Saturday, 18th of January, 1969

– United States of America

United Airlines Flight 266, a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX), California, to Denver-Stapleton International Airport, Colorado (DEN/KDEN), operated with a Boeing 727-22C, registration N7434U, crashed into the Santa Monica Bay about four minutes after takeoff near California, USA.

The aircraft was destroyed. The six crew members and 32 passengers perished. (38 fatalities)

The crash of Flight 266 is the 39th worst accident involving the Boeing 727.

– Details:

United Airlines flight 266, a Boeing 727-22C impacted Santa Monica Bay approximately 11.3 miles west of the Los Angeles International Airport, California, USA. The aircraft was destroyed and the six crewmembers and 32 passengers on board were all fatally injured.

The aircraft, N7434U, performed a scheduled service from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado and Milwaukkee, Wisconsin. It had been operating since January 15, 1969, with the no. 3 generator inoperative. This was allowed because according to the Minimum Equipment List, the aircraft is airworthy with only two generators operable provided certain procedures are followed and electrical loads are monitored during flight.

Flight 266 was scheduled to depart the gate at 17:55, but was delayed until 18:07 because of the inclement weather and loading problems. The flight commenced its takeoff roll on runway 24 at approximately 18:17. At 18:18:30 the sound of an engine fire warning bell was heard in the cockpit. The crew reported a no. 1 engine fire warning and stated that they wanted to return to the airport. Shortly after shutdown of the no. 1 engine, electrical power from the remaining generator (no. 2) was lost. Following loss of all generator power, the standby electrical system either was not activated or failed to function. Electrical power at a voltage level of approximately 50 volts was restored approximately a minute and a half after loss of the no. 2 generator. The duration of this power restoration was just 9 to 15 seconds. The Boeing descended until it struck the sea. The ocean depth at this point was approximately 950 feet.

– Cause:

“The loss of attitude orientation during a night, instrument departure in which all attitude instruments were disabled by loss of electrical power. The Board has been unable to determine (a) why all generator power was lost or (b) why the standby electrical power system either was not activated or failed to function.”