63 years ago, on September 29, 1959, Braniff Flight 542, traveling from Houston to Dallas, broke up in midair 41 minutes after taking off. The aircraft involved in the incident was only 11 days old, an Allison 501-D13 engine-powered Lockheed L-188A Electra. Let’s figure out what happened.
Braniff International Airways Flight 542 operated on a regular basis between Houston and New York, with stops in Dallas and Washington, D.C. The plane was supposed to leave Houston for Dallas at 22:15 Central Standard Time (CST), but it left 22 minutes late due to a mechanical problem with the number three generator. The plane, N9705C, was being flown by two pilots and a flight engineer who had only recently completed their transition training and had little experience flying the Electra.
Once the plane was in the air, Houston control handed it over to San Antonio, where the pilots reported flying over the Gulf Coast at an altitude of 9,000 feet. At 22:52, the plane was at 15,000 feet and reported six minutes later that it had just passed the Leona Omnidirectional Navigation Radio (omni). Then, over the Braniff company radio, they announced that the number three generator would require maintenance because it had not been adequately insulated in Houston. The left-wing and number one (left outboard) engine separated from the plane at 23:09, en route to the Trinidad Intersection. The horizontal stabilizer was then dislodged by pieces of the broken wing. The right wing of the aircraft then separated, causing structural damage to the fuselage and the plane’s breakup.
Those passengers and crew who were not killed during the plane’s initial breakup were either ejected or trapped within it as it fell out of the sky. The wreckage landed in a potato field near Buffalo, Texas, killing all 34 passengers and crew members.
The next day, civil aviation investigators arrived at the crash site and discovered the left wing in a potato field a mile away from the wreckage. The sequence of events had clearly begun with the left wing, but they couldn’t figure out how it had happened. Engineers from NASA, Boeing, Convair, and the FAA were all unable to determine what caused the wing to break off.
The investigation stalled for six months until another Electra, this time belonging to North West Orient Airlines, disintegrated in flight near Tell City, Indiana. CAB Chief Safety Investigator Phillip Goldstein was reported to have stated following the second crash:
“The structure was subjected to forces greater than it was designed for. We have definite evidence of a wing failure. Why this wing failure occurred, I don’t know.”
Once more, investigators struggled to find a solution and ultimately came to the conclusion that the wings of the aircraft were too stiff. Increased vibrations resulted from wing vibrations and harmonic coupling, which eventually led to the failure of a portion of the structure.
All of the investigation teams came to the same conclusion: the failure of the left-wing due to an undampened propeller was the accident’s most likely cause.
Two Colombian Air Force Pilots Die in Embraer Tucano Aircraft Collision
The Colombian Air Force (FAC) is investigating a tragic accident that occurred during a training mission on Saturday, resulting in the loss of two pilots. Two Embraer T-27 Tucano aircraft collided mid-air and crashed during the exercise in central Colombia. The FAC has not released the identity of the second pilot, and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the collision.
Video footage of the accident has surfaced on Twitter, showing the aircraft bursting into flames before plummeting to the ground. The FAC confirmed the death of Lieutenant Colonel Mario Andrés Espinosa González, who was in command of one of the Tucano planes. He was scheduled to perform an aerobatic show at this year’s Aeronautical Fair in Rionegro, Antioquia.
Investigation into the Cause of the Collision
The FAC has sent an inspection commission to the crash site to investigate the cause of the accident. The air force expressed condolences to González’s family and colleagues, describing the incident as “unfortunate.”
Preparing for the Aeronautical Fair
The pilots were likely training for the upcoming Aeronautical Fair, which will take place from July 12th to 16th. The FAC had planned to send a squadron of six aircraft, five pilots, a security officer, and five technicians to the event. The Brazilian-built Tucano aircraft have been part of the FAC’s fixed-wing military pilot training program for many years and have logged tens of thousands of safe flight hours.
The squadron was set to perform aerobatic shows ranging from 30 to 35 minutes at the Aeronautical Fair. The FAC had previously announced that the Tucano planes would perform highly complex maneuvers, including inverted flights, 360-degree turns, high-speed crossings, and rapid turns in promotion.
The tragic incident has shocked the Colombian Air Force and the aviation community. The cause of the accident remains unknown, and the investigation is ongoing. The loss of the two pilots is a reminder of the risks that military pilots face every day in their service to their country. Our thoughts and condolences go out to their families and colleagues during this difficult time.
Also, you might be interested in reading: Plane Crashes in Virginia After Pilot Passes Out
Plane Crashes in Virginia After Pilot Passes Out
A private jet crashed in a mountainous region in Virginia on June 4th, 2023 after flying over a restricted airspace in Washington D.C. There were no survivors among four people onboard the aircraft.
The plane, a Cessna 560 Citation V, belonged to a company owned by multi-millionaire John Rumpel and was registered N611VG. Rumpel stated that the passengers onboard were his family members, including his daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter.
The aircraft took off at 1:15pm local time from Elizabethton, Tennessee and was en route to Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York when the air traffic controllers lost contact with the pilot. The pilot was unresponsive to calls from air traffic control 15 minutes after departure.
Presumably on autopilot, the private jet flew over its destination at 34,000ft and turned around and started heading back to its origin in a straight line.
During its autopilot cruise back to Elizabethton, the aircraft entered restricted airspace over Washington D.C., which prompted government officials to scramble six F-16 fighters to intercept the aircraft. The F-16 fighters caused sonic booms on the way to intercept the private jet, which alerted many residents over the Washington D.C. area.
Upon reaching the ill-fated private jet, pilots from the F-16 fighter jets observed that the pilot of the private plane was passed out at the controls. The F-16s tried to alert the pilot by firing flares, but all attempts were futile.
The private jet continued cruising towards its origin until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a rural, mountainous region in Virginia.
Cause of the Crash
The FAA and NTSB are currently investigating the incident and have not provided an explanation for the crash; however, it is likely that the plane experienced a loss of cabin pressure shortly after takeoff, as evident by the unconscious state of the pilot. The people onboard would have experienced hypoxia from a lack of oxygen and would have been unaware of the entire event.
Cover Image: NBC News Washington
INCIDENT: Two Airbus A330s Collide on Ground at Tokyo Haneda Airport
On a fateful day at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, a serious incident occurred involving two Airbus A330 passenger jets. The Japanese transport ministry reported that the Thai Airways Airbus A330-300 (registration HS-TEO) and Eva Air Airbus A330-300 (registration B-16340) collided near a taxiway. The mishap took place as Thai flight #TG683, en route to Bangkok, taxied alongside Eva Air flight #BR189, bound for Taipei. Unfortunately, the incident occurred just before the planes were to line up on runway 16R at Tokyo-Haneda Airport.
The Thai Airways plane sustained noticeable damage, with its winglet appearing to be broken. Fragments from the collision were scattered near the runway, raising concerns about the severity of the impact. In response, authorities from the Tokyo airport office promptly dispatched officials to the scene to investigate the incident thoroughly.
To ensure the safety of all personnel involved and prevent further mishaps, the runway close to the accident site was temporarily closed. Such precautions are crucial in order to assess the situation accurately and prevent any potential hazards that may arise from the damaged aircraft.
As a result of this collision, flight operations at the airport were disrupted, causing delays for several domestic and international flights. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, two prominent airlines operating at Tokyo Haneda Airport, were among those affected by the incident.
Safety remains the top priority, and investigations into the causes and circumstances surrounding the collision are expected to shed light on any lapses or oversights that may have contributed to this unfortunate event.
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