On This Day in Aviation History

January 31, 2013

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

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…

About the Author

Phil Derner Jr.
Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has aviation experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He owns and operates NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert through writing, consulting, public speaking and media appearances. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.



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