|Date||16 December 1960|
|Site||About a mile west of Miller Field |
|Total fatalities||134 (133 initially)|
|Total injuries||0 (1 initially)|
|Total survivors||0 (1 initially)|
N8010U, a sister-ship to the accident aircraft
|Name||Mainliner Will Rogers|
|IATA flight No.||UA826|
|ICAO flight No.||UAL826|
|Call sign||UNITED 826|
|Flight origin||Chicago-O'Hare International Airport (ORD/KORD), IL|
|Destination||Idlewild Airport (IDL/KIDL)(Now John F. Kennedy International Airport), New York City|
|Fatalities||84 (83 initially)|
|Injuries||0 (1 initially)|
|Survivors||0 (1 initially)|
N6937C, an air-worthy restored L-1049H Super Constellation, wearing TWA livery.
|Type||Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation|
|Name||Star of Sicily|
|Operator||Trans World Airlines|
|IATA flight No.||TW266|
|ICAO flight No.||TWA266|
|Call sign||TWA 266|
|Flight origin||Dayton International Airport (DAY/KDAY), Dayton, Ohio|
|Stopover||Port Columbus International Airport (CMH/KCMH), Ohio|
|Destination||LaGuardia Airport KLGA New York|
On Friday, 16 December 1960, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8, bound for Idlewild Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) in New York City, collided with a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending into the city's LaGuardia Airport. One plane crashed on Staten Island, the other into Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing all 128 people on both aircraft and six people on the ground. The accident became known also as the Park Slope plane crash. On Staten Island, it became known as the Miller Field crash.
United Airlines Flight 826, Mainliner Will Rogers, registration N8013U, was a DC-8-11 carrying 84 people en route from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Idlewild Airport. The DC-8 model had entered commercial service only 15 months earlier, with United as one of its launch customers. On Flight 826, the flight crew consisted of Captain Robert Sawyer, First Officer Robert Fieberg, Flight Engineer Richard Pruitt, and four stewardesses.
Trans World Airlines Flight 266, Star of Sicily, registration N6907C, was a Super Constellation carrying 44 people en route from Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, to LaGuardia Airport in Queens. The flight crew of Flight 266 was Captain David Wollam, First Officer Dean Bowen, Flight Engineer LeRoy Rosenthal, and two stewardesses.
At 10:21 A.M. Eastern Time, United 826 advised ARINC radio—which relayed the message to UAL maintenance—that one of its VOR receivers had stopped working. ATC, however, was not informed of that navigation deficiency, which made it much more difficult for the pilots of flight 826 to identify the Preston intersection, beyond which it had not received additional clearance.
At 10:25 A.M. Eastern Time, air traffic control issued a revised clearance for the flight to shorten its course to the Preston holding point (near Laurence Harbor, New Jersey) by 12 miles (19 km). That clearance included specific holding instructions (a standard race-track holding pattern) for UAL flight 826, when it arrived at the Preston intersection. Flight 826 was expected to reduce its speed well before reaching that holding fix, to a standard holding speed of no more than 210 Kts. However, the flight was calculated to be at a speed of 301 Kts, at the time it collided with the TWA flight, several miles beyond that Preston clearance limit.
During the accident investigation, United claimed the Colts Neck VOR equipment was unreliable (pilots testified on both sides of the issue). ("Preston" was the point where airway V123 — the 050-radial off the Robbinsville VOR — crossed the Solberg 120-degree radial and the Colts Neck 346-degree radial.) However, the CAB final report found no such problem with the Colts Neck VOR.
The prevailing conditions were light rain and fog (which had been preceded by snowfall). According to information from the DC-8's FDR, the aircraft was 12 miles (19 km) off course and for 81 seconds, had descended at 3,600 feet per minute (18 m/s) while slowing from more than 400 Kts to 301 Kts, at the time of the collision with the Constellation. One right engine of the DC-8 impacted just ahead of the Constellation's wings, tearing apart that portion of the Constellation's fuselage. That initial impact also ripped off that jet engine from its pylon.
The Constellation entered a dive, with debris continuing to fall from the aircraft as it disintegrated during its spiral to the ground. The DC-8, having lost one engine and a large part of the right wing, managed to remain in flight for another minute and a half.
The TWA plane crashed onto the northwest corner of Miller Field, at , with some sections of the aircraft landing in New York Harbor on the Atlantic Ocean side. At least one passenger fell into a tree before the wreckage impacted the ground.
The crash left the remains of the DC-8 aircraft pointed southeast towards a large open field at Prospect Park, only blocks from its crash site. A student at the school who lived in one of the destroyed apartment buildings said his family survived because they happened to be in the only room of their apartment not destroyed. The crash left a trench covering most of the length of middle of Sterling Place. Occupants of the school thought a bomb had gone off or that the building's boiler had exploded.
There was no radio contact with traffic controllers from either plane after the collision, although LaGuardia had begun tracking an incoming, fast-moving, unidentified plane from Preston toward the LaGuardia "Flatbush" outer marker.
The DC-8 crashed into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place ( ), scattering wreckage and setting fire to ten brownstone apartment buildings, the Pillar of Fire Church, the McCaddin Funeral Home, a Chinese laundry, and a delicatessen. Six people on the ground were killed.
The probable cause of the accident was found to be:
"...United flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit and the confines of the airspace allocated to the flight by Air Traffic Control. A contributing factor was the high rate of speed of the United DC-8 as it approached the Preston intersection, coupled with the change of clearance which reduced the en route distance along Victor 123 by approximately 11 miles."
The only initial survivor of the crash was an 11-year-old boy from Wilmette, Illinois. He was traveling unaccompanied as part of his family's plans to spend Christmas in Yonkers with relatives. He was thrown from the plane into a snowbank where his burning clothing was extinguished. Although alive and conscious, he was badly burned and had inhaled burning fuel. He died of pneumonia the next day.
The jet airliner in the 16 December collision here was traveling more than 500 miles an hour when it swept past its assigned circling point, an official inquiry was told yesterday.