United Airlines Flight 615

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"Flight 615" redirects here. For the 1972 hijacking, see Lufthansa Flight 615.
United Airlines Flight 615
The crash site of United Airlines Flight 615.jpg
The wreckage and remains of the accident aircraft.
Accident summary
Date August 24, 1951
Summary Controlled flight into terrain
Site near Decoto, California, United States
Passengers 44
Crew 6
Fatalities 50 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Douglas DC-6B
Aircraft name Mainliner Omaha
Operator United Airlines
Registration N37550
Flight origin Boston
1st stopover Hartford, Connecticut
2nd stopover Cleveland, Ohio
3rd stopover Chicago
Last stopover Oakland, California
Destination San Francisco

United Airlines Flight 615 was a US transcontinental east-west airline service from Boston to Hartford, Cleveland, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco. On August 24, 1951, the Douglas DC-6B with registration N37550[1] operating the service, crashed on approach to Oakland, causing the death of all 44 passengers and 6 crew members on board.[2]

The flight departed Chicago at 10:59 p.m. CST en route to Oakland. At around 4:16 a.m., the plane was approaching Oakland. At this time, the pilot, Marion W. Hedden of Los Altos, had talked with the control tower of the Civil Aeronautics Administration at the airport preparing for his landing, and had mentioned no trouble. At 4:25 a.m. Flight 615 was cleared for the straight-in approach into Oakland.

This approach clearance was the last radio transmission with the flight. The plane crashed into mountainous terrain 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Oakland, careening into Tolman Peak and over its knoll, scattering on the downslope and into Dry Gulch Canyon below in a fiery explosion. All 50 persons on board perished.

After an investigation, it was determined that the pilot ignored the prescribed instrument landing procedures. The pilot instead relied on visual reference, using the copilot's automatic direction finder (ADF). The ADF threw the plane three miles (5 km) off course and below the prescribed altitude of 3,500 feet (1,100 m).

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Coordinates: 37°36′52″N 121°59′33″W / 37.61444°N 121.99250°W / 37.61444; -121.99250