A chronological history of jet airliner crashes.

July 11, 1961

Denver, Colorado: United Airlines Flight 859, a Douglas DC-8-20, registration N8040U veers suddenly off of the runway during landing and crashes into several airport vehicles before bursting into flame. Of the one-hundred and twenty-two aboard, nineteen lose their lives, while dozens more escape with only injuries. While the fire from a ruptured fuel tank was the main cause for the loss of life and limb, the fire department at the airport acted courageously despite antiquated equipment and a lack of support from a nearby airbase and the city of Denver itself.

Investigators, piecing the planes last few moments together, immediately found that Flight 859 had called in with a hydraulic problem. The crew followed the checklist for dealing with a hydraulic problem and everything seemed satisfactory as the DC-8 touched down on the Stapleton runway. However, when the crew initiated the thrust reversers, the reverser buckets on the left side, failed to close. When this happened, it caused an axial shift where the right side engines began pushing back, while the left engines pushed forward, turning the plane onto its destructive path. The craft then plowed across new runway construction, striking several vehicles, causing the nose landing gear to collapse and rupture the right wing fuel tank.


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