Aviation News

February 25, 2016

Photos & Video: La Guardia Circa 1947 Teaches of Airport’s Additional Runways & United DC-4 Crash

A good friend shared a video (see below) with footage taken at La Guardia Airport in 1947. It starts with with a drool-worthy American Airlines Douglas DC-4 blocking-in, with men rolling stairs to the rear door to let well-dressed people deplane onto the ramp. But then I saw something that got me digging.

At the 5:40 mark it transitions to a more somber seen of burnt aircraft wreckage. These are the remains of United Airlines Flight 521, a Douglas DC-4 (NC30046) that was hoping to fly to Cleveland Municipal Airport (CLE/KCLE) on May 29th. Instead, after a late aborted takeoff, the aircraft exited the airport perimeter, hopping across the then-narrow Grand Central Parkway and bursting into flames. It came to rest on what is today the embankment on the south side of the parkway in front of Vaughn College’s “airplane parking lot” (Vaughn was then named Casey Jones School of Aeronautics).

This old postcard of La Guardia shows what was previously runway 18/36, labeled here as "plane parking." (click to enlarge)

This old postcard of La Guardia shows what was previously runway 18/36, labeled here as “plane parking.” (click to enlarge)

The attempted departure that killed 43 of the 48 souls on board took place on LGA’s runway 18, a north-south stretch of pavement that was one of a slew of runways that La Guardia had at the time, all 45 degrees off from each other. Runway 18/36 closed later that year, and just over a decade later, the east-west runway, 9/27, also closed in what was a big era of growth and expansion for the airport. Though since modified and extended, runways 13/31 and 4/22 remain, though 13/31 was moved northeast in 1961 to make way for what is today taxiway B.

United 521 was the deadliest plane crash in United States history until Eastern Air Lines Flight 605 (also a Douglas DC-4, NC88814) crashed in Baltimore Maryland, killing 53 people…less than one day later.

Back to the AvGeek video, at the 7:35 mark we see President Truman’s “Air Force One,” in the form of a Douglas DC-6 (6-505) that the United States Air Force designated the VC-118. The second aircraft purpose-built for Presidential transport, 1947 was its first of 6 years of service for the bird, which now sits at the Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This VC-118 was fancy for its time, having technologies that were state-of-the-art at the time like…weather radar and auto pilot.

So, without further ado…

More photos of the United 521 wreck:

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 7.48.52 AM
Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 7.48.21 AM
Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 7.46.32 AM
Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 7.46.19 AM

Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has airline experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He currently runs NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert for the media. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.



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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