1960 New York mid-air collision
United Airlines Flight 826 · Trans World Airlines Flight 266
Accident
DateDecember 16, 1960 (1960-12-16)
SummaryMid-air collision
SiteAbout a mile west of Miller Field
40°34′07″N 74°07′19″W / 40.56861°N 74.12194°W / 40.56861; -74.12194Coordinates: 40°34′07″N 74°07′19″W / 40.56861°N 74.12194°W / 40.56861; -74.12194
Total fatalities134
Total injuries0
Total survivors0
First aircraft
A jetliner on the apron

The tail assembly of N8013U, the Douglas DC-8-11 involved in the collision
TypeDouglas DC-8-11
NameMainliner Will Rogers
OperatorUnited Airlines
IATA flight No.UA826
ICAO flight No.UAL826
Call signUNITED 826
RegistrationN8013U
Flight originChicago-O'Hare International Airport (ORD/KORD), IL
DestinationIdlewild Airport (IDL/KIDL)(Now John F. Kennedy International Airport), New York City
Occupants84
Passengers77
Crew7
Fatalities84 (83 initially)
Injuries0 (1 initially)
Survivors0 (1 initially)
Second aircraft
A large piston engined airliner taxiing past some large bomber aircraft

N6907C, the Lockheed L-1049A Super Constellation involved.
TypeLockheed L-1049A Super Constellation
NameStar of Sicily
OperatorTrans World Airlines
IATA flight No.TW266
ICAO flight No.TWA266
Call signTWA 266
RegistrationN6907C
Flight originDayton International Airport (DAY/KDAY), Dayton, Ohio
StopoverPort Columbus International Airport (CMH/KCMH), Ohio
DestinationLaGuardia Airport KLGA New York
Occupants44
Passengers39
Crew5
Fatalities44
Survivors0
Ground casualties
Ground fatalities6

On Friday, December 16, 1960, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 bound for Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport) in New York City collided in midair with a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending toward LaGuardia Airport.[1] The Constellation crashed on Miller Field in Staten Island and the DC-8 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing all 128 aboard the two aircraft and six people on the ground. The accident was the world's deadliest aviation disaster at the time.

The accident became known as the Park Slope plane crash or the Miller Field crash[2] after the two crash sites. The accident was also the first hull loss and first fatal accident involving a Douglas DC-8.[3][4]

Aircraft and crews

United Airlines Flight 826, Mainliner Will Rogers, registration N8013U,[5] was a DC-8-11 carrying 77 passengers and seven crewmembers from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport) in Queens. The crew consisted of captain Robert Sawyer (age 46), first officer Robert Fiebing (40), flight engineer Richard Pruitt (30) and four stewardesses.[1]

Trans World Airlines Flight 266, Star of Sicily, registration N6907C,[6] was a Super Constellation carrying 39 passengers and five crew members from Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, to LaGuardia Airport in Queens. The crew consisted of captain David Wollam (age 39), first officer Dean Bowen (32), flight engineer LeRoy Rosenthal (30) and two stewardesses.[1][7] Star of Sicily's sister ship N6902C, Star of the Seine, was destroyed in another mid-air collision with a United Airlines flight in 1956.[citation needed] [8][9]

Background

Flight paths of the two aircraft
Flight paths of the two aircraft

At 10:21 a.m. Eastern Time, United 826 advised ARINC radio that one of its VOR receivers was inoperative, and the message was relayed to United Airlines maintenance. However, air-traffic control (ATC) was not informed that the aircraft had only one operational receiver, which presented difficulty for the pilots of flight 826 to identify the Preston intersection, beyond which it had not received clearance.

At 10:25 a.m., ATC issued a revised clearance for the flight to shorten its route to the Preston holding point (near Laurence Harbor, New Jersey) by 12 miles (19 km). That clearance included holding instructions (a standard "racetrack" holding pattern) for Flight 826 when it arrived at the Preston intersection. Flight 826 was expected to reduce its speed before reaching Preston to a standard holding speed of 210 knots (240 mph; 390 km/h) or lower. However, the aircraft was estimated to be traveling at 301 knots (346 mph; 557 km/h) when it collided with the TWA plane, several miles beyond the Preston clearance limit.

During the investigation, United Airlines claimed that the Colts Neck VOR was unreliable.[10] Preston was the point where airway V123—the 050-radial off the Robbinsville VOR—crossed the Solberg 120-degree radial and the Colts Neck 346-degree radial. However, the Civil Aeronautics Board's final report found no problem with the Colts Neck VOR.

The prevailing conditions were light rain and fog, which had been preceded by snowfall.

Collision and ground impacts

Locations of the crash sites in New York City
The crash site of the United Airlines DC-8, United 826, in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The crash site of the United Airlines DC-8, United 826, in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The crash site of the TWA Super Constellation, TWA 266, in Miller Field, Staten Island.
The crash site of the TWA Super Constellation, TWA 266, in Miller Field, Staten Island.

According to the DC-8's flight data recorder, the aircraft was 12 miles (19 km) off course, and for 81 seconds it descended at 3,600 feet per minute (18 m/s) while slowing from more than 400 knots (460 mph; 740 km/h) to 301 knots (346 mph; 557 km/h) at the time of the collision.

One of the DC-8's starboard engines struck the Constellation just ahead of its wings, tearing apart a portion of the fuselage. The Constellation entered a dive, with debris continuing to fall as it disintegrated during its spiral to the ground.

The initial impact tore the DC-8's engine from its pylon. Having lost one engine and a large part of the right wing, the DC-8 remained airborne for another 90 seconds.

The DC-8 crashed into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place (40°40′38″N 73°58′25″W / 40.67709°N 73.97368°W / 40.67709; -73.97368 (1960 New York mid-air collision DC-8 crash site)), scattering wreckage and setting fire to ten brownstone apartment buildings, the Pillar of Fire Church, the McCaddin Funeral Home, a Chinese laundry and a delicatessen. Six people on the ground were killed.[11][1]

The crash left the remains of the DC-8 pointing southeast toward a large open field at Prospect Park, blocks from its crash site. An occupant in one of the affected apartment buildings said that his family survived because they were in the only room of their apartment that was not destroyed. The crash left a trench covering most of the length of the middle of Sterling Place. Witnesses thought that a bomb had detonated or that a building's boiler had exploded.

The TWA plane crashed onto the northwest corner of Miller Field at 40°34′12″N 74°06′11″W / 40.57°N 74.103°W / 40.57; -74.103 (1960 New York mid-air collision Constellation crash site), with some sections of the aircraft landing in New York Harbor. At least one passenger fell into a tree before the wreckage hit the ground.[10][1]

There was no radio contact with traffic controllers from either plane after the collision, although LaGuardia had begun tracking an incoming, fast-moving, unidentified plane from Preston toward the LaGuardia "Flatbush" outer marker.[12]

Investigation

Front page of Syracuse Post-Standard on 17 December 1960.
Front page of Syracuse Post-Standard on 17 December 1960.

The likely cause of the accident was identified in a report by the US Civil Aeronautics Board:

United Flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit and the confines of the airspace allocated to the flight by Air Traffic Control. A contributing factor was the high speed of the United DC-8 as it approached the Preston intersection, coupled with the change of clearance which reduced the en-route distance along Victor 123 by approximately 11 miles (9.6 nmi; 18 km).[1]

Initial survivor

The only person to initially survive the crash was Stephen Baltz, an 11-year-old boy from Wilmette, Illinois. He was traveling unaccompanied on Flight 826 to spend Christmas in Yonkers with relatives. He was thrown from the plane into a snowbank, where his burning clothing was extinguished. Although alive and conscious, he was severely burned and had inhaled burning fuel.[11] Baltz died of pneumonia the next day.[13]

Legacy

The total of 134 victims would not be surpassed until a Lockheed C-130B Hercules was shot down in May 1968, killing 155 people.[14] In terms of commercial aviation, the death toll would not be surpassed until the March 1969 crash of Viasa Flight 742, which crashed on takeoff and killed all 84 people on board the aircraft, as well as 71 people on the ground.[15]

In 2010, on the 50th anniversary of the accident, a memorial to the 134 victims of the two crashes was unveiled in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. The cemetery is the site of the common grave containing the remains of those whom could not be identified.[16][17]

The collision is covered in "Collision Course," the fifth episode of the first season of The Weather Channel documentary series Why Planes Crash.[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "UNITED AIR LINES, INC, DC-8, N8013U, AND TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., CONSTELLATION 1049A, N6907C, NEAR STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK, DECEMBER 16, 1960" (PDF). archive.org. Civil Aeronautics Board. 18 June 1962. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. ^ "Park Slope Plane Crash". The New York Times. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  3. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-8-11 N8013U New York, NY". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  4. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation N6907C Miller Army Air Station, NY". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  5. ^ "FAA Registry (N8013U)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  6. ^ "FAA Registry (N6907C)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  7. ^ "1960 plane collision over NYC spurred improvements". Associated Press. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Ready for Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion into a Career: RFT 519: United Airlines Flight 286/Trans World Airlines Flight 266 Apple Podcasts'te".
  9. ^ Stemp, P. D. (7 July 2015). Kites, Birds & Suff - Aircraft of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA - LOCKHEED Aircraft. ISBN 9781326100261.
  10. ^ a b Witkin, Richard (10 January 1961). "High Speed Laid to Jet in Crash. Inquiry Told Craft Overshot Circle Area at 500 M.P.H". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 March 2011. The jet airliner in the 16 December collision here was traveling more than 500 miles an hour when it swept past its assigned circling point, an official inquiry was told yesterday.
  11. ^ a b Disaster in Fog — New York Times — 17 December 1960
  12. ^ Excerpts of Tape Conversations at Time of Air Crash — New York Times — 22 December 1960
  13. ^ Perlmutter, Emanuel (18 December 1960). "Boy Who Survived Crash Dies; 'Stevie Tried Hard,' Father Says". The New York Times. p. 49.
  14. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed C-130B Hercules 60-0297 Kham Duc". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  15. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 YV-C-AVD Maracaibo". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  16. ^ "New York - New Monument Marks 1960 Brooklyn Air Crash". Vos Iz Neias. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  17. ^ staff/jen-carlson (16 December 2010). "Memorial Is Unveiled For 1960s Park Slope Plane Crash". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 31 July 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  18. ^ Sommers, Caroline (27 April 2013). Why Planes Crash (TV Documentary) (Collision Course ed.). The Weather Channel: NBC Peacock Productions.