1972 Sacramento Canadair Sabre accident
A North American F-86 Sabre similar to the aircraft that crashed
|Date||September 24, 1972|
|Site||Sacramento Executive Airport, Sacramento, California, US
|Fatalities||22 (on ground)|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||28 (on ground)|
|Aircraft type||Canadair Sabre Mk 5|
|Flight origin||Sacramento Executive Airport|
|Destination||Oakland International Airport|
On September 24, 1972, a privately owned Canadair Sabre Mk. 5 jet piloted by Richard Bingham failed to take off while leaving the "Golden West Sport Aviation Air Show" at Sacramento, California's Executive Airport, crashing into a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. Twenty-two people died and twenty-eight were injured. The accident remains the third-deadliest aircraft accident in the United States involving victims on the ground, after the USAF KC-135 Wichita crash in 1965, and the Green Ramp disaster in 1994, which killed 23 and 24 people on the ground, respectively.
The jet failed to gain sufficient altitude upon takeoff, with eyewitnesses suggesting the nose was over-rotated. The F-86 Sabre has a dangerous and often fatal handling characteristic upon takeoff if the nose is raised prematurely from the runway. This handling characteristic of the F-86 was acknowledged from the early 1950s.
The aircraft over-ran the runway, struck an earthen berm, and ripped through a chain link fence. Two external underwing fuel tanks ruptured and ignited upon impact with the fence, creating a massive fireball. The plane continued across Freeport Boulevard, crashing into a moving car, and struck at 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) a local Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor at approximately 4:25 pm. The parlor was occupied in part by the Sacramento 49ers "Little League" football team.
Twenty-two people died, including twelve children. An eight-year-old survivor of the accident lost nine family members including both parents, two brothers, a sister, two grandparents and two cousins. A family of four also died in the accident. Two people were killed in the car struck on Freeport Boulevard. Immediately after the crash an elderly couple trying to cross the street to the crash site were struck by a vehicle, killing the wife. The crash could have claimed many more lives if the external fuel tanks had not ruptured prior to impact, or if the jet had not been slowed by hitting the moving car and other vehicles parked in front of the restaurant. The pilot suffered a broken leg and broken arm. The jet was owned by William Penn Patrick a successful businessman. Patrick himself, and his passenger, died when his P-51 Mustang crashed on the morning of June 9, 1973.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the accident was a result of pilot error due to lack of experience on the jet. Bingham had logged less than four hours flying time in the Sabre. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) modified the rules governing the flight of ex-military jets over densely populated areas, and mandated clearance for such flights. Pilot requirements were also tightened: they would require a checkout by the manufacturer or military, and take-offs and landings would have to be observed by an FAA inspector to confirm proficiency.
In 2002, a memorial was built at the site of the accident and dedicated in March 2003. It consists of: a rose garden with two benches, a fountain, a concrete marker and two metal plaques with the names of those who died.
In 2012, a service to commemorate the 40th anniversary was held to remember the victims of the accident.
- "Aircraft Accident Report Spectrum Air, Inc. Sabre Mark 5, N275X" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. March 28, 1973. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
- Tanner, Beccy. "Hellish day recalled 50 years after Piatt Street plane crash". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
- Brooks, Drew (May 23, 2014). "Survivors mark 20-year anniversary of Pope Air Force Base Green Ramp crash". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- Hoover, R.A. "Bob" (1997). Forever Flying : Fifty Years of High-Flying Adventures, from Barnstorming in Prop Planes to Dogfighting Germans to Testing Supersonic Jets : an autobiography : with Mark Shaw : foreword by Chuck Yeager. New York: Pocket Books. p. 184. ISBN 0-671-53761-X.
- Bizjak, Tony (April 1, 2002). "After 30 years, a Farrell's healing". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
- Magagnini, Stephen (December 31, 1999). "Farrell's disaster claimed 22 lives". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
- "The Crash at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Sacramento, CA – September 24, 1972". Check Six. 2002. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
- Pierleoni, Alan (September 24, 2012). "Somber event recalls Farrell's jet-crash disaster". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
- Harbour, Mike (September 24, 2012). "Farrell's Crash Remembered 40 Years Later". Flight Journal. Retrieved January 12, 2014.