On This Day in Aviation History

January 31, 2013

Alaska 261 Plunges into Pacific Ocean: January 31st in Aviation History

Space Shuttle Enterprise being trucked to Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Space Shuttle Enterprise being trucked to Edwards Air Force Base in California.
2001 – JAL Flight 907 and JAL Flight 958 (Boeing 747-400 JA8904 and DC-10-40 JA 8546, respectively) come within 300 feet of one another at an altitude of 39,000ft over Shizouka, Japan. The near-miss, caused by air traffic control error, forces the 747 to dive in order to avoid a collision. Had they crashed, it might have killed 677 people.

2000 – Alaska Airlines Flight 261, an MD-83 (N963AS) crashes into the Pacific Ocean, not far off the coast from LAX. The crash would be attributed to poor lubrication of a jackscrew which caused loss of control of the vertical stabilizer. The aircraft entered a dive from 31,500ft down to 23,000ft in 80 seconds. The crew spent the next 10 minutes trying to solve the problem while planning an LAX diversion when a second, fatal dive, initiated. All 88 people on the aircraft died.

1977 – Space Shuttle Enterprise is transported 36 miles from the Rockwell factory in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base.

1971Apollo 14, the eighth Apollo mission and third manned moon-flight, launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

1961Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2), carrying Ham the Chimp, carries the first hominid into sub-orbit. The flight would last just over 16 minutes, during which Ham operated a lever to prove that tasks could be performed in space.

1958Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite is launched.

1957 – On the first test flight of the Douglas DC-7B (N8210H), the aircraft collides with a USAF F-89, over Sunland, California. The two DC-7B crewmembers are killed, and only one of the F-89’s crew safely ejects. The planes hit the ground in a schoolyard, killing 3 more people.

1949 – Pan Am receives the first Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

Grim ATC recording from the doomed Alaska Flight 261 and other airliners who witnessed it…