Bombay, India: For the second time in a little over a year, United Arab Airlines Flight 869, fell from the sky taking all sixty-three souls with it. The De Havilland Comet, registration SU-ALD, plummeted into the ocean off of the Indian coast.
The plane originated in Tokyo and had already had one stopover in Hong Kong and Bangkok. From Bombay, the plane was to continue on to Bahrain before ending in Cairo. Upon attempting a landing at the Bombay Airport, the pilots reported in at FL (flight level) 70 and requested descent to FL 40, which was granted by air traffic control. Control warned the pilots of severe turbulence around six or seven miles west of the airport, which the plane was already nearing on its VOR approach to the airport.
The flight began to take evasive maneuvers and reported heavy turbulence and violent storms in their midst. Controllers advised caution and offered a go-around route circumventing the storm. Pilots had just began to execute the maneuver when all contact was lost without warning. Controllers reported that there had been no distress call or reports of any problems from the crew.
As the plane had crashed in deep water off the coast of India and there was little to no wreckage for investigators to examine, the cause of the crash was attributed to loss of control of the craft due to severe turbulence and violent storm activity.
Perhaps saddest of all, was that among the fifty-five passengers, were twenty-six Boy Scouts from the Philippines, on their way to a convention in Greece. The loss of the boys caused a great mourning in their town and country. A memorial was constructed in Quezon City, Philippines to mark the passing of the boys and several streets on the city’s south side were named in their honor as well.
Everglades National Park, Florida: In the early afternoon on a stormy February day, Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 705, registration N724US, fell into the Everglades roughly thirty-seven miles southwest of Miami International Airport. The Boeing 720 was the first 720 to have been involved in an accident, sending officials from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) into a frenzy to find out if something was wrong with the relatively new plane.
The Boeing 720 was equipped with a CVR (cockpit voice recorder) so piecing the day’s events back together proved to be fairly simple, right up until the point of the crash. There were severe thunderstorms in the area that day, so air traffic controllers vectored the jet airliner out on a southerly route, instructing the flight to fly south, then loop over the storms, seeking out a stable route through the storm. Pilots radioed that they did indeed see a pathway through the storms, but advised the ATC to offer other flights a different route, as the one that they chose was closing quickly.
The FDR along with the transmissions from the crew pieced together a roller-coaster ride for the flight before it plummeted to the swamp below, taking all 43 souls with it. The flight data recorder measured climbs at a rate of 9,000 feet per minute and g-forces ranging from 1.5 to -2.8. When the plane suddenly dove below 10,000 feet, the forward fuselage broke free from the rest of the plane from the incredible stresses that had been put upon the airframe. The forward fuselage broke upward, peeling back along the top of the cabin, while the vertical stabilizer broke free and fell of the port side of the craft. Investigators found that all four engines had broken free during the fall and were scattered around the debris zone.
The NTSB finally reported that the plane came down because of the interaction between the plane and severe vertical air drafts and large longitudinal control displacements, also known as severe turbulence.