United Airlines Flight 615
The wreckage and remains of the accident aircraft.
|Date||August 24, 1951|
|Site||near Decoto (now Union City), California, United States|
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-6B|
|Aircraft name||Mainliner Omaha|
|1st stopover||Hartford, Connecticut|
|2nd stopover||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Last stopover||Oakland, California|
United Airlines Flight 615, a Douglas DC-6B with FAA registration N37550, was operating as Flight 615, which was a transcontinental east-west service serving Boston-Hartford-Cleveland-Chicago-Oakland-San Francisco. The plane was transporting 50 persons (44 passengers and 6 crew members) when it crashed on August 24, 1951.
The flight departed Chicago at 10:59 p.m. CST en route to Oakland. At around 4:16 a.m., the plane was approaching Oakland. At this time, the pilot, Marion W. Heddin of Los Altos, had talked with the control tower of the Civil Aeronautics Administration at the airport preparing for his landing, and had mentioned no trouble. At 4:25 a.m. Flight 615 was cleared for the straight-in approach into Oakland.
This approach clearance was the last radio transmission with the flight. The plane crashed into mountainous terrain 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Oakland, careening into Tolman Peak and over its knoll, scattering on the downslope and into Dry Gulch Canyon below in a fiery explosion. All 50 persons on board perished.
After an investigation, it was determined that the pilot ignored the prescribed instrument landing procedures. The pilot instead relied on visual reference, using the copilot's automatic direction finder (ADF). The ADF threw the plane three miles (5 km) off course and below the prescribed altitude of 3,500 feet (1,100 m).
Until 2013, United used the flight 615 designation on a Washington (National)-Chicago (O'Hare) route.
- CAB Accident Investigation Report, SA-239 File No. 1-0058
(if link above fails to load report, visit http://dotlibrary.specialcollection.net and select "Historical Aircraft Accident Reports (1934-1965)", then retry report link)
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Union City History - Crash of Flight 615 - includes period photographs and a chart excerpt from CAB report
- Wreckchasing.com - United Airlines Flight 615 - includes hiking directions to the crash site
- Check-Six.com - The Crash of United Airline Flight #615 - includes full crew and passenger list
- Mishalov.com - The Crash of a DC-6B in Alameda County, California - includes current-day photographs of crash site and topographic map
- Accident scene photo from Airdisaster.com