On December 22, 1996, at 1810 eastern standard time, a Douglas DC-8-63, N827AX, operated by ABX Air Inc. (Airborne Express) impacted mountainous terrain in the vicinity of Narrows, Virginia, while on a post-modification functional evaluation flight. The three flightcrew members and three maintenance/avionics technicians on board were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by the impact and a postcrash fire. The functional evaluation flight, which originated from Piedmont Triad International Airport, Greensboro, North Carolina, was conducted on an instrument flight rules flight plan and operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
Safety issues discussed in this report include airplane stall recovery procedures for functional evaluation flights, stall warning systems, fidelity of the ABX DC-8 flight training simulator, guidelines and limitations for conducting functional evaluation flights, and Federal Aviation Administration surveillance of air carrier functional evaluation flight programs.