Lufthansa Flight 502

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Lufthansa Flight 502
Constellation Wiki.jpg
A similar Constellation
Accident summary
Date 11 January 1959
Summary Controlled flight into terrain
Site Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport, Brazil
Passengers 29
Crew 10
Fatalities 36
Injuries (non-fatal) 3
Survivors 3
Aircraft type Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation
Operator Lufthansa
Registration D-ALAK
Flight origin Dakar Airport, Senegal
Destination Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport, Brazil

Lufthansa Flight 502 was a scheduled flight from Hamburg, Germany to Buenos Aires, Argentina on 11 January 1959. The flight was being operated by a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation (registration D-ALAK).[1] On the leg between Senegal and Brazil the Super Constellation was on approach to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport when it crashed near Flecheiras Beach just short of the runway. All 29 passengers and seven of the ten crew were killed.[1] It was the first fatal accident involving Lufthansa since it was formed in 1955.[2]


The aircraft was cleared by air traffic control to descend to 900 metres (3,000 ft) over Guanabara Bay as part of the approach sequence to Runway 14 at Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport. During the descent the weather was rainy.[1] Descending too low on approach, the Constellation struck the water with the aircraft's nosewheel; the crew attempted to continue the approach, but were unable to maintain control, and the aircraft crashed near Flecheiras Beach.[1] All of the aircraft's passengers (including Archduchess Maria Ileana of Austria-Este, granddaughter of King Ferdinand of Romania) and seven of the crewmembers died; the co-pilot, a steward and a stewardess survived the impact.[2]


The aircraft, a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation airliner powered by four Wright R-3350 radial piston engines, had been built in 1955, and was delivered to Lufthansa on 17 May 1955.[3] The aircraft was sold to Seaboard World Airlines in May 1958, but had been returned to Lufthansa in November of that year.[3]

Probable cause[edit]

An accident investigation was unable to determine the cause of the crash, but considered that the most likely cause of the accident was pilot error, resulting in Flight 502 descending below the minimum altitude required for the approach. The crew had exceeded the flight time limits set by Brazilian aeronautical regulations, but not under German rules; aircrew fatigue was determined to be a contributing factor.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Civil Aviation Authority 1974, p. 1/59
  2. ^ a b "36 Killed in Rio Crash – German Airliner Wrecked". News. The Times (54356). London. 12 January 1959. col D, p. 8. 
  3. ^ a b Eastwood 1991, p. 252