Monday, March 06, 2017

In 1951 a plane crashed in Henrico, Virginia, and all 53 passengers survived

On July 19, 1951, an Eastern Airlines flight carrying 53 passengers, crashed at a Henrico County Farm while it was en-route from Newark, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida. Bad weather along the way which included hail, led to spells of intense turbulence. Soon after, the pilot and crew decided to emergency land at Byrd Field (now Richmond International Airport). However, just a few miles short of the runway, the captain decided circumstances were worse off and a landing was necessary immediately.

The captain recognized Curles Neck Farm down below, a historic plantation located on over 5,000 acres of land in Henrico County. He chose the largest field and went in for the landing. On its way down, the plane struck a power line and took down a fence. It skidded over a thousand feet through a field, taking with it a second fence, stopping eventually in the middle of a pasture. A fire developed at one engine, but was extinguished by a local fire department that was quick to the scene.

There were no fatalities. Passengers aboard the flight showed “an amazing calmness—despite frayed nerves and nausea” according to the Times-Dispatch reporter at the scene.

The report recounted the aftermath of the crash and passengers’ reactions:

When the big plane bounced to a halt in a pasture, there was no rush for the door until a member of the crew ordered it. As they were driven in buses from the scene of the landing, the passengers’ conversation centered largely around one theme; praise for the pilot and crew.

A Navy Man admitted, however, that he’d slept through it all.

William Graham Bell, 30, of Greenwood, Mass., torpedoman first class, said when he realized what happened, he vowed, “The only thing I’m ever going up in again is a sub when it surfaces.”

Gray Fein, 6, of New York City, going to Miami with his mother, sat in a bus reading a comic book, “I didn’t throw up,” he said, “Everybody else did, though.”

Samuel Herman, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is clerk for the minority leader in the New York Legislature [recounted] “As I was sitting near the rear door, I immediately jumped up and the rear steward and myself opened the rear door and started getting passengers to leave the ship. There was no panic.”

Experts from the Civil Aeronautics Board said the crash was attributed to issues with the hydraulic access door which was causing major issues with airflow and creating instability. The body of the plane ended up being salvaged and repaired, but was soon after removed from service permanently following another accident in 1953.


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