Continental Airlines Flight 11

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Continental Airlines Flight 11
A Continental Airlines Boeing 707 similar to the aircraft involved in the crash.
Bombing summary
Date May 22, 1962
Summary Suicide bombing (suicide committed as an insurance fraud by a passenger)
Site Union Township, Putnam County
near Unionville, Missouri, United States
40°32′49.43″N 93°3′28.25″W / 40.5470639°N 93.0578472°W / 40.5470639; -93.0578472Coordinates: 40°32′49.43″N 93°3′28.25″W / 40.5470639°N 93.0578472°W / 40.5470639; -93.0578472
Passengers 37
Crew 8
Injuries (non-fatal) 1 (initially)
Fatalities 45 (44 initially)
Survivors 0 (1 initially)
Aircraft type Boeing 707-124
Operator Continental Airlines
Registration N70775
Flight origin O'Hare International Airport
Chicago, Illinois
Destination Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, Kansas City, Kansas

Continental Airlines Flight 11, registration N70775, was a Boeing 707 aircraft which exploded in the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, while en route from O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Kansas City, Missouri, on May 22, 1962. The aircraft crashed in a clover field near Unionville, in Putnam County, Missouri, killing all 45 crew and passengers on board. The investigation determined the cause of the crash was a suicide bombing committed as insurance fraud.

Continental Airlines Flight 11 memorial erected in Unionville, Missouri


Flight 11 departed O'Hare at 8:35 p.m. The flight was routine until just before the Mississippi River, when it deviated from its filed flight plan to the north to avoid a line of thunderstorms. In the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, the radar image of the aircraft disappeared from the scope of the Waverly, Iowa, Flight Following Service. At approximately 9:17 p.m. an explosion occurred in the right rear lavatory, resulting in separation of the tail section from the fuselage. The flight crew initiated the required emergency descent procedures and donned their smoke masks due to the dense fog which formed in the cabin immediately after the decompression. At separation of the tail, the remaining aircraft structure pitched nose down violently, causing the engines to tear off, after which it fell in uncontrolled gyrations. The fuselage of the Boeing 707, minus the aft 38 feet, and with part of the left and most of the right wing intact, struck the ground, headed westerly down a 10-degree slope of an alfalfa field.[1]

Witnesses in and around both Cincinnati, Iowa and Unionville reported hearing loud and unusual noises at around 9:20 p.m., and two more saw a big flash or ball of fire in the sky. A B-47 Stratojet bomber flying out of Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, was flying at the altitude of 26,500 feet in the vicinity of Kirksville, Missouri. The aircraft commander saw a bright flash in the sky forward of and above his aircraft's position. After referring to his navigation logs he estimated the flash to have occurred at 9:22 p.m. near the location where the last radar target of Flight 11 had been seen. Most of the fuselage was found near Unionville, but the engines and parts of the tail section and left wing were found up to six miles away from the main wreckage.[1]

Of the 45 individuals on board, 44 were dead when rescuers reached the crash site. One passenger, 27-year old Takehiko Nakano of Evanston, Illinois, was alive when rescuers found him in the wreckage, but he died of internal injuries at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Centerville, Iowa, an hour and a half after being rescued.[2] Another of the victims was passenger Fred P. Herman, a recipient of the United States Medal of Freedom.


FBI agents discovered that one of the passengers, Thomas G. Doty, a married man with a five-year-old daughter, had purchased a life insurance policy from Mutual of Omaha for $150,000, the maximum available; his death would also bring in another $150,000 in additional insurance (some purchased at the airport) and death benefits. Doty had recently been arrested for armed robbery and was to soon face a preliminary hearing in the matter. Investigators determined that Doty had purchased six sticks of dynamite for 29 cents each, shortly before the crash, and were able to deduce that a bomb had been placed in the used towel bin of the right rear lavatory.[1]

Author Arthur Hailey based a subplot of his 1968 novel Airport on the Flight 11 bombing.[citation needed]

Notably, until 2009 Continental Airlines still used Flight 11, on the Paris-Houston route; flight numbers in the USA involved in fatal accidents are more commonly retired. Flight 11 was later replaced on the Paris-Houston route by flight 33 until its integration with United Airlines.[citation needed]

In July 2010, a memorial was erected near the crash site in Unionville, Missouri on the anniversary of the crash.[3][4]

In May 2012 a special 50th anniversary memorial service was held in Unionville.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "CAB accident report." (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. Adopted July 26, 1962.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Unraveling the crash of Flight 11...", Sun Herald
  3. ^ "Flight 11 Memorial Dedication". Putnam County Historical Society. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Riek, Jim (6 November 2008). "A Forgotten Tragedy". KOMU-TV. Retrieved 24 May 2010. [dead link]

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