Calverton, NY Training Flight Crash Kills Five, Aug 1959


Calverton, N. Y. (UPI) -- A $5,000,000 American Airlines Boeing 707 jetliner carrying five crewmen on a training five crewmen on a training flight crashed and exploded into a million pieces in a Long Island potato field Saturday in the first U. S. disaster of the commercial jet air age. All aboard were reported killed.
The huge swept-wing airliner was coming in for a practice landing at an airport 70 miles east of New York City without passengers when it faltered and nosedived into the field.
"It certainly looks like everyone is dead," a state policeman said. "I don't see how anyone could have gotten out."
Two potato farmers said two of the plane's four engines began smoking when the plane was only 100 feet in the air and then one of them caught fire. The plane dipped first to the left and then to the right and fell like a wounded bird, they said.
The plane's wheels and flaps were down as it prepared to land at the Grumann Aircraft Corporation's airfield 2 to 3 miles away. The airline has been using the airfield as a training base for its jet crews.
The first crash of the nation's "most-tested" commercial airliner since it went into passenger service last fall occurred at 4:41 p.m. e.d.t.
An hour later, the wreckage still was burning, hampering emergency crews in their efforts to remove the bodies.
A large crowd began gathering at the crash site soon after word of the accident was carried on radio and television newscasts. People drove from towns and resorts in the area to see the wreckage.
There were no buildings in the immediate vicinity of the crash so no property or lives were endangered. Calverton is a hamlet about six miles from Riverhead.
The crash followed a series of 707 emergencies that had occurred in recent weeks during passenger flights.
The four-engine plane took off from the Grumman Aircraft Corp. field at Calverton, 50 miles east of New York City, and crashed five miles northeast of the field.
The crash occurred only a few miles from the Brookhaven National Laboratories, site of key secret nuclear work.
A Suffolk County Air Force base operations officer said two persons telephoned the field that they had seen one of the swept-wing jets roar to earth at an intersection of two roads.
The Air Force sent several pieces of fire fighting equipment to the scene.
American Airlines went into service with the new $5,000,000 jets on Jan. 25, with flights between New York and Los Angeles.
When the 707 went into service it was billed as the most thoroughly tested airplane in the history of commercial aviation. It's military counterpart had been in service for several years.
American Airlines has been using the Grumman field for training flights for crews manning its expanding fleet of jetliners.
Saturday's crash came after a series of mishaps with the planes, most of them during the last few weeks.
The first occurred on Feb. 3, when a Pan American World Airways 707 nosedived over the Atlantic and landed safely in Gander.
This was followed by four landing gear breakdowns on jets operated by Pan American and American Airlines.
There were no fatalities in any of these mishaps.

The Coshocton Tribune Ohio 1959-08-16