Chase, MD Plane Hit By Lightning and Crashes, May 1959
27 PASSENGERS AND CREW OF 4 KILLED IN CRASH 15 MILES EAST OF BALTIMORE TUESDAY.
CAPITAL AIRLINES VISCOUNT EXPLODES DURING THUNDERSQUALL.
Baltimore (AP) -- A Capital Airlines New York-to-Atlanta Viscount turboprop plane, flying through squally weather, exploded in flight about 15 miles east of Baltimore late Tuesday, killing all 27 passengers and four crewmen.
And 280 miles to the west, another Capital Airlines four-engined plane -- a Constellation -- plunged over a 200-foot embankment near the end of the runway on landing at Kanawha Airport near Charleston, W. Va., and burst into flames. Two were killed and six were hospitalized of the 44 aboard.
First reports said the plane which blew apart near Baltimore apparently had been struck by lightning. However, the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington said it had no record of any airliner ever having been exploded by lightning.
Veteran fliers and flight engineers, who would not be quoted, speculated that the plane was caught in either a sudden downdraft or updraft which ripped off part of a wing, tearing a fuel line. The spilled fuel was ignited by an engine. The rip of the wing and the resulting combustion would be almost instantaneous, they thought.
Bodies Are Mangled.
The big craft ripped apart in a ball of fire, spewing bits of wreckage over an area of a mile or two. Some bodies were found in small clusters. Others were hundreds of yards away. Most were mangled, or in bits.
The two accidents occurred within 50 minutes. The Charleston crash was at 4:30 p. m. The Baltimore tragedy was at 5:18 p.m.
It was the third fatal crash for a Capital Viscount in a little more than a year. On April 6, 1959, one crashed at Midland, Mich., killing 47. Another collided with a jet fighter over Brunswick, Md., killing 12.
Tuesday's tragedies were believed to be the first time in history that a single airline has had two fatal crashes in one day. A CAB official said he recalled several occasions when a single airline had two crashes within a short period -- possibly within one day -- but his recollection was that in no case were both crashes fatal.
Flew Through Squall.
The squally front through which the Viscount was flying swept through the Baltimore area just before the plane flew through. There was still much turbulence and rain flurries in the area.
The CAB said lightning has frequently hit planes but has caused only slight damage since the electrical charge is not grounded when a plane is in flight.
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