September 20, 1989 brought cold and wet weather to New York's LaGuardia Airport. USAir's flight 5050 was preparing to depart for Charlotte, North Carolina with 57 passengers on board along with four flight attendants. On board the flight deck of the 737 were Captain Micheal Martin and First Officer Constantine Kleissas.

Wreckage of 5050

The crew had a long layover in New York and was forced to wait for nearly and hour and a half due to weather. Finally at about 11:30pm the aircraft was cleared for takeoff with Kleissas at the controls. As the aircraft picked up speed on the takeoff roll, it began to drift to the left. The crew decided to abort the takeoff, but the aircraft was still rolling when it reached the end of the runway, plunging into Flushing Bay. The fuselage broke up and came to rest on the approach lights. Two people were killed.

The crew reported that the aircraft began to drift during the takeoff roll which Kleissas attempted to counteract with rudder inputs. The aircraft continued to drift and Martin then attempted to assist by using the nosewheel steering tiller. The crew then reported hearing a bang followed by continued rumbling. At this point, the abort decision was made. The aircraft had accelerated to nearly 140kts however, and due to the wet conditions of the runway, could not be stopped in time.

Investigators believed the rumbling sound to have been the nose wheel turning and then sliding down the runway. Recovery of the FDR showed that the rudder trim had been left in the full left deflection position throughout the takeoff. in fact, it had been in that position since the aircraft was started at the gate. This would normally be an item on the pre-takeoff checklist and recovery of the CVR indicated that the crew had checked the rudder trim during the checklist.

It was not determined whether a mechanical malfunction caused the rudder to be out of position or if the crew had simply missed catching it. Investigators concluded that Martin's hesitation on making the decision to abort was the cause of the accident. Martin had only just been upgraded to Captain and 505 was Kleissas' first non-supervised flight.