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Cause & Circumstance: A Legacy of Superb Airmanship
 
 
An extraordinary set of pictures arrived in this morning’s e-mail from one of my colleagues in the International Society of Air Safety Investigators. The photos show a DHL A300-B4 touching down at Baghdad International airport in November 2003 after taking a SAM hit to the left wing. The airplane had departed 16 minutes earlier and was struck while climbing through 8,000 feet. The crew discovered they had lost all hydraulics and thus all flight controls. They used asymmetric thrust to maneuver and descend the airplane for a missed approach, a go-around, then a successful landing on Runway 33L -- a marvelous piece of airmanship.

Of course, the DHL incident reminded me of the great leadership and airmanship skills demonstrated by United Capt. Al Haynes one day in July 1989 when he guided his crippled DC-10 into the Sioux City airport after the center engine parted out and took all four hydraulic systems with it.

And those thoughts led to memories of yet another remarkable feat of airmanship that followed a midair collision between a TWA Boeing 707 and an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation.

(That drama unfolded near Carmel VORTAC (CMK), a navaid located about 3 crow miles from where I sit

 writing this column in Ridgefield, Conn. I lived near Philadelphia on that day -- Dec. 4, 1965 -- but I was dispatched to the scene as the Philadelphia Daily News aviation writer.)

The lessons arising from the accident were many. They included new understanding of visual illusions, the importance of positive control in high-density environments, the necessity for altitude reporting transponders (and ultimately collision avoidance systems) and, perhaps most important, realization that basic airmanship is still the best protection from the hazards of flight. Here’s what happened that day.

The Collision

At the time of the accident, surface weather charts indicated the northeastern section of the country was in a post frontal zone with a frontal system extending into the Atlantic Ocean from a low-pressure area centered 100 to 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast. A general northwesterly flow of air was shown from the upper Great Lakes and New England region to the Carolinas. The 1540 surface weather observation at Westchester County Airport (HPN), located 13 nm southwest of CMK, was in part: 4,000 feet scattered clouds, 8,000 feet broken clouds, 12 miles visibility. The temperature was 46°F, the dewpoint 35°F, and wind was from 300 degrees at 7 knots.

U.S. Weather Bureau forecasts for the area that included CMK, and valid at the time of the accident, called for variable cloud conditions with cloud tops near 8,000 feet and isolated tops to 13,000 feet.

Crewmembers of other aircraft in the general area that afternoon told Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigators that there was a solid overcast whose ragged tops were between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. Visibility was unrestricted above this cloud layer.

At 1530, Eastern Flight 853, a scheduled leg from Boston Logan International (BOS) to Newark International (EWR), taxied toward the departure runway. Capt. Charles J. White, 42, was in the left seat. He had accumulated a total of 11,508 flying hours of which 1,947 were in L-l049 aircraft. First Officer Roger I. Holt Jr., 34, was in the right seat. He had a total of 8,090 flying hours, 899 of which were in Constellations. The flight engineer was Emile P. Greenway, 27.

Their "three-tail" Lockheed was powered by four Curtiss-Wright 972-TC-18-DA engines with Hamilton Standard model 34E60 propellers. At that time, there was no requirement for a flight data recorder (FDR) on the aircraft, and none was installed.

White and Holt maneuvered the airplane into position and called for takeoff power at 1538. There were 49 passengers and five crewmembers on board. The Connie was vectored through Boston terminal airspace, climbed to 10,000 feet msl and leveled off for the en route portion of its IFR flight plan. Boston controllers passed on the Bradley International (BDL) altimeter (29.58) and handed the flight off to New York Center at 1607. The crew confirmed that they were level at 10,000 feet. At 1618 the New York Center controller observed EA 853 passing CMK and recorded the time of that radar position on the flight progress strip.

Meanwhile, TWA Flight 42 was approaching Carmel from the northwest. The Boeing 707-131B had departed San Francisco International (SFO) at 0905 PST on an IFR flight plan bound for John F. Kennedy International (JFK). At the controls were Capt. Thomas H. Carroll, 45, a veteran of 18,842 flying hours; First Officer Leo M. Smith, 42, with 12,248 flying hours; and Flight Engineer Ernest V. Hall, 41. The en route segment -- Sacramento, Reno, Sioux Falls, Buffalo -- had been routine.

At 1548 EST, New York Center descended the Boeing from FL 370 to FL 210 and then to 11,000 feet msl. Controllers issued the JFK altimeter setting of 29.63 and the flight reported level at 11,000 feet.

Back in the EAL cockpit, F/O Holt looked out his right window. The Connie was flying into the sun and ducking in and out of a "fluffy" cloud deck with tops about 300 feet above the airplane’s flight level.

Suddenly, as the Connie emerged from a cloud puff, Holt saw the TWA Boeing in his right side window at the 2 o’clock position. The aircraft appeared to be converging rapidly and at the same altitude. Holt shouted, "Look out," placed his hands on the control wheel and made a very rapid application of up elevator simultaneously with the captain. Crew members and passengers were pulled down into their seats.

Back in the Boeing cockpit, the crew was readying the aircraft for arrival at JFK. They were flying in clear air above an overcast with no restrictions to visibility as they approached Carmel. Although the aircraft was being flown on autopilot with the altitude-hold feature engaged, the captain had his left hand on the control yoke.

Upon seeing a white and blue aircraft at his 10 o’clock position on what appeared to be a collision course, he immediately disengaged the autopilot by actuating the yoke thumb switch, put the wheel hard over to the right and pulled back on the yoke. The copilot grabbed the controls and reacted in concert with the captain. As the aircraft rolled to the right, it became apparent that this maneuver would not allow the two aircraft to pass clear of each other, so both crewmembers attempted to reverse the wheel to the left and pushed on the yoke.

Before the aircraft had time to react to the control reversal, two shocks were felt and the jet entered a steep dive. The left wing of the Boeing and the tail of the Connie had collided. Both airplanes were out of control.

The Boeing crew wrestled their airplane out of a dive, declared an emergency with New York Center and got the first of many vectors to Kennedy. The crew made a damage assessment and requested that crash and fire equipment stand by.

Ultimately, the Boeing was vectored south of JFK where it made a wide 360-degree turn to ascertain that the landing gear was fully down, and to determine how the airplane would fly at approach speeds. At 1640, the crew brought the Boeing in for a safe landing on Runway 31L.

An inspection of the Boeing showed primary impact damage in three areas: (1) The outer left-hand wing panel from the No. 1 nacelle outboard was severed -- about 25 feet of wing was missing; (2) the No. 1 engine cowl and pylon showed impact abrasions from sliding contact but did not separate from the aircraft; and (3) the wing leading edge at wing station 555 just inboard of the No. 1 engine had sustained a deep slash. In addition, secondary structural damage was noted from impact loading and flying debris.

There were no injuries aboard TWA 42.

Pick a Field

After collision, the Eastern Connie continued to climb. The crew felt the aircraft shudder and begin a left turning dive back into the clouds. There was no response from the controls or trim tabs, but the crew discovered through trial and error that some degree of control was available by adjusting the throttles. The aircraft descended through solid clouds and recovery was made below the clouds by the use of throttles only. Then, several zooms were made back into the clouds as the pilots attempted to gain control over their airplane.

The crew found a power setting that would maintain a descent in a level attitude with some degree of consistency. Airspeed could be maintained between 125 and 140 knots; the nose would rise when power was added and fall when power was removed. The rate of descent could be maintained at approximately 500 feet per minute.

It was apparent to the crew that their airplane was mortally wounded and that they needed to find some place to put it down. Unfortunately, they were over mostly wooded rolling terrain on the Connecticut-New York border. The few farm fields below were all surrounded by stone walls, situated on sloping terrain, and hardly big enough for a Cessna 150, let alone a Lockheed Super Constellation.

The captain advised passengers that there had been a collision, that he was unable to control the aircraft and that they should prepare for a crash landing. A flight attendant told passengers to remain seated, fasten their seat belts, and read the emergency instruction cards in the seat back pockets. Minutes later, Capt. White told passengers the aircraft was definitely out of control and that a crash landing would be made. He advised everyone to remove sharp objects from their pockets and to fasten their seat belts tightly.

White stayed on the throttles nursing the airplane as it descended on a southwest heading over Danbury Airport (DXR) in Connecticut at 2,000 feet. About 2 miles ahead, he spotted a pasture halfway up Hunt Mountain -- a 900-foot ridge that ran perpendicular to his flight path. He aligned the aircraft using asymmetric thrust, told passengers to "brace yourselves" and descended into the upsloping hillside with wheels and flaps retracted. At the last moment, White jammed the throttles forward pitching the nose up, allowing the Connie to pancake into the 15-percent slope.

The airplane crash landed on a hillside 4.2 miles north of an area where numerous separated parts from both aircraft were found. First impact was in a tree that was broken 46 feet above the ground. Nearly 250 feet farther, the left wing contacted a large tree and separated from the aircraft. The fuselage contacted the ground some 250 feet beyond the first tree and the aircraft came to rest 700 feet up a 15-percent slope on a magnetic heading of 243 degrees. Portions of the fuselage -- now broken into three pieces -- skewed around to a nearly reciprocal heading. All engines separated from their nacelles.

All passengers but two remained in the fuselage in the vicinity of their seated locations throughout the crash sequence. The exceptions were a passenger who believed he had been thrown clear of the fuselage during the slide, and another who jumped out of an emergency exit window after it popped open before the airplane came to a stop.

Seat l4-CDE located at the fuselage break was the only seat not found in the fuselage wreckage and was located 10 yards back along the crash path. All other seats remained in their relative original locations. Some passengers found themselves out of their seats following impact and several had difficulty unfastening their seat belts.

Passengers exited through the torn-open fuselage, the right-side forward cockpit crew door, the left main cabin door, and the opening in the aft end of the cabin in the pressure dome area.

The cockpit and cabin crews survived the crash landing and worked both inside and outside the broken fuselage parts to get out the survivors while a smoky fire ate at the fuselage.

Volunteer firefighters from Ridgefield and surrounding communities extinguished the flames and transported survivors to the hospital at Danbury, where two passengers died of their injuries. Later firefighters found two bodies in the fuselage -- that of a passenger in the forward section near seat rows 7 and 8, and of Capt. White who had returned to the cabin to help the last passenger out. Both succumbed due to inhalation of combustion products.

Thanks to the extraordinary skills and courage of the Constellation crew, 50 people survived the accident, and except for Capt. White’s selflessness, it would have been 51.

A Sloping Cloud Deck

Upon completion of the structures examination of both aircraft, a three-dimensional mockup of TWA 42’s outer wing panel and EAL 853’s tail assembly was constructed. Initial contact of the two aircraft was between the Boeing’s left outer wing and the Connie’s right-hand outboard vertical fin and stabilizer tip assembly. The relative motion was such that the wing’s leading edge sliced through the horizontal stabilizer from the outboard leading edge to the inboard trailing edge. The aircraft collided at an altitude of approximately 11,000 feet at about 1619.

In the Connie wreckage, the captain’s and first officer’s static system selector valves were found in their respective normal static source positions. The airline’s ACM provided a static source correction factor of minus 43 feet to be applied to the altimeter indicated reading at an indicated altitude of 10,000 feet, 210 KIAS, gear and flaps up. This correction factor yields an indicated altitude of 9,957 feet when the aircraft’s altimeter indicates 10,000 feet.

Ultimately, it was determined that no structural, powerplant, system or navigation component failures contributed to the accident. Both aircraft were capable of operation within their design criteria.

Although one altimeter installed aboard the EAL aircraft was not of an acceptable type, it could be expected to perform with accuracy equal to a like model that had met the TSO requirements.

The Board ruled out the possibility of collision because of altimeter malfunctions or false altitude indications. The possible errors caused by altimeter system design, scale correction and atmospheric conditions are so negligible that both aircraft would not have been more than approximately 100 feet above or below their indicated altitudes.

Testimony and flight recorder data indicated that the Boeing was being flown in accordance with its ATC clearance. Just prior to arriving at Carmel from the northwest, the aircraft had been descended to an altitude of 11,000 feet and was flying above a cloud deck with no restrictions to visibility.

Investigators determined that EAL 853 was being operated in accordance with its ATC clearance and was in level flight at 10,000 feet, in and out of the tops of clouds as it approached Carmel from the northeast.

Altitude separation between these aircraft was being provided by ATC in accordance with existing procedures. Neither aircraft was given (nor was there at that time a requirement to give) an advisory as to the presence of the other aircraft even though the controllers testified they observed the converging tracks.

Both aircraft had reported to ATC at their assigned altitudes and all evidence indicates they were flying at these altitudes shortly before the collision occurred.

At the time the EAL first officer initially observed a jet at about his 2 o’clock position, EAL 853 had just emerged from a cloud. The investigating Board determined that the EAL crew departed from their assigned altitude when they sighted the TWA aircraft because both the captain and first officer believed the aircraft they saw, the TWA Boeing, was on a collision course at or very near the altitude of EAL 853.

The Board believed this impression was caused by an optical illusion. A review of the weather information obtained during this investigation showed that the cloud tops were relatively smooth with some "cauliflower" type buildups protruding several hundred feet above the general cloud tops. The evidence also indicated the tops of the clouds were generally higher to the north and northwest of Carmel. The EAL first officer, knowing his aircraft was passing through or very near the tops of the clouds, observed another aircraft on a converging track. With higher clouds behind TWA 42, the first officer would have received an impression of an aircraft on or very near the apparent horizon.

"In the small amount of time that he had to judge the separation of the two aircraft," said the Board, "he had no visual aid to assist him in determining the horizon, and the buildup of clouds toward the north would present a false horizon on which to base his analysis of separation."

The Board said the most logical explanation of the reaction pullup was based on the small amount of time the crew had to evaluate the relative position and course of the other aircraft. They would not have been able to determine whether the other aircraft was in level flight in or just above the tops of the clouds or in the process of letting down and just entering the clouds.

Had EAL 853 pushed over, the aircraft would have gone into the solid overcast and the crew would have had no way to observe and evade the converging traffic if it were also entering the clouds.

As the captain of TWA 42 sighted the other aircraft, he also believed he was on a collision course with it. He made an immediate right bank and pulled back on his yoke. He told investigators later that he realized the bank to the right would not allow his aircraft to pass clear of the other aircraft and he attempted to reverse the direction of bank and pushed the yoke forward. There was insufficient time for the aircraft to react to this control reversal and the aircraft’s left wing, outboard of the No. 1 engine, struck the right horizontal stabilizer of EAL 853.

The Board ultimately determined the probable cause of the collision was misjudgment of altitude separation by the crew of EAL 853 because of an optical illusion created by the up-slope effect of cloud tops resulting in an evasive maneuver by the EA 853 crew and a reactionary evasive maneuver by the TWA 42 crew.

Aftermath

The crews involved -- especially EAL Capt. White -- were widely praised for their extraordinary airmanship. This accident was among several that ultimately spurred the development of special high-density controlled airspace, improved ATC radar, secondary beacon transponders, altitude reporting and mandatory FDR-CVR installation on all airline aircraft.

And the airmanship demonstrated by Capt. White would inspire a generation of young pilots toward excellence, just as Capt. Al Haynes would 24 years later. Today Haynes lectures on the lessons he learned firsthand. Among the audience in a recent presentation in Europe was a captain who would soon put that advice to the test when his Airbus was crippled by a missile over Baghdad.

Reprinted from the March 2004 issue of Business & Commercial Aviation magazine

 

Investigation

History of the Flight:

Flight 42  (TWA 42)  was a scheduled domestic flight from San Francisco, CA to JFK airport. It took off from SFO @ 0905 hours PST and arrived over Buffalo, NY @ 1548 hours EST @ FL370. Subsequently the flight descended to FL250 under the control of the New York Center. It was then cleared to descend to FL210 and later to 11,000 ft and was given the JFK altimeter setting of 29.63. The flight reported level at 11,000 @ 1617 hours. A short time later the crew observed an aircraft at their 10 o'clock position on what appeared to be a collision course. The Captain immediately disengaged the auto-pilot, banked the aircraft to the right pulling back on the control column at the same time. The co-pilot acted in concert with him. As the aircraft rolled, it became apparent that this evasive maneuver would not allow the two aircraft to pass clear of each other. The pilots then tried to reverse the bank pushing on the control column at the same time. Before the aircraft had time to react, two shocks were felt and the jet entered a steep dive. Control was regained, damages assessed and the crew reported to the New York Center that they had collided with another aircraft and declared an emergency. They were given vectors and clearance to JFK airport and after a large 360 degree left turn they landed on runway 31L at approximately 1640 hours EST.

Flight 853 (EA 853) was a scheduled domestic flight from Logan I'ntl, BOS in Boston, MA to EWR, in Newark, NJ. It took off from BOS @ 1538 hours EST. The flight climbed to and maintained 10,000 ft. The last altimeter setting given to the flight was the BDL, Bradley Field setting of  29.58 provided by Boston Center @ 1556 hours. No acknowledgement was received. Control was subsequently transferred to New York Center in a radar handoff from the Boston Center at Approximately 1610 hours. It subsequently reported maintaining 10,000 ft and radar identity was confirmed by New York Center. At approximately 1618 hours the New York Center recorded on a flight progress strip that EA 853 was passing the Carmel (CMK) VORTAC. Just prior to reaching CMK the flight was flying in and out of cloud tops. As the aircraft emerged from the clouds the co-pilot observed a jet at his 2 o'clock position, he shouted "look out" and pulled quickly on the control column helped by the Captain.  However the collision could not be avoided and after the impact the aircraft continued to climb, then shuttered and began a left turning dive. At 1621 hours the flight initiated a MAYDAY distress call and advised that they had been involved in a mid-air collision. Since there was no response from the controls or trim tabs, efforts to recover were made with power application only. The aircraft descended through solid clouds and recovery was made below the clouds by the use of throttles only. A power setting was found which would maintain a descent and a level flight attitude with some degree of consistency. The aircraft passed over the Danbury, CT Airport, DXR, at about 2,000 to 3,000 ft, too high to make an approach. Airspeed could be maintained between 125 and 140 knots; the nose would rise when power was added and fall when power was removed. The rate of descent could be maintained at approximately 500 ft/min. It was apparent that flight could not be maintained and a decision was made to effect a landing in a open field. Just prior to ground contact, power was added to bring the nose up to parallel the sloping terrain. The left wing of the aircraft struck a tree immediately before contact with the ground was made. The emergency landing was made in an open field near Danbury, CT, 3 miles northeast of the CMK VORTAC at 1628 hours.

Injuries aboard EA 853:

Fatal Injuries;  1 Crew  3 Passengers
Non-Fatal;  4 Crew  45 Passengers
None;  1 Passenger

Damage to Aircraft:

Impact damage to TWA 42 consisted of the complete severance of the outer 25 ft of the left wing at about wing section 700. There was a moderate impact damage area noted on the top of the number 1 engine cowl and heavy score marks angling inboard along the number 1 engine nacelle and pylon. There was considerable secondary structural damage caused by heavy impact forces and flying debris.

EA 853 was destroyed by impact and subsequent fire.

Other Damage:

Grass on a large area of the hill was burned and several gouge marks caused by impact were evident.

Crew Information TWA Flight 42:

The Captian of TWA 42, aged 45, held a valid FAA ATP certificate with appropriate type rating in the Boeing 707. His last proficiency & line checks in the Boeing 707 aircraft were on    7 Sep 65 and 17 Oct 65 respectively. His last 1st Class medical was dated 22 Sep 65 with no limitations. He had flown a total of 18,848 hours including 1,867 hours in Boeing 707 aircraft.

The 1st Officer of TWA 42, aged 42, held a valid FAA ATP certificate. His last proficiency check in the Boeing 707 aircraft was 25 Jun 65. His last 1st Class medical was dated 10 Sep 65 with no limitations. He had flown a total of 12,248 hours including 2,607 hours in Boeing 707 aircraft.

The Flight Engineer of TWA 42, aged 41, held a valid FAA Flight Engineer's certificate and a Commercial Pilots license. His last proficiency & line checks in the Boeing 707 aircraft were on 24 Nov 65 and 1 Dec 65 respectively. His last 2nd Class medical was dated 17 Feb 65 with a waiver that "holder shall possess correcting glasses for near vision while exercising privileges of his airman certificate" He had flown a total of 11,717 hours including 5:52 hours on the Boeing 707.

The four Flight Attendants aboard TWA 42 had received their most recent emergency procedure refresher training in Nov 65.

Crew Information Eastern Flight 853:

The Captain of EA 853, aged 42, held a valid FAA ATP certificate with appropriate type rating in the Lockheed L-1049 aircraft. His last proficiency check & line checks were on 8 Nov 65 and 5 Nov 65 respectively. His last 1st Class medical was dated 25 Oct 65 with no waivers. He had flown a total of 11,508 hours including 1,947 hours in L-1049 aircraft.

The 1st Officer of EA 853, aged 34, held a valid FAA Commercial Pilot's certificate with appropriate ratings and an FAA Flight Engineer's certificate. His last proficiency check was dated 14 Sep 65. His last 1st Class medical was dated 9 Mar 65 with no waivers. He had flown a total of 8,090 hours including 899 hours in L-1049 aircraft.

The Flight Engineer of EA 853, aged 27, held a valid FAA Commercial Pilot's certificate and Flight Engineer's certificate. His last Flight Engineer's check was dated 17 Jul 65. He had flown a total of 1,011 hours including 726 in L-1049 aircraft.

The two Flight Attendants aboard EA 853 had received appropriate evacuation and ditching training. 

Aircraft Information TWA 42 Boeing 707:

TWA 42, a Boeing 707, was properly maintained in accordance with FAA approved company maintenance procedures and there was no evidence of any malfunctions or irregularities in either the systems or the maintenance thereof that could have contributed to the accident. Testimony and aircraft records indicated that there were no carry-over airworthiness items at the time TWA 42 departed SFO San Francisco, CA nor were any enroute discrepancies entered on the flight log prior to the collision. At departure the adjusted take-off gross weight was 222,174 lbs. including 82,000 lbs. of fuel. Aircraft loading was within allowable weight and center of gravity limits. The type of fuel being used was not stated in the report.

EA 853, a Lockheed Constellation had a total airframe time of  32,883 hours of which 7 hours had been accumulated since the last major inspection. The aircraft had one altimeter installed which did not meet Technical Standard Order (TSO) requirements nor was it of the type on the accepted list for certification. Examination of the instrument subsequent to the accident indicated that it had been modified in compliance with Kollsman Service Bulletin #9. This instrument when modified in accordance with this bulletin should have been capable of meeting the performance requirements of TSO C10A.

At the time of departure the aircraft had an operating weight of 97,019 lbs. which was well below the maximum allowable take-off gross weight of 113,075 lbs. as specified for an intended landing at EWR Newark, NJ. The center of gravity was within allowable limits. The type of fuel being used was not stated in the report.

Meteorological Information:

At the time of the accident, U.S.Weather Bureau surface weather charts indicated the northeastern section of the country was in a post frontal zone with a frontal system extending into the Atlantic Ocean from a low pressure area centered 100 to 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast. A general northwesterly flow of air was shown from the upper Great Lakes and New England region to the Carolinas.

The 1540 hours HPN White Plains, NY surface weather observation was in part: 4,000 scattered clouds, 8,000 broken clouds, 12 miles visibility, temperature 46F, dewpoint 35F, wind from 300 at 7 knots.

U.S.Weather Bureau forecasts for the area which included the Carmel VORTAC, and valid at the time of the accident, called for variable cloud conditions with the cloud tops near 8,000 ft and isolated tops to 13,000 ft.

Radar weather observations were taken approximately 30 minutes before and after the accident. The observation taken before the accident, at 1545 hours showed broad areas of scattered showers with the tops of detectable moisture 10,000 to 15,000 ft. The observation taken after the accident, at 1645 hours showed an area of broken light rain showers with the tops of detectable moisture 8,000 to 12,000 ft south of the New York area, and 12,000 to 16,000 ft north of New York with snow showers in the northwest portion of the observed area.

The pilot of a corporate aircraft enroute from SYR Syracuse, NY to JFK stated that he climbed through multi-layered clouds after his departure from Syracuse, and was on top of an overcast at 15,000 ft, approximately 25 miles southeast of Syracuse. He described the overcast as continuous and relatively smooth with some billowing in the Carmel area. At 1645 hours approximately 30 minutes after the accident, he descended in the area of the Carmel VORTAC and reported that he was just clear of the tops of the clouds at 11,000 ft and in the clouds at 10,000 ft. He also reported the visibility was unrestricted above the overcast.

The nearest official surface weather observations to the scene of the accident were made at HPN White Plains, NY, which is located approximately 14 miles southwest of the Carmel VORTAC.

Statements of other crew members of other aircraft in the general area of the Carmel VORTAC near the time of the collision indicated that there was a solid overcast whose ragged tops were between 10,000 and 11,000 ft. Visibility was unrestricted above this cloud layer.

Thirteen passengers aboard TWA 42 recalled flying on top of a solid cloud layer prior to and at the time of the mid-air collision. A few of the thirteen recalled puffs of clouds that extended up from the cloud layer and they estimated these to be fifty to a few hundred feet above the layer of clouds. Eleven of the passengers aboard TWA 42 stated they were in the clouds at the time of the collision.

A majority of 24 statements from EA 853 passengers indicated the flight was flying over a solid overcast just before the collision. They estimated that their height above this overcast was from 100 to 1,500 ft. A few of the passengers stated they were flying through puffs of clouds just prior to the collision.

Aids to Navigation:

All pertinent NAVAIDS and facility equipment were reported to be operating normally at the time of the accident. A flight check of the Carmel VORTAC and the JFK radar was conducted by the FAA approximately four after the accident. The flight inspection report showed satisfactory performance of these two facilities and the communications frequencies of 126.40 and 125.50. Other aids or equipment in use at the time of the accident were re-certificated by technicians of the FAA. All equipment was certified to be operating satisfactorily.

Communications:

Communications were normal until the time of the collision at approximately 1619 hours. Following the collision a period of approximately 2 and 1/2 minutes elapsed before radio communications were re-established with EA 853. The crew reported the collision and advised of the difficulties they were encountering in maintaining control of the aircraft. The controller monitored the progress of the flight until radar contact was lost. The last position given to the crew was 6 mile northwest of the Carmel VORTAC.

Wreckage:

TWA 42 showed primary impact damage in three areas: 1) The outer left hand wing panel from #1 nacelle outboard was severed. 2) The #1 engine cowling and pylon showed impact abrasions from sliding contact but did not separate from the aircraft. 3) The wing leading edge just inboard of the #1 engine had sustained a deep gash. In addition, secondary structural damage was noted from impact loading and flying debris.

EA 853 crashed on a hillside 4.2 miles north of an area where numerous separated parts from both aircraft were found. First impact was in a tree which was broken 46 feet above the ground. Nearly 250 ft farther the left wing contacted a large tree and separated from the aircraft. Contact with the ground was made 250 ft beyond the first tree and the aircraft came to rest 700 ft up a 15% slope on a magnetic heading of 243 degrees. Portions of the fuselage slewed around to a nearly reciprocal heading. The fuselage was separated into three main pieces which remained in their respective positions but were at varying angles to each other. All engines separated from their nacelles. The flaps and landing gears were in the retracted position at impact.

Upon completion of the structures examination of both aircraft, a three dimensional mockup of TWA 42's outer wing panel and EA 853's tail assembly was accomplished, and the collision evidence of both aircraft was studied and documented. This study revealed that initial contact of the two aircraft was between TWA 42's left outer wing and the right hand outboard vertical fin and stabilizer tip assembly of EA 853. The relative motion was such that the wing passed, leading edge first, through the horizontal stabilizer from the outboard leading edge to the inboard trailing edge. The average angle of this relative motion was measured at 40 degrees downward relative to EA 853's longitudinal axis, and at a 78 degree angle to the right of EA 853's longitudinal axis.

Nearly all parts of EA 853 were exposed to some degree of ground fire. The right wing was not extensively fire damaged and the right outboard wing fuel tank still contained fuel.

Survival Aspects:

 

 

 


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