How Much Weight Can A 18 Foot Jon Boat Hold A History of Convair 880 and 990 Aircraft Accidents

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A History of Convair 880 and 990 Aircraft Accidents

Although the accident history of the Convair 880s and 990s can be considered extensive, especially in relation to the number that entered service, several aspects should be considered. In the 15-year period between 1960, the type’s entry into service, and 1974, there were seven fatal accidents. Four included the CV-990A, whose total production was only a third of that of the entire program. But the first incident did not occur until the original CV-880 had been in the air in various countries and climatic conditions for seven years.

Deaths per aircraft must also be considered – from a low of one to a high of 155. Three accidents occurred during the take-off phase and two during the cruise phase, but they resulted from deliberately planted explosive devices and not from airframe or powerplant deficiencies or design errors. Many, just by fate, occurred in clusters only days apart.

“The 880 achieved a great safety record in passenger service, but suffered several training accidents and several accidents occurred after the aircraft were converted to freighter configurations,” according to Jon Proctor’s perspective in the Convair 880 and 990 (World Transport Press, 1996, p. 82 ). “At least 15 hull losses were recorded, including several that were repairable but written off due to financial considerations.”

This chapter examines actual passenger accidents.

The first of these occurred on 5 November 1967, when flight VR-HFX, a CV-880M operated by Cathay Pacific, commenced a multi-sector flight from Hong Kong’s Kai Tak International Airport to Calcutta, with stopovers in Saigon and Bangkok. Piloted by Captain JRE Howell, an Australian, and serviced by ten other crew members, the jetliner, with 116 passengers on board, simulated its takeoff run in good weather, but aborted the attempt when it experienced a strong vibration and veered to the right at 122 knots. Despite reverse pressure and toe brake application, there was insufficient distance to stop.

When it skidded off the runway and ran over a seawall, it crashed into Hong Kong harbor, nosediving in the process. It eventually came to rest 100 yards from the end of the lane and in shallow water. No fire or explosion followed.

The captain entered the cabin to assist in the evacuation. Although he encountered confusion, there was little panic and the escape was orderly. Helicopters and boats converged on the water-submerged Convair.

Of the 127 souls on board, 20 required hospitalization, 13 sustained minor injuries and one, a South Vietnamese woman, died when she could not be freed from the cabin. The others, ironically, didn’t even keep their feet wet.

The vibration and yaw to the right was traced to the starboard nose wheel tire responsible for the aborted takeoff.

Just 16 days after the Cathay Pacific incident, a far more fatal one happened – this time during the landing phase.

On November 21, 1967, TWA Flight 128, a “Star Stream 880” registered N821TW, departed its Los Angeles origin two and a half hours late because problems with the door seal on the originally scheduled flight caused it to be replaced by one that from Boston. En route to that very city, with stops in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it broke free from California soil with seven crew members and 72 passengers.

The flight itself was routine. The landing was not.

Thirty minutes before its estimated time of arrival at At 9:06 p.m., it began its descent into Cincinnati, which through the Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS) reported light snow, a 1,000-foot ceiling, and a 1.5-mile visibility.

The sleek, sweeping jetliner, its passenger windows providing the only light in the black soup through which it descended, approached the Greater Cincinnati Airport’s north-south runway. But construction to extend it from 7,200 to 9,000 feet rendered its glideslope, approach lights and center marker inoperable.

Approaching from the northwest, Flight 128 passed over the Ohio River, which was at a lower elevation than the airport itself because it had been built on a hill on the other side of the waterway. The plane was lined up with the runway and was due to land in just a moment. But 800 feet below its glide slope, it would never reach the threshold.

Instead, it plowed into an apple orchard in Hebron, Kentucky, owned by BS Wagner, clipping trees with its wings until the progressive impacts reduced its momentum and ruptured its fuel tanks. At 20:58, two miles from the runway, the red glow from the fire illuminated the swirling snow and marked the crash site.

Seventeen survivors were taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Covington, Kentucky, and three more were taken to Booth Hospital, all in serious condition. Subsequent deaths among some of them left only a dozen survivors among the 82 on board.

The crash, the first Convair 880 operated by a US carrier, was the worst in Greater Cincinnati Airport’s history and the third in a series of similar mishaps. The first two involved approaches by a cargo plane on November 14, 1961, and an American Airlines Boeing 727-100 four years later, on November 8.

Because everything had resulted in runway deficits, an investigation was launched, but the FAA failed to reveal any approach procedure errors or deficiencies for the north-south runway, saying the airport “adequately meets our standards.”

The similarity, at least in the two airliner incidents, was inadequate or non-existent instrument monitoring during the crucial final approach phase. In the American case, it was the crew’s failure to monitor its altimeter during a visual approach, while in the TWA the first officer gave no altitude or airspeed call, resulting in the aircraft’s inability to clear approach obstacles and its subsequent ground impact two miles from and 15 feet below the runway.

The third fatal accident – this time involving a CV-990A operated by Garuda Indonesia Airways – occurred six months later, on 28 May 1968. Flight PK-GJA, which had departed Jakarta the previous evening at 18:00, connecting the Far East with Amsterdam in Europe on its multi-sector flight that intermittently took it to Singapore, Bangkok, Bombay, Karachi, Cairo and Rome. But shortly after takeoff from India, it dove to the ground in a vertical orientation, reached its never-exceeding speed during its ground dive, and impacted 20 miles away. All 29 on board and one on the ground perished. Although no definitive cause was found, sabotage was strongly suspected.

Visibility – or the lack of it – was the cause of another CV-990A accident two years later, on 5 January 1970. Engine failure led to flight EC-BNM, operated by Spantax, turning back shortly after takeoff from Stockholm’s Arlanda International . Airport on his charter flight to Las Palmas. Although it departed without passengers with the intention of flying to Zurich on three engines for repairs, heavy fog proved the cause of its ground dive and collision with the surrounding forest, taking the lives of five of its ten crew.

As had happened with the Garuda CV-990A, bomb blasts brought down two more aircraft.

In the first, on 21 February 1970, flight HB-ICD operated by Swissair as Flight SR 330 departed Zurich’s Kloten International Airport with nine crew members and 38 passengers en route to Israel. But shortly after takeoff, an explosion tore open the aft cargo hold.

As the smoke spread through the cabin, the captain made his mayday call. When the Convair 990A Coronado was given immediate clearance to return, it began to circle, forced to make an ILS approach due to low ceiling and limited visibility. Still, damage to the airfoils made it difficult to control, and the captain had to use every method he could muster to keep the crippled craft in the air, all without success.

Plowing into the village of Wuerenlingen in the Swiss canton of Aargau 40 km from Zurich, it claimed all 47 lives.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, after placing a bomb in a checked suitcase, later claimed responsibility for the blast, which targeted an Israeli official on the flight.

The second consecutive anti-explosion incident occurred two years later, on 15 June 1972. In this case, a Cathay Pacific CV-880M, registered VR-HFZ and operating as Flight 700Z, was flying between Bangkok and Hong Kong when a time bomb, brought aboard in a piece of cabin baggage, exploded at flight level two-nine-zero, split the fuselage into three sections and torpedoed them to the ground, crashed 33 miles southeast of Pleiku, in the sparsely populated South Vietnamese Central Highlands, itself 200 miles northeast of Saigon , at 14:00 local time.

So polarized was the wreckage from the built up momentum and obliteration of the ground that the fire didn’t even break out. US Army helicopters were the first to reach the crash site. Naturally, all ten crew members and 71 passengers perished.

It was believed that the reason for the sabotage was a long-standing one, namely the collection of insurance money. It was also believed that the device would have detonated at a time when the aircraft would have been over the South China Sea, leaving no trace of the cause.

The worst Convair 880 and 990 accident occurred six months later, on 3 December 1972, when an example 990A, registered EC-BZR and operated by Spantax, performed its takeoff roll from Los Rodeos Airport in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands , bound for Munich with seven crew members and 148 passengers.

The aircraft, under the command of Captain Daniel Nunez, rotated into blinding fog and climbed to 300 feet, at which point it experienced an unconfined engine failure. Gravity induced ground surface it bore into the ground a thousand feet beyond the runway, taking all lives with it.

Although the cause was cited as loss of control by the first officer who conducted the take-off, it was discovered to have rotated at a VR speed 20 knots lower than recommended for the aircraft’s gross weight, leaving it incapacitated to generate sufficient lift to establish a positive rate of climb.

The last accident in this 15-year period was the result of a break-in on the runway. While taxiing to the Chicago gate at the end of its Tampa sector as Delta Flight 954, flight N8807E crossed the active runway and was clipped by a North Central DC-9-30, which rotated too early to attempt to climb over the. While 15 injuries and one fatality resulted from the DC-9’s crash back onto the runway, only one of CV-880’s passengers was injured during the subsequent evacuation. However, after having the top of its fuselage cut off and its tail clipped, the Convair was damaged beyond repair.

Article sources:

Lewis, W. David and Newton, Wesley Phillips. Delta: The Story of an Airline. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1979.

McClement, Fred. It doesn’t matter where you sit. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1969.

Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 and 990. Miami: World Transport Press, Inc., 1996.

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