American Airlines Flight 320
|Date||February 3, 1959|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain (water)|
|Site||New York City, New York|
|Aircraft type||Lockheed L-188A Electra|
American Airlines Flight 320, registration N6101A, was a Lockheed L-188A Electra en route from Chicago Midway International Airport to New York City's LaGuardia Airport on February 3, 1959. It crashed into the East River on approach; 65 of the 73 on board died. It was the first crash for the Electra, which had been introduced only recently by American Airlines. It would not be the last, however, as a series of fatal accidents over the next year would cause the aircraft to have a loss of confidence by the flying public, including two mysterious in-flight wing failures which resulted in speed restrictions and a near grounding by the FAA.
- The Board determines the probable cause of this accident was premature descent below landing minimums which was the result of preoccupation of the crew on particular aspects of the aircraft and its environment to the neglect of essential flight instrument references for attitude and height above the approach surface.
- Contributing factors were.
- 1. Limited experience of the crew with the aircraft type;
- 2. Faulty approach technique in which the autopilot was used in the heading mode to or almost to the surface;
- 3. Erroneous setting of the captain's altimeter;
- 4. Marginal weather in the approach area;
- 5. Possible misinterpretation of altimeter and rate of descent indicator; and
- 6. Sensory illusion with respect to height and attitude resulting from visual reference to the few lights existing in the approach area.
Many references to Flight 320 claim that there were 72 persons on board and that there were only seven survivors. This error may be because one victim was a lap infant and did not have its own seat or ticket.
The flight number is still used today on its Montego Bay-Miami-Dallas/Fort Worth route.
- Air Disaster, Vol. 4: The Propeller Era, by Macarthur Job, Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd. (Australia), 2001 ISBN 1-875671-48-X
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Civil Aeronautics Board Aircraft Accident Report on Flight 320 from the Department of Transport's Special Collections