Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 831
The aircraft involved in the incident, pictured six months before accident
|Date||November 29, 1963|
|Summary||Unknown; possible systems failure|
|Site||Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville (near Montreal-Dorval Airport), Quebec, Canada|
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-8-54CF Jet Trader|
|Operator||Trans-Canada Air Lines|
|Flight origin||Montreal-Dorval Airport|
|Destination||Toronto International Airport|
Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) Flight 831 was a flight from Montréal–Dorval International Airport to Toronto International Airport on November 29, 1963. The aircraft was a four-engine Douglas DC-8-54CF airliner, registered CF-TJN. About five minutes after takeoff in poor weather, the jet crashed about 20 miles (32 km) north of Montreal, near Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville, Quebec, Canada, killing all 111 passengers and seven crew members. The crash was the deadliest in Canadian history at the time. It was also the deadliest crash of a DC-8 at the time, and, as of 2020, the sixth-deadliest.
Sequence of events
At 6:28 p.m., the DC-8 began its takeoff roll on Dorval airport's Runway 06R. The crew reported back when they reached 3,000 feet (910 m) and were given clearance for a left turn. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft deviated from its expected flight path and began a quick descent. At about 6:33 p.m., the jet struck the ground at an estimated 470–485 knots (870–898 km/h; 541–558 mph) while descending at about a 55-degree angle (± 7 degrees).
The aircraft had plunged into a soggy field in Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, about 100 metres from the main highway that leads to the Laurentian Mountains. One witness said that he saw what looked like "a long red streak in the sky" just before the crash. The red-trimmed, silver jet dug a crater 6 feet (1.8 m) deep and 150 feet (46 m) wide in the ground that soon began to fill with rainwater. Although parts of the plane were scattered over a wide area ahead of (and separate from) the crater, the commission of inquiry found that the aircraft was structurally intact when it struck the ground.
The site of the crash was a flat field away from houses in the town of 12,000 people. The main sections of the wreckage lay about halfway between Highway 11, now Quebec Route 117, and the Laurentian Autoroute (Quebec Highway 15). Rescue parties were hampered by deep mud around the wreckage, and by a fuel-fed fire that lasted for hours despite heavy rain.
The investigation was complicated by the severe damage to the plane and the fact that it did not have voice cockpit recorders or flight data recorders, as they were not required in Canada at the time. Though the official report released in 1965 could not determine the cause of the accident, it pointed to problems in the jet's pitch trim system (the device that maintains a set nose-up or nose-down attitude) as a possibility, as a pitch trim problem caused the similar crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 304, another DC-8, three months after the crash of Flight 831. Other suggested possible causes that could not be ruled out included icing of the pitot system and failure of the vertical gyro.
The crash killed all 118 people on board, 111 passengers and seven crew members. Of the victims, 76 were from the Metropolitan Toronto area and three were foreign nationals (two Americans and one Indian). A TCA official said that "the bodies were so badly smashed that identification was virtually hopeless." The plane's flight crew included 47-year-old captain John D. "Jack" Snider of Toronto, a World War II bomber pilot, 35-year-old first officer Harold J. "Harry" Dyck of Leamington, Ontario and 29-year-old flight engineer Edward D. Baxter of Toronto.
Traffic congestion on Montreal's main expressway, which extended all the way into the downtown core, caused eight people to miss the flight but also impeded emergency vehicles from reaching the crash site.
Among the victims were two employees of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) who had been in Montreal preparing a bilingual television variety show called A Show from Two Cities. As a consequence, the CBC public affairs series This Hour Has Seven Days began filming the aftermath and the investigations into the crash. In November 1965, the CBC broadcast the hour-long documentary, which was watched by more than two million Canadians, but many victims' families avoided it, not wanting to revisit the tragedy.
Though it is customary for airlines to retire a flight number after a major incident, Air Canada continued to flight number 831 for a route from Geneva to Toronto with a stopover in Montreal. However, this route number has since been changed to 835.
- "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas CD-8-54F CF-TJN Ste-Thérèse de Blainville, QC". Aviation Safety Network. Alexandria, Virginia U.S.A.: Flight Safety Foundation. Archived from the original on 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- "Picture of the Douglas DC-8-54CF Jet Trader aircraft". Airliners.net. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
- Wyatt, Nelson (2013-11-30). "Anniversary of 1963 Quebec plane crash helps bring some closure for victims' relatives". The Toronto Star. p. A18. Archived from the original on 2013-11-30. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- Eastwood, Tony; Roach, John (1992). Jet Airliner Production List. West Drayton, UK: The Aviation Hobby Shop. pp. 339–363. ISBN 978-0-907178-43-9.
- Bryant, George (1963-11-30). "Montreal TCA Crash Kills 118: 76 Victims From Metro Area". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- "Canada: Crater in the Field". Time. December 6, 1963. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- Report of Commission of Inquiry into CRASH OF TRANS-CANADA AIR LINES DC-8F AIRCRAFT CF-TJN AT STE. THERESE DE BLAINVILLE, P.Q. ON 29th November, 1963 ORDER IN-COUNCIL DATED 8 October, 1964, P.C. 1964-1544 Hon. GEORGE S. CHALLIES, Commissioner, Capt. WILLIAM S. ROXBOROUGH and Air Commodore RAYMOND H. BRAY, RCAF (retired), Technical Advisers reports.aviation-safety.net, accessed 1 December 2019
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network for Eastern Air Lines Flight 304
- UPI (1963-11-30). "Traffic snarl made eight miss death flight". The Toronto Daily Star. Toronto. p. 5.
- Carney, James (1965-11-07). "At the Moment of Impact". This Hour Has Seven Days. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Dick, Ernest J. (2009). Our Search for Memory: Flight 831 — Ste-Therese, Quebec, November 29, 1963.
- (in French) Cimetière de Sainte-Thérèse at Wikimapia (English translation via Google Translate)
- "TCA 831 crash site as of 2013". Google Maps. Mountainview, California: Google Inc. 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- "Air Canada (AC) #831 Flight Tracker". Live Flight Tracker. Houston: FlightAware. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-29. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- "Voices from a Forgotten Tragedy – Trans Canada Airlines Flight 831", www.tcaflight831.com – combines original sources with memories of 150 people directly affected.
- Archive footage (1963) from British Pathé (Record No:70701) at YouTube
- List of victims
- (in French) Period TV coverage (Archive) (WMP) – Includes aerial views of the crash site and a look at the accident reconstruction.
- (in French) 40th anniversary TV coverage (Archive) (WMP)
- SOS! Canadian Disasters, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada