Chase, MD Plane Hit By Lightning and Crashes, May 1959



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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My father, Dr. Arnold Walter

My father, Dr. Arnold Walter Pensig, was killed in this crash when I was four months old. My mother later told me that my father had $100 in his wallet when he left that day. There was no money in the wallet when it was returned to us.

Chase plane crash May 1959

My father worked at Glenn L. Martin at the time. I was a little girl when it happened. We would drive down Eastern Ave. where many of the bodies fell in the field near the railroad tracks. He told me that people went there to look for personal items -money, jewelry, etc. after the crash. I always think about it went I drive past the spot.

Airplane crash in Chase, MD. 1959

I was there i lived on Bengies Rd. & Earls Rd.. My cousins and i was in our front yard watching the plane before it was struck by lightning. we were maybe the first People on the scene. No one asked us any questions back then , because i guess we were black children. The major airplane crash this week, brought back those memories. i will never forget all those bodies burned and torn apart thrown everywhere. Then emergency help began to arrive. My great grandfather back in the day owned land attached to Glen L. Martin's Air Base. He lived in what is now called Wilson's Point. found your site by just searching for the crash date. This a very historical moment for me. i have so much history on the Old Chase, Md. July 24, 2014

The usual struck by lightening twaddle

The accident was caused by loss of control while flying in turbulence between two thunderheads. The upset resulted in a rapid decent, an increase in speed above Vne (never exceed speed) and the subsequent failure of both horizontal stabilizers at their no. 2 hinge points. This caused a extreme pitch down causing all four engine mounts to fail upward and then the separation of the right wing downward and disintegration of the left wing.

This was a classic case of the pilots pulling the wings off the airplane.

CAB Docket # SA-341