59 Years ago today: On 16 December 1960 a United DC-8 and TWA Constellation collided over New York, killing all 128 occupants and six persons on the ground.
|Date:||Friday 16 December 1960|
|C/n / msn:||45290/22|
|Total airframe hrs:||2434|
|Engines:||4 Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 7|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 77 / Occupants: 77|
|Total:||Fatalities: 84 / Occupants: 84|
|Ground casualties:||Fatalities: 6|
|Collision casualties:||Fatalities: 44|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||New York, NY ( United States of America)|
|Nature:||Domestic Scheduled Passenger|
|Departure airport:||Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, IL (ORD/KORD), United States of America|
|Destination airport:||New York-Idlewild International Airport, NY (IDL/KIDL), United States of America|
TWA Flight 266, a Lockheed Constellation, departed Port Columbus Airport at 09:00 bound for New York-LaGuardia Airport. Around the same time, at 09:11, United Air Lines Flight 826 departed Chicago O’Hare Airport. The flight was carried out by DC-8 N8013U and was bound for New York-Idlewild Airport.
At approximately 10:12 New York Air Route Traffic Control Center was contacted by United Flight 826. The ARTCC controller cleared the flight down to FL250. At 10:15 New York Center advised “United 826, clearance limit is Preston Intersection via Jet 60 Victor to Allentown direct to Robbinsville, via Victor 123 maintain flight level 250.” Ten minutes later New York Center offered a short cut “826 cleared to proceed on Victor 30 until intercepting Victor 123 and that way to Preston. It’ll be a little bit quicker.” This new routing shortened the distance to the Preston Intersection by approximately 11 miles. The flight was then cleared down to FL110. At 10:30, United 826 was cleared to “descend to and maintain 5,000 feet.” This was acknowledged and 826 reported leaving 14,000 feet. The Center then asked, “Look like you’ll be able to make Preston at 5,000?” The answer was that they would try. At 10:32 the Center controller stated “United 826, if holding is necessary at Preston, southwest one minute pattern right turns … the only delay will be in descent.” One minute later he instructed Flight 826 to contact Idlewild Approach Control. The flight was supposed to have held at the Preston intersection until approach clearance had been obtained from the Approach controller. The DC-8 however had already proceeded past the Preston intersection, heading down the V123 airway towards Miller Army Air Station on Staten Island. The crew were not aware of this and reported to the Approach controller that they were ” approaching Preston at 5,000.”
At the same time, the TWA Lockheed Constellation was also heading in the direction of Miller Army Air Station, while preparing for a runway 04 ILS approach at LaGuardia Airport. The flight was descending to 5,000 feet when it was advised of “traffic at 2.30, six miles northeast-bound”, which was the United DC-8. At 10:33.14, LaGuardia Approach Control issued clearance to continue descent to 1,500. At 10:33, LaGuardia Approach Control advised. “…that appears to be jet traffic off your right now 3 o’clock at one mile, northeast-bound.”
At an altitude of approximately 5,200 feet amsl the no. 4 engine of the United DC-8 sliced open the top of the fuselage of the Constellation. The Constellation broke in three sections and crashed in flames on Staten Island, Miller Army Air Station. The DC-8 continued for another 13,5 km before crashing in a residential area of Brooklyn, killing 5 people on the ground.
PROBABLE CAUSE: “United Flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit and the confines of the airspace allocated to the flight by Air Traffic Control. A contributing factor was the high rate of speed of the United DC-8 as it approached the Preston Intersection, coupled with the change of clearance which reduced the en route distance along Victor 123 by approximately 11 miles.”