American Airlines Flight 6780
|Date||January 22, 1952|
|Summary||No official determination|
|Site||Williamson and South Streets,
Elizabeth, New Jersey
|Fatalities||30 (including 7 on the ground)|
|Aircraft type||Convair 240|
|Flight origin||Buffalo, New York|
|1st stopover||Rochester, New York|
|2nd stopover||Syracuse, New York|
|Destination||Newark, New Jersey|
The twin-propeller aircraft was on the routing Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Newark. On final approach to runway 6 at Newark Airport using the instrument landing system, it crashed at 3:45 p.m. into a house at the intersection of Williamson and South Streets, in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southeast of Newark. The cause of the crash was never determined.
The plane, which had gone 2,100 feet (640 m) off course to the right, narrowly missed hitting the Battin High School for girls, which had dismissed for the day only 45 minutes before.
The flight number 6780 is still used by American today as a codeshare operated by Alaska Airlines flying from Los Angeles to Seattle.
All 23 occupants on board (20 passengers and 3 crew) plus 7 people on the ground, were killed in the crash and ensuing fire.
The Captain, Thomas J. Reid, whose home was only blocks from the crash scene, had recently returned from an airlift to Japan; his wife heard the crash and told reporters that they had been planning to move to a house they had constructed in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
Among the passengers was Robert P. Patterson, a jurist and former Undersecretary of War under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former War Secretary under Harry S Truman. Patterson was returning from meeting Thomas J. Watson of IBM, who had just hired him for a new case on the previous day. Patterson had finished a federal case in Buffalo earlier than expected the day before, and changed his rail ticket in for the aircraft seat (according to the Jan. 23 edition of the "Deseret News"). Also on board were former war correspondent John F. Chester and US Civil Aeronautics Administration officials George T. Williams and John D. Rice, both engaged in the development of airport radar systems and navigational aids.
One of those killed on the ground was a seven-year-old girl, Donna Mandel. Her then two-year-old sister Linda was severely burned. A third sister, Judy Mandel, who was born after the crash, wrote a memoir about the crash and its effects on her family and identity, Replacement Child. It was published to positive reviews in September, 2009.
This was the second in a string of three crashes near the Newark Airport. On December 16, 1951 a C-46 with 56 aboard had crashed on takeoff into the Elizabeth River.
The third crash, on February 11, 1952, killed 25 of 59 passengers and narrowly missed an orphanage. Immediately afterwards, Newark Airport was closed by the Port of New York Authority until November 15. The State of New York passed a bill requiring operators to approach airports over water wherever possible.
President Harry Truman launched a temporary commission of inquiry, headed by Jimmy Doolittle, to study the effects of airports on their neighbors. The report recommended the establishment of effective zoning laws to prevent the erection of schools, hospitals and other places of assembly under final approach paths.
- "Convair CV-240" ASN Aviation Safety Database
- Staff. "Plane Falls in Elizabeth, 31 Die, 8 of them in 3 homes set on fire; Ex-Secretary Patterson a Victim; All Aboard Perish; Craft From Buffalo Was on a Radar Approach to Newark Airport; Buildings Burn Quickly 'Gas' Tanks Explode on Impact -- Pilot's Wife Hears Crash in Her Home, Near Scene; Searching For Victims After Convair Struck Dwellings in Jersey Plane Crash Kills 31 In Elizabeth", The New York Times, January 23, 1952. Accessed February 24, 2009.
- Thomas J. Watson, Peter Petre. Father, Son & Co: My Life at IBM and Beyond 2nd ed. Bantam Books (1991) p.233 ISBN 0-553-29023-1
- Jean-Rae Turner, Richard T. Koles "Elizabeth: First Capital of New Jersey" pp. 128-129 Arcadia Publishing (2003) ISBN 978-0-7385-2393-4
- "Airport Moats Needed?" Flight 14 March 1952 p.305
- "The Doolittle Report" Flight 11 July 1952 pp.53-54
- J. H. Doolittle, et al., "The Airport and its Neighbors", The Report of the President's Airport Commission. May 16, 1952. LCCN 52061225 (recommendation 5)
- "Plane Crash" The Herald-Press, January 23, 1952. St. Joseph, Michigan. pp. 1, 6
- "Airliner Crash Deaths Reach 28" The Deseret News January 23, 1952. pp. 1,2
- "Patterson called Great American by Truman" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 23, 1952 pp. 1,3