On This Day in Aviation History
On This Day in Aviation History: December 16th
1979 – Concorde makes its first flight over the Atlantic, from New York to London, in under three hours. Its average speed was 1,172 mph.
1960 – United Airlines Flight 826 (a Douglas DC-8, reg N8031U) and Trans World Airlines Flight 266 (a Lockheed Super Constellation, reg N6907C) collided in midair over Staten Island in New York City, killing all 128 on both planes and six on the ground. The United aircraft, enroute to Idlewild Airport (now JFK) from Chicago O’Hare, was not only going extremely fast for its altitude, but was also 12 miles off-course due to a faulty VOR receiver. The TWA plane, enroute to LaGuardia Airport from Columbus, Ohio, was broadsided by the Super Connie at approximately 5,200 feet and plummeted nearly straight down onto Miller Field, killing all 44 on-board. The United aircraft continued on for a couple of miles before crashing in Park Slope, Brooklyn. One passenger of the 84 on-board, an 11-year-old boy named Stephen Baltz, survived the initial impact but succumbed to his injuries later that day. He said of the city’s snowfall out the window just before the crash, “It looked like a picture out of a fairy book. It was a beautiful sight.” This crash was the first time a black box was used for a crash investigation. Eerily, the doomed United DC-8 was named after Will Rogers, who himself had died in a plane crash in 1935.
The worst aviation disaster in history at the time, the crash overshadows what would have likely been the day’s top story: The arrest of an elderly man who was planning a suicide bombing of the President-Elect, John F. Kennedy.
1951 – The first turbine-powered helicopter, the Kaman K-225, makes its maiden flight.