Lovettsville air disaster

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Lovettsville air disaster
Douglas DC-3, SE-CFP.jpg
A DC-3 similar to the accident aircraft
DateAugust 31, 1940 14:41
SummaryLightning strike (probable)
Sitenear Short Hill Mountain, Lovettsville, Virginia
39°16′24″N 77°41′05″W / 39.27333°N 77.68472°W / 39.27333; -77.68472Coordinates: 39°16′24″N 77°41′05″W / 39.27333°N 77.68472°W / 39.27333; -77.68472
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-3
OperatorPennsylvania Central Airlines
Flight originWashington, DC
StopoverPittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DestinationDetroit, Michigan

The Lovettsville air disaster occurred on August 31, 1940 near Lovettsville, Virginia. Pennsylvania Central Airlines Trip 19 was a new Douglas DC-3A that was flying through an intense thunderstorm at 6,000 feet (1,800 m). Numerous witnesses reported seeing a large flash of lightning shortly before it nosed over and plunged to earth in an alfalfa field. With limited accident investigation tools at the time, it was at first believed that the most likely cause was the plane flying into windshear, but the Civil Aeronautics Board report concluded that the probable cause was a lightning strike.[1][2] U.S. Senator Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota was one of the 25 people (21 passengers and 4 crew members) killed.[3][4][5]

The crash occurred during a severe rainstorm, and recovery efforts were complicated by impassable flooded roads and poor communications: the crash cut the only telephone lines in the area. Wreckage was scattered over a broad area and it is believed that all aircraft occupants died instantly on impact. At the time, the crash was the deadliest disaster in the history of U.S. commercial aviation.[6]

"Trip 19", as it was designated, was under the command of Captain Lowell V. Scroggins with First Officer J. Paul Moore. The pilot and copilot had over eleven thousand and six thousand hours experience respectively, although only a few hundred of those hours were on DC-3s. In the jump seat rode a new administrative employee of the airline, hired on August 26.[1]

The DC-3A was newly delivered from the Douglas Aircraft on May 25, 1940 equipped with twin Curtiss-Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 engines (also designated as G-102-A).[1]

The CAB investigation of the accident was the first major investigation to be conducted under the Bureau of Air Commerce act of 1938.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Report of the Civil Aeronautics Board" (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. Archived from the original on 2014-09-15. Retrieved 2009-04-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Causes of U.S. accidents" (PDF). Flight. December 19, 1940. p. 529.
  3. ^ "Death in the Blue Ridge". Time. 1940-09-09. Retrieved 2009-04-14. The news of the worst crash in the history of U. S. aviation ended 17 months of safe operation.
  4. ^ "Accident Details". Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  5. ^ Beitler, Stu. "Lovettsville, VA Air Disaster, Aug 1940". Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  6. ^ "25 Killed as Airliner Crashes, Explodes in Worst Disaster of Aviation History". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Associated Press. September 1, 1940. Retrieved November 5, 2019.