the aircraft to proceed direct to Rozo NDB. By this time, they were far enough off course to the east that proceeding direct to Rozo would cause them to encounter the surrounding terrain.

Examination of the CVR shows that there was confusion between both the flight crew members as well as between the flight crew and ATC. The VOR DME Approach to runway 19 as well as the Rozo 1 Arrival both follow the same course down a narrow canyon to the airport. The approach just meets minimum criteria for safe margins on either side of course. The crew apparently was not aware of their position after turning east after passing Tulua or they would have known that they were entering an unsafe area. Safety would have dictated maintaining a safe altitude and proceeding back to Tulua to initiate the approach again. The crew made no mention to Cali approach that they had deviated from course and 965 was not under radar coverage.

The crew asked for direct Rozo and approach replied "take Rozo one and runway one niner". The approach controller may not have understood 965's request to go to Rozo NDB, instead thinking they were asking to do the Rozo one arrival. After this conversation, the crew seemed to be unable to orient themselves or properly program the FMS. It was only four minutes from the beginning of the easterly turn to the impact on the mountainside. The CVR transcripts leave many questions about what the crew was attempting to do and exactly where they believed themselves to be.