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United Airlines Flight 823
The aircraft involved, at Chicago O'Hare International Airport in 1963
DateJuly 9, 1964 (1964-07-09)
SummaryIn-flight fire for reasons unknown, loss of control
SiteCocke County, near Parrottsville, Tennessee, United States
36°1′36.51″N 83°3′41.19″W / 36.0268083°N 83.0614417°W / 36.0268083; -83.0614417Coordinates: 36°1′36.51″N 83°3′41.19″W / 36.0268083°N 83.0614417°W / 36.0268083; -83.0614417
Aircraft typeVickers Viscount 745D
OperatorUnited Airlines
Flight originPhiladelphia International Airport
StopoverWashington-National Airport
Last stopoverKnoxville-McGhee Tyson Airport
DestinationHuntsville International Airport

United Airlines Flight 823 was a scheduled flight from Philadelphia International Airport, Pennsylvania to Huntsville International Airport, Alabama with 39 on board. On July 9, 1964 at approximately 18:15 EST, the aircraft, a Vickers Viscount 745D, registration N7405,[2] crashed 2.25 mi (3.62 km) northeast of Parrottsville, Tennessee after experiencing an uncontrollable fire on board, killing all 39.[1]: 3  The fire of unknown origin occurred in the passenger cabin.[1]: 14–15  One passenger abandoned the aircraft through the No.4 escape window prior to impact but did not survive the free-fall. Among the victims was Durant da Ponte, professor of American literature and assistant dean of the University of Tennessee graduate school.[3]

The Aircraft Accident Report published by the Civil Aeronautics Board in June 1966—almost two years after the crash—stated that "The Board is unable to identify the source of fuel, the ignition point of the fire, or the cause of the final manoeuvre."[1]: 15  The investigation found the probable cause was "an uncontrollable in-flight fire, of undetermined origin, in the fuselage, which resulted in a loss of control of the aircraft."[1]: 15 

Approximately 33,000 lbs. of the 40,000 lb. (empty weight) airliner were recovered, with much of the missing weight attributable to cabin furnishings that were destroyed by fire. The wreckage was transported to the Naval Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where the Vickers was reconstructed by the Civil Aeronautics Board.[4]

The accident triggered an investigation of the Lockheed L-109C flight data recorder which resulted in modifications of that device and revision of the standards for all recorders. Also addressed were potential problems with the Pyrene Duo Head Model DCD-10 fire extinguisher system for the underfloor baggage and heater compartments. There was an Airworthiness Directive issued. Revisions were made to the Pilot's Manual, Viscount Maintenance and Instruction, and Accessories Manuals.[1]: (Attachments 1-2) 


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Aircraft Accident Report, United Air Lines, Inc., Vickers Viscount 745D, N7405, Near Parrottsville, Tennessee, July 9, 1964" (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. June 9, 1966. SA-380. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  2. ^ "FAA Registry (N7405)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  3. ^ "Smokies air crash". The Nashville Tennessean. July 10, 1964. p. 12. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021.
  4. ^ United Press International, “They’re Rebuilding Airliner Bit by Bit, Piece by Piece,” The San Bernardino Daily Sun, Thursday 17 September 1964, Volume LXXI, Number 15, page A-13.

Further reading