Thursday, August 02, 2012

Video Vault: Plane crash killed Thurman Munson - Cessna Citation, N15NY - Accident occurred August 02, 1979 at Akron-Canton Regional Airport (KCAK), Ohio  Including the surviving passenger comments.

N15NY was a brand new Citation 501SP - it had just been delivered, it was also the first crash of an N registered Citation jet, and the first accident involving a C501SP.


 GREEN, Ohio - At 4:02 p.m. on Aug. 2, 1979, a plane piloted by New York Yankee great Thurman Munson crashed as it approached Akron-Canton Airport.

The 32-year-old Munson was killed, two friends aboard survived. Munson was practicing take offs and landings when the crash occurred.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, the small jet, a Cessna Citation, landed 870 feet short of the runway in an open area, but slid into a small clump of trees. The plane hit a large stump and spun around before stopping.

The plane’s call sign, the number on its tail, was N15NY, Munson’s proud acknowledgement of his team and the number he wore, 15.

Munson was one of us, born in Akron, attended Kent State, lived in Canton, but went on to be the heart of the New York Yankees.

He was more than a catcher for the team, he was their captain.

His death was a loss to the baseball, New York and to all who loved him here at home.

Our video player contains the beginning of the WEWS 6 p.m. newscast on Aug. 2.

Ted Henry sadly relays the news of Munson’s death showing footage of him at a celebrity roast held the previous winter.

Ted tosses to Jay Bacchus aboard Chopper 5 showing live pictures of the crash scene. Bacchus cannot hear cues from the station due to the distance from our receive tower in Parma.

In those days, there were no gyro-stabilized cameras. We shot with a camera on a shoulder out the side door of the helicopter.

The television signal was sent from the chopper via a transmitting antenna handheld by an engineer pointed out the other side door toward our Parma receiver.

The signal was noisy but that didn’t matter on a tragedy of this scope.

ABC World News took our noisy, shaky chopper shot at the top of their 6:30 p.m. telecast.

Footage of the crash was shot by Bill Younkin, our Stark County stringer. He was out that afternoon and saw smoke near the airport not long after the crash. He carried his camera in the trunk of his car and shot this amazing footage of the plane and rescue workers at the scene.

I’ve added some aerials of the scene as well as Bacchus’ story filed for 11 p.m. newscast.

After an interview with a family member, Younkin’s story with an NTSB investigator from the next day completes our video.

Eight months later, the report concluded the crash was pilot error, stating "...the pilot's failure to recognize the need for, and take action to maintain, sufficient airspeed to prevent a stall into the ground during an attempted landing."

Munson’s number 15 was retired by the Yankees.

Read more:

NTSB Identification: CHI79FA064.  
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS).
 Please contact Records Management Division   
Accident occurred Thursday, August 02, 1979 in Canton, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/16/1980
Aircraft: Cessna 501, registration: N15NY
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Serious.

The Safety Board's full report is available at The Aircraft Accident Report number is NTSB/AAR-80/02.

About 1607 e.d.t., on August 2, 1979, a Cessna Citation piloted by Mr. Thurman L. Munson crashed short of runway 19 at the Akron-Canton Airport near Canton, Ohio. The pilot was practicing touch-and-go landings during a local flight with two passengers aboard. The aircraft first touched down in a relatively level, clear area about 870 feet short of the runway. The aircraft slid through a small clump of trees, hit a large stump, and came to rest on a road adjacent to the airport boundary fence. Fire erupted immediatgley afther the aircraft came to rest. The two passengers escaped from the wreckage; the pilot was killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:   

the pilot's failure to recognize the need for, and to take action to maintain, sufficient airspeed to prevent a stall into the ground during an attempted landing. The pilot also failed to recognize the need for timely and sufficient power application to prevent the stall during an approach conducted inadvertently without flaps extended. Contributing to the pilot's inability to recognize the problem and to take proper action was his failure to use the appropriate checklist, and his nonstandard pattern procedures which resulted in an abnormal approach profile.

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