Tag Archives: United Air Lines

30 June 1956

United Airlines' Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver.
United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, N6301C, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver. (UAL)

30 June 1956: At approximately 10:32 a.m., two airliners, United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 serial number 44288, Mainliner Vancouver, Civil Aeronautics Administration registration N6324C, and Trans World Airlines’ Lockheed L-1049-54-80 Super Constellation serial number 4016, Star of the Seine, N6902C, were over the Grand Canyon at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).

Both airliners had departed Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 9:00 a.m. TWA Flight 2 was headed for Kansas City Downtown Airport with 64 passengers and 6 crew members. United Flight 718 was enroute to Chicago Midway Airport with 53 passengers and 5 crew members.

The airplanes were over the United States desert southwest, which, at that time, was outside of radar-controlled airspace. They were flying around towering cumulus clouds to comply with regulations that they “remain clear of clouds.”

The airplanes collided at about a 25° angle. The accident report describes the impact:

“First contact involved the center fin leading edge of the Constellation and the left aileron tip of the DC-7. The lower surface of the DC-7 left wing struck the upper aft fuselage of the L-1049 with disintegrating force. The collision ripped open the fuselage of the Constellation from just forward of its tail to near the main cabin door. The empennage of the L-1049 separated almost immediately. The plane pitched down and fell to the ground. Most of the left outer wing of the DC-7 had separated and aileron control was restricted. . . .” 

This illustration depicts the collision. (Milford Joseph Hunter/LIFE Magazine)

The Constellation struck the ground near Temple Butte at an estimated 475 miles per hour (765 kilometers per hour). The DC-7’s left wing was so badly damaged that it went into an uncontrolled left spin and crashed at Chuar Butte. All 128 persons on the two airliners were killed.

This, as well as other accidents, resulted in significant changes in the United States air traffic control system.

A Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, sister ship of Star of the Seine, photographed over the Grand Canyon. (TWA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 May 1930

Miss Ellen Evalyn Church, R.N.

15 May 1930: Ellen Church became the first airline stewardess, now more commonly titled Flight Attendant, on a Boeing Air Transport flight from Oakland, California, to Chicago, Illinois.

A registered nurse and licensed airplane pilot, Miss Church had approached Steve Simpson at Boeing Air Transport (later, United Air Lines) to inquire about being hired as a pilot. Simpson turned her down.

When her request was denied, she suggested that the airline put registered nurses aboard BAT’s airplanes to care for the passengers. She was hired to recruit and train seven additional women as stewardesses. Because of the cabin size and weight-carrying limitations of those early airliners, they were limited to a height of 5 feet, 4 inches (1.63 meters) and maximum weight of 115 pounds (52.2 kilograms). They were required to be registered nurses, but could not to be more than 25 years old. Their salary was $125.00 per month (approximately $1,755 in 2017 dollars).

Miss Ellen E. Church, R.N., welcomes a passenger to Boeing Air Transport’s Model 80, a three-engine biplane capable of carrying up to 12 passengers. (Getty Images)
Miss Ellen Evalyn Church, R.N.

Miss Church worked for BAT for about 18 months until she was injured in a car accident. After recovering, she then returned to her career in nursing.

Ellen Evalyn Church was born at Cresco, Iowa, 22 September 1904. She was the second of two children of Gaius Windsor Church, a farmer, and Isabella Johnstone Church, an immigrant from Scotland. After graduating from Cresco High School, Miss Church studied nursing at the University of Wisconsin. She also took flying lessons and became a licensed airplane pilot.

After qualifying as a Registered Nurse (R.N.), Miss Church went to San Francisco, California, where she was employed by The French Hospital. It was while there that she first met Mr. Simpson.

Following her accident in 1932, Ellen Church returned to the University of Wisconsin and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. By 1936, she had become the Supervisor of Pediatrics at the Milwaukee County Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By 1940, she was the hospital’s Nursing Supervisor.

In May 1940, Miss Church was featured in a series of photographs comparing her 1930 stewardess’s Boeing Air Transport uniform to that of a “modern” United Air Lines stewardess. The photos included a new Douglas DC-3 airliner.

Ellen Church, at right, with a United Air Lines stewardess, poses in front of a Douglas DC-3 Mainliner at Chicago, 14 May 1940. (AP)
Captain Ellen E. Church, Nurse Corps, United States Army Air Forces.

Ellen E. Church enlisted in the United States Army, 5 December 1942, entering service at Louisville, Kentucky, the location of the U.S. Army Air Force School of Air Evacuations. She trained as a Flight Nurse and was commissioned as a Lieutenant, Nurse Corps, United States Army Air Forces. She also was responsible for training nurses.

Lieutenant Church was deployed to North Africa on 8 February 1943, caring for soldiers evacuated by air from North Africa and the Mediterranean areas. She served in the combat zones of Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, the invasion of Normandy and the Rhineland. She was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Captain Church returned to the United States, arriving by air aboard a military transport at La Guardia Airport, New York City, New York, 10 September 1944. She was released from military service 18 June 1946.

For her military service, Captain Church was awarded the Air Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with seven campaign stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Returning to her civilian career, Miss Church became the Hospital Administrator at Union Hospital, Terra Haute, Indiana.

Miss Church was married to Leonard Briggs Marshall, a bank president, at Indianapolis, Indiana, 11 September 1964.

While riding a horse on 27 August 1965, Ellen Church Marshall fell and suffered a severe head injury. She was taken to Union Hospital, where she died about six hours later. Her remains were buried at Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Huate, Indiana.

Ellen Church Field (FAA Location identifier CJJ), an uncontrolled airport 1 mile southwest of her hometown of Cresco, Iowa, was named in her honor.

The first eight airline stewardesses. Miss Ellen Church is at the center. (National Air and Space Museum)
The first eight airline stewardesses, from left to right, Jessie Carter, Cornelia Peterman, Ellen Church, Inez Keller, Alva Johnson, Margaret Arnott, Ellis Crawford and Harriet Fry. The airliner is a Boeing Model 80A. (National Air and Space Museum)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 February 1963

The prototype Boeing 727, N7001U, takes off on its first flight, 9 February 1963. (The Museum of Flight)
The prototype Boeing 727, N7001U, takes off from Renton Municipal Airport on its first flight, 9 February 1963. (The Museum of Flight)

9 February 1963: Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot, Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Wallick, Jr., made the first flight of the prototype Boeing Model 727 jet airliner, N7001U (c/n 18293), from Renton Municipal Airport, Renton, Washington. Richards Llewellyn (“Dix”) Loesch, Jr., was the airliner’s co-pilot, and Marvin Keith (“Shuly”) Shulenberger was the flight engineer.

Lew Wallick, Dix Loesch and Shuly Shulenberger in the cockpit of the prototype Boeing 727. (Boeing via Rebecca Wallick’s “Growing Up Boeing”)

The 727 remained airborne for 2 hours, 1 minute, and landed at Paine Field, Everett, Washington.

N7001U had been rolled out at Renton on 27 November 1962. It was painted lemon yellow and copper-brown, similar to the paint scheme of the Model 367-80 prototype, eight years earlier.

The first Boeing 727 is rolled out, 27 November 1962. (Boeing/Aviation Week)

After completing the flight test and certification program, N7001U was delivered to United Air Lines, 6 October 1964. United operated N7001U for 27 years before retiring after 64,495 flight hours, and 48,060 takeoffs and landings.

In 1991, United Air Lines donated the 727 to The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington. N7001U has been restored and is currently on display. According to the Museum, United purchased the 727 for $4,400,000, and during its service life, it generated more that $300,000,000 in revenue.

Prototype Boeing 727 airliner, N7001U, during its first flight. ( Airline Reporter/Boeing)
Prototype Boeing 727 airliner, N7001U, during its first flight. (Airline Reporter/Boeing)

N7001U is a Model 727-22, now considered to be a 727-100 series aircraft. The Boeing 727 is a swept-wing, three-engine, medium-range jet airliner intended for operations at smaller airports than could be serviced by the 707. It was operated by a flight crew of three and could carry up to 131 passengers. The airliner was 133 feet, 2 inches (40.589 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet (32.918 meters) and overall height of 34 feet, 3 inches (10.439 meters). Empty weight was 87,696 pounds (39.8000 kilograms) and maximum ramp weight was 170,000 pounds (77,200 kilograms).

Three-view illustration of the Boeing 727. (Boeing Images)
Boeing 727 N7001U 9 February 1963 (Airline Reporter/Boeing)
Boeing 727 N7001U 9 February 1963 (Airline Reporter/Boeing)

Power was supplied by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-series turbofan engines rated from 14,000 to 14,500 pounds of thrust (62.275–64.499 kilonewtons), depending on the specific version. The JT8D was a two-spool engine with a 2-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), nine combustion chambers and a 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The JT8D-1 was 3 feet, 6.5 inches (1.080 meters) in diameter, 10 feet, 3.5 inches (3.137 meters) long, and weighed 3,096 pounds (1,404 kilograms). Two of the engines were in nacelles at either side of the aft fuselage, and the third was mounted in the tail. Its intake was above the rear fuselage at the base of the vertical fin.

The prototype Boeing 727 airliner during its first flight. (The Museum of Aviation)
The prototype Boeing 727 airliner during its first flight. (Airline Reporter/Boeing)

he Boeing 727s were very fast airliners with a maximum speed in level flight of 549 knots (632 miles per hour/1,017 kilometers per hour). The Design Cruise Speed (VC) was 530 knots (610 miles per hour/981 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (0.88 Mach). The airplane was certified with a Maximum Mach Number (MMO) of 0.92 Mach (this was later reduced to 0.90 Mach). (During flight testing, a Boeing 727 achieved 0.965 Mach in level flight.) The airliner’s service ceiling was 37,400 feet (11,400 meters) and the range was 2,600 nautical miles (2,992 statute miles/4,815 kilometers).

Boeing had expected to sell approximately 250 727s. (200 were needed for the manufacturer to cover its costs.) In production from 1962 to 1984, Boeing built 1,832 Model 727s, making it one of the most successful airliners in history.

Prototype Boeing 727 lands at Paine Field, 9 February 1963. (The Museum of Flight)
Prototype Boeing 727 lands at Paine Field, 9 February 1963. (Airline Reporter/Boeing)
The flight crew receives congratulations following the first flight of the Boeing 727. (The Museum of Flight)
The flight crew receives congratulations from Henry F. McCullough, Boeing preflight control supervisor, following the first flight of the Boeing 727. (Airline Reporter/Boeing)
Prototype Boeing 727 restoartion nears completion at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. (The Museum of Flight)
Restoration of the prototype Boeing 727 nears completion at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. (The Museum of Flight)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 December 1960

The “empennage and fuselage aft of Fuselage Station 1490” of United Air Lines’ Douglas DC-8 N8013U at the intersection of Sterling Place and Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 17 December 1960. (New York Daily News)

16 December 1960, 10:33:32 a.m., Eastern Standard Time: United Air Lines Flight 826, a Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, collided with Trans World Airlines Flight 266, a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, at approximately 5,200 feet (1,585 meters) over Staten Island, New York. The Lockheed crashed near the point of collision, on the former Miller Army Air Field, while the DC-8 continued to the northeast before crashing at Brooklyn.

All 128 persons on board both airliners were killed, as were 6 persons on the ground. One passenger, an 11-year-old boy on board the DC-8, did survive the crash, but he died the following day as a result of having inhaled the burning jet fuel fumes.

New York City Fire Department on the scene of the United Air Lines Flight 826 crash, 16 December 1960. The destroyed building was the Pillar of Fire Church, 123 Sterling Place, at Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn..(New York City Fire Department)

The Civil Aeronautics Board investigation of the accident was the first to use data from a Flight Data Recorder from one of the involved airplanes.

A Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation. (TWA)

TWA Flight 266 had originated at Dayton, Ohio, with an intermediate stop at Columbus, Ohio. The Super Constellation departed Port Columbus Airport at 9:00 a.m., en route to La Guardia Airport, New York. Captain David Arthur Wollam, a fifteen year veteran of TWA with 14,583 flight hours, was in command. First Officer Dean T. Bowen and Second Officer (Flight Engineer) LeRoy L. Rosenthal completed the cockpit crew. The cabin crew were Hostess Margaret Gernat and Hostess Patricia Post. The airliner carried 39 passengers.

A United Air Lines Douglas DC-8 at the Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

UAL Flight 826 was a non-stop flight from O’Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to New York International Airport (“Idelwild Airport,” now John F. Kennedy International Airport), New York City. The Pilot in Command was Captain Robert H. Sawyer. He had flown for United for nineteen years, and had 19,100 flight hours, with 344 hours in the new DC-8 jet airliner. The co-pilot was First Officer Robert W. Flebing and the flight engineer was Second Officer Richard E. Pruitt. There were four flight attendants in the cabin: Stewardess Mary J. Mahoney, Stewardess Augustine L. Ferrar, Stewardess Anne M. Bouthen, and Stewardess Patricia A. Keller. The flight crew had departed from Los Angeles, California, at 3:20 a.m., arrived at Chicago at 6:56 a.m., where they held over for two hours. The airliner departed Chicago at 9:11 a.m. with 76 passengers. (These times are Eastern Standard Time.)

Both airliners were flying under Instrument Flight Rules and followed a series of airways defined by a system of Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Ranges (VORs)—radio ground stations—as well as radar service provided by Air Traffic Control Centers and Approach Control facilities along their route of flight. As it approached LaGuardia, Flight 266 was controlled by New York Center and LaGuardia Approach Control. Flight 826 was also with New York Center, but the approach to Idlewild was with Idlewild Approach Control. The radar controllers of New York Center “handed off” Flight 266 to LaGuardia Approach at 10:27 a.m. Center cleared Flight 826 to the PRESTON Intersection, and advised to expect to hold at that position. It then handed off 826 to Idlewild Approach at 10:33 a.m.

PRESTON Intersection is a position defined by the 346° radial of the Colts Neck VOR (COL) and the 050° radial of Robbinsville VOR (RBV). Aircraft use VOR receivers and a visual display instrument to locate intersections and their positions along airway routes.

However, at 10:21 a.m., the crew of United 826 informed their operations department that the DC-8’s number two VOR receiver had failed. Flight 826 did not advise ATC, however.

While navigation is still possible with only one VOR receiver, it is more complicated as the operator must continuously switch radio frequencies between two VOR stations, and realign the Pictorial Deviation Indicator (“PDI”) instrument to the changing radials of the two ground stations. The higher speed of the new jet airliner gave the flight crew less time to accomplish the continuous changes required.

LaGuardia instructed Flight 266 to make a series of small right hand turns as it set up for the final approach to the airport’s runways. This placed the Super Constellation over Staten Island.

Illustration of Flight 826 Navigation to Preston Intersection (Federal Aviation Administration)

At 10:33:26 a.m., LaGuardia Approach called Flight 266, “Roger, that appears to be jet traffic off your right now 3 o’clock at one mile, northeast bound.” This transmission was not acknowledged.

At 10:33:28 a.m., Flight 826 “checked in” with Idlewild Approach Control, reporting, “Idlewild Approach Control, United 826, approaching PRESTON at 5,000.” Approach control acknowledged the report and informed the airliner that it could expect, “little or no delay at Preston.” Approach then relayed the current weather at the airfield, which was “600 scattered, 1,500 overcast, visibility one-half mile, light rain and fog.” This transmission was not acknowledged.

The crew of United Flight 826 had made a navigational error. At the time they reported that they were “approaching PRESTON,” the DC-8 had already flown approximately 11 miles (18 kilometers) beyond the clearance limit. Without having received clearance to proceed further, Flight 826 should have entered a holding pattern to the southwest of the intersection.

Air traffic controllers at LaGuardia Approach Control saw two radar targets merge. One then continued to the northwest, while the second remained stationary, then made a slow right turn before disappearing from the radar scope.

At the point of collision, the Super Constellation was in a slight left bank. The DC-8 was flying straight and level at 301 miles per hour. It struck the L-1049A from the right rear quarter, its number 4 engine penetrating the Constellation’s passenger cabin, and severing the Constellation’s right wing between the number 3 and number 4 engines. The Lockheed’s fuselage broke into three sections and caught fire. The DC-8 was heavily damaged in the collision, the outboard section of the right wing and the number 4 engine found among the Constellation’s wreckage at Miller Field. The jetliner continued for approximately 9 miles before crashing into a residential area of Brooklyn.

Scene of the DC-8 crash, Brooklyn, New York, 16 December 1960. (New York City Fire Department)

Trans World Airlines Flight 266 was a Lockheed L-1049-54 Super Constellation, serial number 1049-4021, registered N6907C. It had been delivered to TWA eight years earlier, 16 October 1952. At the time of the collision, the airliner had flown a total of 21,555 hours (TTAF). It was 3,905 hours since the last major overhaul (SMOH).

United Air Lines Flight 826 was a Douglas DC-8-11, serial number 45920, registered N8013U. It was delivered to United 22 December 1959. The airliner had flown 2,434 hours TTAF, and 42 hours since overhaul.

The DC-8 carried a Waste King Flight Recorder, from which significant data was recovered by crash investigators.

Wreckage of TWA Flight 266 at Miller Field. (New York Daily News)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 October 1933

United Air Lines' Boeing 247, NC13304
United Air Lines’ Boeing 247, NC13304, over Chicago, Illinois, 1933.

10 October 1933: A United Air Lines Boeing 247, civil registration NC13304, was on Trip 23, a scheduled transcontinental flight from Newark, New Jersey to Oakland, California, with intermediate stops at Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. The airliner, which had been in service only six months, was carrying a crew of three with four passengers.

While enroute from Cleveland to Chicago, NC13304 exploded in mid-air. It crashed near Jackson Township, approximately five miles southeast of Chesterton, Indiana. There was a second explosion after the crash. All seven persons aboard were killed.

Boeing 247 NC13304 (Boeing)
Boeing 247 NC13304 (Boeing)

NC13304, serial number 1685, was the fourth Model 247 to be built. The Boeing 247 is considered to be the first modern airliner because of its all-metal, semi-monocoque construction, cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. It was 50 mph faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load. It carried a pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant and up to ten passengers.

The Boeing 247 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.80-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1H1 nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6:1. The S1H1 was a direct-drive engine. It had a Normal Power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m for takeoff. The engine was 3 feet, 6.94 inches (1.091 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.75 inches (1.314 meters) in diameter, and weighed 864 pounds (392 kilograms).

The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (304 kilometers per hour). It had a range of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,260 meters).

UNited Air Lines Boeing 247 NC13304 loading U.S. mail at Chicago, Illinois, 1933.
United Air Lines Boeing 247 NC13304 loading cargo at Chicago, Illinois, 1933.

The investigation determined that the airliner’s tail had been blown off by a nitroglycerin bomb which had been placed in the baggage compartment.

The pilots had closed both throttles, turned off the magneto switches and pulled the master switch prior to impact.

This was the first proven case of a commercial aircraft destroyed by sabotage. No suspects or motive for the crime were ever discovered.

Wreckage of NC13304
Wreckage of NC13304 (Acme Newspapers)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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