16 January 1942: Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc., Flight 3, was a transcontinental passenger flight enroute to Los Angeles, California from New York City.
The airplane was a Douglas DC-3-362, registered NC1946.
The pilot in command was Captain Wayne C. Williams, an 11-year employee of T&WA. He had 12,204 hours total flight time with more than 3,500 hours in DC-3s. He had flown 204 hours at night within the previous six months. The co-pilot was S. Morgan Gillette, who had been with T&WA for a little less than 1 year, 6 months. He had 1,330 hours of flight time with 650 in DC-3s.
After a refueling stop at Las Vegas Airport, the airliner departed at 7:07 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, on the final leg of the flight to the Lockheed Air Terminal at Burbank, California (officially, the Bob Hope Airport, but now known as Hollywood Burbank Airport). It was dark, but the weather was clear. Because of wartime regulations, the lighted airway beacons on the route had been extinguished.
At 7:20 p.m., PST, Flight 3 crashed into a vertical cliff face on Potosi Mountain, an 8,517-foot (2,596 meters) mountain 32 miles (51.5 kilometers) southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The DC-3 was completely destroyed and all 22 persons aboard were killed, including actress Carole Lombard, Mrs. Clark Gable.
In planning the flight, the crew had made an error in the compass course for this leg of the flight. Their written flight plan, filed with the airline’s operations department, indicated a compass course of 218° which took them directly to the mountain.
Carole Lombard (née Jane Alice Peters) was one of the most successful motion picture actresses in Hollywood. She was born at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1908, and had her first motion picture role in 1921. At age 16, she was under contract to the Fox Film Corporation and as was customary, was given a more dramatic name. She was primarily a comedic actress though she also had several dramatic roles.
Lombard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in “My Man Godfrey” which starred William Powell, to whom she was married 1931–1933. In 1938, Lombard married actor Clark Gable.
Carole Lombard had been on a War Bonds tour and was returning home to Hollywood. She was seated in an aisle seat in the third row, next to a U.S. Army private. Her mother, Elizabeth Peters, was seated directly across the aisle.
NC1946 was a DC-3-362, c/n 3295, built in February 1941 for Transcontinental and Western Air by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Santa Monica, California. It was an all-metal, twin-engine civil transport with retractable landing gear. The airplane was operated by a pilot and co-pilot and could carry up to 21 passengers.
The DC-3-362 was 64 feet, 5 inches (19.634 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet (28.956 meters). It was 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters) high. The airplane weighed approximately 18,000 pounds (8,165 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 25,200 pounds (11,431 kilograms).
NC1946 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 GR-1820G202A nine-cylinder radial engines with compression ratio of 6.7:1. These engines had a Normal Power rating of 1,100 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for Takeoff, burning 91/96 octane aviation gasoline. They drove three-bladed, constant-speed, full-feathering Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propellers through a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The GR-1820G202A was 4 feet, 2.04 inches (1.271 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.10 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,310 pounds (594 kilograms).
The DC-3 had a cruise speed of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 237 miles per hour (381 kilometers per hour) at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters). The airplane had a service ceiling 24,000 feet (7,315 meters), and its range was 1,025 miles (1,650 kilometers).
The Douglas DC-3 was in production for 11 years with 10,655 civil and C-47 military airplanes built, and another 5,000 license-built copies. Over 400 are still in commercial service.
Commercial Aviation Archaeology has a very informative site on this accident at:
13 January 1982: At 3:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (20:59 UTC), Air Florida Flight 90, a Boeing 737-222, registration N62AF, s/n 19556, began its takeoff roll at Washington National Airport (DCA). The airliner, with a flight crew of two and three cabin attendants, carried 74 passengers en route Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with an intermediate stop at Tampa.
The departure was delayed 1 hour, 45 minutes when the airport closed due to a snowstorm. When the airport reopened, heavy snow was still falling.
Snow and ice had accumulated on the airliner’s wings and fuselage. The airplane had previously been de-iced but the flight crew elected not to repeat the procedure. Further, they did not activate the engine anti-ice system.
During the takeoff the engines were slow to accelerate and the airplane took much longer than normal to gain flight speed. Though it did become airborne, the 737 reached an altitude of just 352 feet (107 meters) when it stalled and struck the 14th Street Bridge, and then crashed into the Potomac River.
The airliner broke through the ice covering the river and sank. There were only five survivors.
In addition to those who died aboard the 737, four persons on the 14th Street Bridge were killed when the airliner struck their cars.
Many people who witnessed the crash tried to help the survivors by going in to the freezing water to reach them.
The U.S. Park Police responded with a 1979 Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II helicopter, Eagle 1, (N22PP, serial number 45287) flown by Officers Donald W. Usher and Melvin E. Windsor. The pilot, Don Usher, hovered low, sometimes with the skids of the helicopter in the water, while Gene Windsor tried to reach the survivors.
A passenger in the water, Arland D. Williams, Jr., twice caught lines that had been lowered from the helicopter, but in both cases, he passed them to others in the water:
“He was about 50 years old, one of half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. To the copter’s two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a lifeline from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. The helicopter crew who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner, lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. Then the lifeline saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage and the helicopter pilot, Donald W. Usher, returned to the scene but the man was gone.”
— “A Hero – Passenger Aids Others, Then Dies.” The Washington Post, January 14, 1982.
“So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.”
— Rosenblatt, R., “The Man in the Water,” Time Magazine, January 25, 1982
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flightcrew’s failure to use engine anti-ice during ground operation and takeoff, their decision to takeoff with snow/ice on the airfoil surfaces of the aircraft, and the captain’s failure to reject the takeoff during the early stage when his attention was called to anomalous engine instrument readings. Contributing to the accident were the prolonged ground delay between deicing and the receipt of ATC takeoff clearance during which the airplane was exposed to continual precipitation, the known inherent pitchup characteristics of the B-737 aircraft when the leading edge is contaminated with even small amounts of snow or ice, and the limited experience of the flightcrew in jet transport winter operations.
— NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT NTSB-AAR-82-8, 10 August 1982, Section 3.2 at Page 82
The National Transportation Safety Board also wrote, “The Safety Board commends the heroic actions of the helicopter pilot and crewman who participated in the rescue effort.”
The Boeing 737-200 series is a short-to-medium range narrow body twin-engine civil transport. It had a flight crew of two and could carry a maximum of 136 passengers.
The 737-200 is 100 feet, 2 inches (30.531 meters) long with a wingspan of 93 feet (28.346 meters) and overall height of 36 feet, 10 inches (11.227 meters). Its empty weight is 69,700 pounds (31,615 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is 115,500 pounds (52,390 kilograms).
The airliner is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A low-bypass axial-flow turbofan engines, each producing 14,500 pounds of thrust (64.499 kilonewtons) at Sea Level. JT8D-9A was a two-spool engine with a 2-stage fan section, 11-stage compressor (4 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), nine combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The JT8D-9A was 42.5 inches (1.080 meters) in diameter, 123.5 inches (3.137 meters) long, and weighed 3,196 pounds (1,450 kilograms).
Maximum speed of the 737-200 is 0.82 Mach (544 miles per hour/780 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling is 35,000 feet (10,700 meters).
The 737-200 first flew 8 August 1967. 1,095 –200s were built. The last one in service with an American airline, Aloha Airlines, was retired 21 March 2008.
The Bell Helicopter Company Model 206L-1 LongRanger II is a 7-place light helicopter developed from the earlier 5-place Model 206B JetRanger series. It is designed to be flown by a single pilot in the right front seat, and is certified for Visual Flight Rules.
The 206L-1 is 42 feet, 8 inches (13.005 meters) long, overall, and the two-bladed main rotor is semi-rigid and under-slung, a common feature of Bell’s main rotor design. It has a diameter of 37 feet (11.278 meters) and turns counter-clockwise (seen from above) at 395 r.p.m. (100% NR). (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The rotor blade has a chord of 1 foot, 1.0 inches (0.330 meter) and 11° negative twist. The blade tips are swept.
The two-bladed tail rotor assembly is also semi-rigid and is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 6.0 inches (1.676 meters).
The LongRanger II is powered by an Allison 250-C28B turboshaft engine. This engine produces 500 shaft horsepower but is de-rated to the limit of the main transmission, 435 horsepower at 104% N1 (52,980 r.pm.). The engine is mounted above the roof of the fuselage, to the rear of the main transmission. Output shafts lead forward to the transmission and aft to the tail rotor 90° gear box. The transmission and rotor mast are mounted angled slightly forward and to the left. This assists in the helicopter’s lift off to a hover, helps to offset its translating tendency, and keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude during cruise flight.
A vertical fin is attached at the aft end of the tail boom. The fin is offset 4° to the right to unload the tail rotor in cruise flight. Fixed horizontal stabilizers with an inverted asymmetric airfoil are attached to the tail boom. In cruise flight, these provide a downward force that keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude. Vertical fins are attached to the outboard ends of the horizontal stabilizers and above the tailboom centerline. The fins are slightly offset to the left and counteract the helicopter’s Dutch roll tendency.
The helicopter has an empty weight of approximately 2,160 pounds (979 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and the maximum gross weight is 4,050 pounds (1,836 kilograms).
The LongRanger II has a maximum speed, VNE, of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) up to 3,000 feet (914 meters). Its best rate of climb, VY, is at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and best speed in autorotation (minimum rate of descent and maximum distance) is at 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour), resulting in a glide ratio of about 4:1.
The Model 206L LongRanger first flew in 1974 and the 206L-1 LongRanger II variant entered production in 1978. It was replaced several years later by the 206L-3. The LongRanger remains in production as the Model 206L-4.
Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II serial number 45287 was issued an Airworthiness Certificate 17 August 1979. N22PP was transferred to the Department of the Interior, Northwest Region, at Boise, Idaho, in April 1998 and re-registered N613. At Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, 30 October 2000, N613 was substantially damaged when its tail rotor blades failed due to improper manufacturing techniques. (NTSB Report DEN01LA012) The helicopter was repaired and returned to service. Its engine had been upgraded to an Allison 250-C30P. The helicopter’s FAA registration was cancelled 10 October 2014.
Restored to its original colors in 2016, Eagle One was placed on display at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C.
4 January 1957: The Brooklyn Dodgers, a major league baseball team owned by Walter O’Malley, became the first professional sports team to own its own airplane when it placed an order for a Convair 440 Metropolitan airliner. The price was $775,000, and the ball club took delivery of serial number 406 in April. The airplane had been added to an existing order for twenty 440s for Eastern Airlines. It varied from Eastern’s only in the installation of an autopilot.
The Dodgers’ pilot was Harry R. “Bump” Holman. He began flying for the team in 1950 as a co-pilot on a Douglas DC-3.
The Dodgers flew the Metroliner until 1961 when it was sold for $700,000 and exported to Spain. The ball club replaced it with a Lockheed L-188A Electra purchased from Western Airlines.
The Convair 440 first flew 6 October 1955. It was an improvement over the earlier CV-240 and CV-340 models. Operated by a flight crew of 2 or 3, it could carry up to 52 passengers in a pressurized cabin.
The airliner was 81 feet, 6 inches (24.841 meters) long with a wingspan of 105 feet, 4 inches (32.106 meters) and height of 28 feet, 2 inches (8.585 meters). The empty weight was 33,314 pounds (15,111 kilograms) and maximum gross weight was 49,700 pounds (22,543 kilograms).
The 440 Metropolitan was powered by two 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp CB16 two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ration of 6.75:1. Burning 100/130 aviation gasoline, the CB16 had a Normal Power rating of 1,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) and 1,600 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. to 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It was rated at 2,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 0.450:1 gear reduction. The CB16 was 6 feet, 9.40 inches (2.068 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,390 pounds (1,084 kilograms).
The 440 Metropolitan had a maximum cruise speed of 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 24,900 feet (7,590 meters) and maximum range of 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers). Convair built 199 of the 440 variant.
N1R, s/n 406, received its Airworthiness Certificate 21 March 1957. The FAA registration was cancelled 13 February 1961.
On 24 January 1978, the airplane was being operated by the Transporte Aéreo Militar Boliviano, a civil transport airline of the Bolivian Air Force, under registration TAM-45. An engine problem forced the crew to return to San Ramon Airport. On landing, the airplane ran off the runway into a ditch and was damaged beyond repair. No one on board was hurt, but one person on the ground was killed.
3 January 1981: Pan American World Airways retired its last Boeing 707 airliner. Pan Am had been the launch customer for the 707. On 20 October 1955 the airline ordered twenty 707s, and later ordered 130 more. The first one, Clipper America, a 707-121, N707PA, was delivered 15 August 1958. On 26 October 1958, N711PA, also named Clipper America,¹ made the first regularly scheduled transatlantic flight by a jet airliner.
The Boeing Model 707-121 was a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings were swept at a 35° angle. The airliner had a flight crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer.
The 707-121 was 145 feet, 1 inch (44.221 meters) long with a wing span of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.878 meters). The top of the vertical fin stood 41 feet, 8 inches (12.700 meters) high. The 707 pre-dated the ”wide-body” airliners, having a maximum fuselage width of 12 feet, 4.0 inches (3.759 meters). The airliner’s typical operating empty weight is 122,500 pounds (55,565 kilograms). Maximum take off weight is 257,340 pounds (116,727 kilograms).
The first versions were powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-6 turbojet engines, producing 11,200 pounds of thrust (49,820 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.051 kilonewtons) with water injection. This engine was a civil variant of the military J57 series. It was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2 stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighed 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms).
At MTOW, the 707 required 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) of runway to take off.
The 707-121 had an economical cruise speed of 550 miles per hour (885 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum cruise speed of 593 miles per hour (954 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)—0.87 Mach. It’s range was 2,800 nautical miles (5,186 kilometers).
The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. Production of 707 airframes continued at Renton until the final one was completed in April 1991. As of 2011, 43 707s were still in service.
¹ At least three Pan Am 707s carried the name Clipper America. N709PA was renamed Clipper Tradewind. N710PA, was renamed Clipper Caroline. N711PA was renamed Clipper Mayflower.
31 December 1938: Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner NX19901 made its first flight at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The test pilot was Eddie Allen, with co-pilot Julius A. Barr.
The Model 307 was a four-engine commercial airliner that used the wings, tail surfaces, engines and landing gear of the production B-17B Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The fuselage was circular in cross section to allow for pressurization. It was the first pressurized airliner and because of its complexity, it was also the first airplane to include a flight engineer as a crew member.
The Associated Press news agency reported:
Test Of Big Craft Begins
SEATTLE, Dec. 31—(AP)—The world’s first plane, designed for flying in the sub-stratosphere, the new Boeing “Stratoliner”, performed “admirably” in a 42-minute first test flight in the rain today.
The big ship, with a wingspread of 107 feet, three inches, climbed to 4,000 feet, the ceiling, and cruised between here, Tacoma and Everett. Speed was held down to 175 miles an hour.
“The control and stability and the way it handled were very nice,” Edmund T. Allen, pilot, said. “She performed admirably.”
The 33-passenger ship was built to fly at altitudes of 20,000 feet.
No more tests are planned until next week. The supercharging equipment for high altitude flights will be installed later.
—Arizona Republic, Vol. IL, No. 228, Sunday, 1 January 1939, Page 2, Column 4
On March 18, 1939, during its 19th test flight, the Stratoliner went into a spin, then a dive. It suffered structural failure of the wings and horizontal stabilizer when the flight crew attempted to recover. NX19901 was destroyed and all ten persons aboard were killed.
The Boeing Model 307 was operated by a crew of five and could carry 33 passengers. It was 74 feet, 4 inches (22.657 meters) long with a wingspan of 107 feet, 3 inches (32.690 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 9½ inches (6.337 meters). The wings had 4½° dihedral and 3½° angle of incidence. The empty weight was 29,900 pounds (13,562.4 kilograms) and loaded weight was 45,000 pounds (20,411.7 kilograms).
The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, geared and supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) Wright Cyclone 9 GR-1820-G102 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1, rated at 900 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., and 1,100 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. for takeoff. These drove three-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers through a 0.6875:1 gear reduction in order to match the engine’s effective power range with the propellers. The GR-1820-G102 was 4 feet, 0.12 inches (1.222 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.10 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,275 pounds (578 kilograms).
The maximum speed of the Model 307 was 241 miles per hour (388 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,828.8 meters). Cruise speed was 215 miles per hour (346 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The service ceiling was 23,300 feet (7,101.8 meters).
During World War II, TWA sold its Stratoliners to the United States government which designated them C-75 and placed them in transatlantic passenger service.
In 1944, the 307s were returned to TWA and they were sent back to Boeing for modification and overhaul. The wings, engines and tail surfaces were replaced with those from the more advanced B-17G Flying Fortress. The last one in service was retired in 1951.
Of the ten Stratoliners built for Pan Am and TWA, only one remains. Fully restored by Boeing, NC19903 is at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution.