Continental Airlines Flight 11
Boeing 707-124 (Continental Airlines) LAX.jpg
A Continental Airlines Boeing 707 similar to the aircraft involved in the crash
DateMay 22, 1962
SummarySuicide bombing (suicide committed as an insurance fraud by a passenger)
SiteUnion Township, Putnam County
near Unionville, Missouri, United States
40°32′49.43″N 93°3′28.25″W / 40.5470639°N 93.0578472°W / 40.5470639; -93.0578472Coordinates: 40°32′49.43″N 93°3′28.25″W / 40.5470639°N 93.0578472°W / 40.5470639; -93.0578472
Aircraft typeBoeing 707-124
OperatorContinental Airlines
Flight originO'Hare International Airport
Chicago, Illinois
DestinationCharles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, Kansas City, Missouri
Fatalities45 (44 initially)
Survivors0 (1 initially)

Continental Airlines Flight 11, registration N70775, was a Boeing 707 aircraft which exploded in the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, while en route from O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Kansas City, Missouri, on May 22, 1962. The aircraft crashed in a clover field near Unionville, in Putnam County, Missouri, killing all 45 crew and passengers on board. The investigation determined the cause of the crash was a suicide bombing committed as insurance fraud.


Continental Airlines Flight 11 memorial erected in Unionville, Missouri
Continental Airlines Flight 11 memorial erected in Unionville, Missouri

Thomas G. Doty arrived at the gate just moments before departure.[1]

Flight 11 departed O'Hare at 8:35 p.m. The cockpit crew consisted of Captain Fred R. Gray (50); First Officer Edward J. Sullivan (41), and Flight Engineer Jack D. Allen (32). The flight was routine until just before the Mississippi River when it deviated from its filed flight plan to the north to avoid a line of thunderstorms.[2] In the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, the radar image of the aircraft disappeared from the scope of the Waverly, Iowa, Flight Following Service. At approximately 9:17 p.m. an explosion occurred in the right rear lavatory, resulting in the separation the tail section from the fuselage.[3] The flight crew initiated the required emergency descent procedures and donned their smoke masks due to the dense fog that formed in the cabin immediately after decompression. Following the separation of the tail, the remaining aircraft structure pitched nose down violently, causing the engines to tear off, after which it fell in uncontrolled gyrations. The fuselage of the Boeing 707, minus the aft 38 feet (12 m), and with part of the left and most of the right wing intact, struck the ground, headed westerly down a 10-degree slope of an alfalfa field.[4]

Witnesses in and around both Cincinnati, Iowa and Unionville reported hearing loud and unusual noises at around 9:20 p.m. Two more saw a big flash or ball of fire in the sky. A B-47 Stratojet bomber flying out of Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas was flying at the altitude of 26,500 ft (8,100 m) in the vicinity of Kirksville, Missouri. The aircraft commander saw a bright flash in the sky forward and above his aircraft's position. After referring to his navigation logs, he estimated the flash to have occurred at 9:22 p.m. near the location where the last radar target of Flight 11 had been seen. Most of the fuselage was found near Unionville, but the engines and parts of the tail section, and left wing were found up to six miles (9.7 km) away from the main wreckage.[4]

Of the 45 individuals on board, 44 were dead when rescuers reached the crash site. One passenger, a 27-year-old man from Evanston, Illinois, died of internal injuries at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Centerville, Iowa, an hour and a half after being rescued.[5][6]


FBI agents discovered that Doty, a married man with a five-year-old daughter, had purchased a life insurance policy from Mutual of Omaha for $150,000 (roughly equivalent to $1 million in 2022), the maximum available; his death would also bring in another $150,000 in additional insurance (some purchased at the airport) and death benefits. Doty was about to appear in court on an armed robbery charge. Doty had purchased six sticks of dynamite shortly before the flight, took them into the lavatory in his briefcase, and ignited them. His motive was that his wife and daughter would collect on the $300,000 of life insurance. His widow attempted to collect on the insurance, but the policy was voided when Doty's death was ruled a suicide.[7]

In July 2010, a memorial was erected near the crash site in Unionville, Missouri on the anniversary of the crash.[8][9]

In May 2012, a special 50th-anniversary memorial service was held in Unionville.

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Memorial honors Continental Flight 11
  2. ^ "Jet Carrying 45 Crashes in Iowa on Way to Coast". The New York Times. No. Vol. 111, No. 38, 105. May 24, 1962. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  3. ^ "WRECK INDICATES JET RIPPED APART; C.A.B. Studies Evidence of Sudden Decompression". The New York Times. No. Vol. 111, No. 38, 106. 25 May 1962.
  4. ^ a b "AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT;CONTINENTAL AIR LINES, INC. BOEING 707-124, N 70775, NEAR UNIONVILLE, MISSOURI, MAY 22, 1962" (PDF). Repository and Open Science Access Portal; National Transportation Library; United States Department of Transportation. Civil Aeronautics Board. July 26, 1962. pp. 3, 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 February 2020. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Unraveling the crash of Flight 11...", Sun Herald
  6. ^ "Jet Broke Up at 39,000 ft., Experts Say". Chicago Daily Tribune. Vol. 121, no. 124. May 24, 1962. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. ^ Passengers were mostly businessmen plus one bomber
  8. ^ "Flight 11 Memorial Dedication". Putnam County Historical Society. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  9. ^ Riek, Jim (6 November 2008). "A Forgotten Tragedy". KOMU-TV. Archived from the original on May 11, 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  10. ^ Fifty years ago this week..., The Pitch, May 23, 2012