A chronological history of jet airliner crashes.

May 30, 1961

Off the coast of Portugal, Atlantic Ocean: Viasa Flight 897, a Douglas DC-8-53, registration PH-DCL fell to the ocean killing all forty-seven passengers and and fourteen crew. With the wreck in deep water, recovery was deemed impractical. The flight was on its third leg, originating in Rome and destined for Caracas, Venezuela. At the time of takeoff, 1:15 UTC, the skies had a 3,700 ft cloud base in the night sky. There were two short transmissions to the control tower at Lisbon before the plane disappeared from the night sky.

Investigators, using the last reports from the DC-8, conjecture that with the low cloud base, the pilots experienced sensory illusions that contradicted their instruments and caused a grievous pilot error. Some also conjecture that the artificial horizon on the plane was malfunctioning. In either case, the plane experienced what pilots call, a graveyard spiral, turning over twice to the left, before an over-correction sent the plane into the ocean at a steep descent. Investigators concluded that the plane entered the water at a twenty-five degree angle, accounting for the pilots pulling up in the last four thousand feet, the plane would have been plummeting from the sky when it hit the water.


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