New York, NY Atlantic Ocean Airplane Crash, Feb 1965
84 ON PLANE LOST AT SEA
Airliner Explodes Off NYC
NEW YORK (AP) - An Eastern Air Lines propeller-driven airliner exploded and plunged like a fiery comet into the Atlantic Ocean Monday night, 11 minutes after takeoff from Kennedy Airport. All 84 persons aboard vanished into the dark water.
A mass of orange flames formed a funeral pyre as the four-engined DC-7B disappeared, leaving only an oil slick as an immediate mark of disaster off Long Island's south shore. The plane blew up at about 3,500 feet.
No survivors were found. It was three hours after the crash before surface rescue ships picked up the first bits of wreckage - some cushions and plastic bags from the aircraft.
The site of the crash was about eight miles off Jones Beach, the famed summer playground about 35 miles from Manhattan. A Coast Guard lookout on the beach. Seaman DALE BISHOP, 19, was an eyewitness.
He said: "I heard a thud - no, it was more like a firecracker and then I saw the plane burning. It was awfully foggy but I could see something burning for about two minutes."
"The flames were orange but I was not definite that it was a plane - yet it must have been. The flames flared up for a while and then died down."
Despite the seaman's emphasis on the fog, GEORGE VAN EPPS of the Federal Aeronautics Administration at Kennedy Airport said: "The weather was no factor in the crash.'
The plane was EAL's Flight 663 which organized in Boston. After a stop at Kennedy, it took off at 6:20 p. m. EST for Richmond, Va., Raleigh, N. C., Charlotte, N. C., Greenville, S. C., Spartanburg, S. C. and Atlanta, Ga.
It went down at 6:31 p. m., its passing marked by the sudden extinction of a blip on the air traffic radar screen at Kennedy Airport.
Aboard were 78 passengers, 1 non-paying rider, and 5 crew members - a pilot, co-pilot, second officer and two stewardesses.
It apparently was the worst American air disaster since March 1, when 85 persons were killed in the crash of a four-engine Constellation near Lake Tahoe, Nev.
The explosion in the air was witnessed by a startled Coast Guard lookout at the Jones Beach station, and also by the crew of a Pan American World Airways plane aloft in the area.
The air temperature was relatively mild - in the high 40's - after a severe cold wave abated in the metropolitan New York area over the weekend. But the ocean temperature was estimated at freezing.
A massive air-sea rescue effort was underway within minutes after the plane lost contact with Kennedy Airport. All available Coast Guard equipment was dispatched, augmented by units from Floyd Bennett Naval Air Station.
Eight helicopters and two seaplanes droned above the sea, dropping flares to illuminate the dark waters. But their rays failed to disclose any sign of life.
On the surface of the sea, Coast Guard cutters circled in a vain quest, their lookouts straining their eyes for any glimpse of movement that might betoken survivors.
Ashore, curious onlookers milled about the beach, their children darting among them. More than 500 cars converged on the beach at broadcast news of the crash. All that could bee[sic] seen by the onlookers were the distant flares from the rescue units.
The Coast Guard quickly set up an emergency aid station with doctors and nurses, in hope of survivors. But as the hours wore on the equipment lay idle.
The Coast Guard lookout, Seaman DALE D. BISHOP of Easton, Pa., said the plane was at an altitude of about 3,500 feet when it exploded. It then plunged flaming into water about 65 feet deep.
An Eastern Air Lines spokesman said 37 persons aboard the plane were to have disembarked in Richmond, Va.
Robert L. Van Dillen, airline district sales manager, in Richmond, said 36 of those to have landed here were paying passengers and one was traveling on a pass.
The last fatal airliner crash at Kennedy Airport occurred Nov. 30, 1962, when an Eastern Air Lines DC-7 went down in a fog. Twenty-five persons were killed. There were 26 survivors.
The worst crash in the field's history came March 1, 1962, when an American Airlines Boeing 707 crashed on takeoff with the loss of 95 lives - at the time the worst single plane disaster in American aviation history.
Since then on June 3, 1963, a DC-7 crash of a Northeast Airlines plane near Juneau, Alaska, claimed 101 lives.
Aviation's worst air disaster was the Dec. 16, 1960, collision of two airliners over New York City that killed 128 persons aboard, as well as 6 on the ground - for a total of 134.
EAL flight 663 took on 2,800 gallons of high octane gasoline before leaving Boston. It did not refuel in New York.
Van Epps said the plane's weight of 52 tons on takeoff from Kennedy was well within legal limits.
The plane left from Kennedy's Runway 31 which parallels Jamaica Bay and runs east and west on the south edge of the airport. At 14,600 feet, it is the field's longest runway.
The captain of the plane was F. R. CARSON of New York. His co-pilot was E. R. DUNN and his second officer D. J. MITCHELL, both of New York. Both stewardesses, L. LORD and J. DURKIN, were from Boston.
The Pan American plane was at about the same 3,500 feet altitude as the EAL flight, and was coming into Kennedy from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its captain said: 'I did not see the plane crash. I saw it before it went down."
The Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1965-02-09
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