Pan Am Flight 816
Sister ship to the accident aircraft; Clipper Yankee Ranger (N418PA).
|Date||July 22, 1973|
|Summary||Crash on takeoff, spatial disorientation|
|Site||Off Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
|Aircraft type||Boeing 707-321B|
|Aircraft name||Clipper Winged Racer|
|Operator||Pan American World Airways|
|Flight origin||Auckland Airport, New Zealand|
|Stopover||Faa'a International Airport, Tahiti, French Polynesia|
|Destination||Los Angeles International Airport, California, United States|
Flight PA 816 was an international flight from Auckland, New Zealand, to Los Angeles, United States, via Tahiti, French Polynesia. It was operated by a Pan Am Boeing 707-321B bearing the registration N417PA and named Clipper Winged Racer. On July 22, 1973, at 10:06 P.M. local time, the Boeing 707 took off from Faa'a International Airport in Papeete. Thirty seconds after takeoff, the airliner carrying 79 passengers and crew crashed into the sea.
When the aircraft had reached an altitude of 300 ft (91 m), it began to descend, banking to the left. The increasingly excessive bank caused the 707 to crash into the sea and sink off Papeete. Because the turn was made towards the sea at night, no visual references were available. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are believed to have sunk to a depth of about 2,300 ft (700 m), and were never recovered. Although no official cause was determined, it is believed that an instrument failure during a turn may have contributed to the accident.
Pan Am Clipper 816, an international scheduled flight to Los Angeles originating in Auckland, via Tahiti, was en route non-stop to Los Angeles from Papeete at the time of the accident. Neil Campbell, the lone survivor, was a Canadian citizen. At the time he said he had no memory of the actual crash, but "woke up" in the water. Many private vessels sortied from Papeete harbor that night with more joining at first light to aid in the search for survivors. The bodies of several of the flight attendants were the only ones recovered. Speculation at the time at Pan Am on the cause of the accident also considered a catastrophic windshield failure, as well as gyro horizon instrument failure. No conclusive cause was ever determined.
- List of sole survivors of aviation accidents or incidents
- Other aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff after pilots lost spatial orientation: