A Star That Flow Glows Every One Hundred Years A History of Convair 880 and 990 Aircraft Accidents

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A History of Convair 880 and 990 Aircraft Accidents

Although the accident history of the Convair 880 and 990 can be considered extensive, especially given the number that entered service, several aspects must be considered. In the 15-year period from 1960 to 1974, the year of service entry, there were seven fatal accidents. Four included the CV-990A, the total production of which was only one-third of the entire program. But the first incident didn’t happen until the original CV-880 took to the skies for seven years in different countries and weather conditions.

Deaths per plane should also be considered—from one to a maximum of 155. Three accidents occurred in the takeoff phase and two in the cruise phase, but were the result of intentionally planted explosive devices, not of the airframe or power plant. Deficiencies or design errors. Many, just by luck, happened in clusters a few days apart.

“The 880 achieved an excellent safety record in passenger service, but suffered a number of training accidents and several crashes after the aircraft was converted to cargo configuration,” according to John Proctor’s view of the Convair 880 and 990 (World Transport Press, 1996, p. 82). “At least 15 hull damages were reported, many of which were repairable, but were canceled due to financial considerations.”

This chapter examines actual passenger-carrying accidents.

The first of these occurred on 5 November 1967 when VR-HFX, a CV-880M operated by Cathay Pacific, made a multi-regional flight from Hong Kong’s Kai Tak International Airport to Calcutta with intermediate stops in Saigon and Bangkok. Piloted by Captain JRE Howell, an Australian, and serviced by ten other crew members, the jetliner with 116 passengers simulated its takeoff in good weather, but severe vibrations aborted the attempt and turned right. 122 knots. Despite reverse thrust and toe brake application, insufficient stopping distance remained.

Skidding off the runway and careening over the seawall, it crashed into Hong Kong harbor, scraping its nose in the process. It finally came to rest 100 yards from the end of the runway and in shallow water. No fire or explosion followed.

The captain went into the cabin to help with the evacuation. Although he faced chaos, there was little fear and the escape was in order. Helicopters and boats converged on the submerged conveyor.

Of the 127 souls on board, 20 had to be hospitalized, 13 suffered minor injuries, and one, a South Vietnamese woman, died after she could not be evacuated from the cabin. Others, ironically, didn’t even survive wet feet.

Right vibration and shedding were found in the starboard nose wheel tire, which was to blame for the aborted takeoff.

Just 16 days after the Cathay Pacific incident, an even more fatal incident occurred – this time during the landing phase.

On November 21, 1967, TWA Flight 128, N821TW registered “Star Stream 880”, departed its Los Angeles destination two and a half hours late after door seal problems on the original destination plane prompted it to be diverted to a flight from Boston. Built for the same city, with intermediate stops at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it separated from California soil with seven crew members and 72 passengers.

The flight itself was routine. There was no landing.

Thirty minutes before the estimated arrival time of 21:06, it began its descent to Cincinnati, reporting light snow, a 1,000-foot ceiling, and 1.5-mile visibility via the Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS).

The sleek, swept-wing jetliner, its passenger windows providing only light in the black soup from which it descended, approached the north-south runway of Greater Cincinnati Airport. But construction between 7,200 and 9,000 feet rendered its glideslope, approach lights and intermediate markers inoperative.

Approaching from the northwest, Flight 128 crossed the Ohio River, which was at a lower elevation than the airport because it was built on a hill on the other side of the waterway. Aligned with the runway, the plane was about to descend in moments. But, 800 feet below its glideslope, it will never reach the threshold.

Instead, it plowed into a Hebron, Kentucky, apple orchard owned by BS Wagner, cutting through trees with its wings until progressive effects slowed it down and its fuel tanks burst. At 20:58, two miles from the runway, a red glow from the flare illuminated the swirling snow, marking the crash site.

Seventeen survivors were taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Covington, Kentucky, and three others were taken to Booth Hospital, all in critical condition. Only a dozen of the 82 survived due to subsequent deaths.

The crash, the first Convair 880 operated by a US carrier, was the worst in the history of Greater Cincinnati Airport and the third in a series of similar crashes. The first two involved a cargo plane on November 14, 1961, and an American Airlines Boeing 727-100 four years later on November 8.

Because all had runway undershoots, an investigation was launched, but the FAA failed to reveal any errors or deficiencies in approach procedures for the north-south runways, stating that the airport “meets our standards.”

In common with at least two aircraft incidents, there were insufficient or completely non-existent instrument observations during the critical final approach phase. In the American case, the crew’s failure to monitor its altimeters during the visual approach, while in TWA the first officer provided no altitude or airspeed callout, resulted in the aircraft being unable to clear approach obstacles and impacting the ground two miles and 15 feet below the runway.

A third fatal accident – this time involving a CV-990A operated by Garuda Indonesia Airways – occurred six months later, on 28 May 1968. Flight PK-GJA, departed from Jakarta at 18:00 the previous day and connected the Far East to Amsterdam in Europe with its multi-regional flights interspersed with Singapore, Bangkok, Bombay, Karachi, Cairo and Rome. But shortly after takeoff from India, it plunged vertically into the ground, never exceeding its Earthward speed and crashing 20 miles away. All 29 on board and one on land were killed. Although no definite cause was found, vandalism was strongly suspected.

Two years later, on January 5, 1970, visibility—or lack thereof—caused another CV-990A accident. After taking off from Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport, EC-BNM, operated by Spantax, turned back due to engine failure. Airport on charter flights to Las Palmas. Although she set off again without a passenger, intending to go to Zürich on three engines for repairs, thick fog proved to be the cause of her crash-landing, impacting the surrounding forest and killing five of the ten crew members on board.

As happened to the Garuda CV-990A, the bombing brought down two more aircraft.

First, on February 21, 1970, HB-ICD, operated by Swissair as flight SR 330, departed Zurich’s Kloten International Airport for Israel with nine crew members and 38 passengers. But shortly after takeoff, an explosion blew open the cargo hold.

The captain called his mayday as smoke billowed from the cabin. Immediately cleared to return, the Convair 990A Coronado circled, forced to make an ILS approach due to low ceiling and limited visibility. Still, the damage to the flying surface made control difficult, so the captain tried every method to keep the crippled craft in the air, all to no avail.

All 47 died while plowing in the village of Würenlingen in the Swiss canton of Aargau, 25 miles from Zurich.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, after placing the bomb in a checked suitcase, later claimed responsibility for the blast, which was directed at an Israeli official on the flight.

The second consecutive blast-disabling incident occurred two years later, on June 15, 1972. In this case, a Cathay Pacific CV-880M, registered VR-HFZ and operating as Flight 700Z, exploded while flying between Bangkok and Hong Kong. , brought aboard in a piece of cabin baggage, exploded at flight level Two-Nine-Zero, slicing the airframe in three and releasing torpedoes on the ground, crashed 33 miles southeast of Pleiku in the sparsely populated South Vietnamese central highlands. , 200 miles northeast of Saigon at 14:00 local time.

Polarized by the built-up momentum and devastating impact on the ground, it didn’t even ignite the fire. A United States Army helicopter was the first to arrive at the crash site. All 10 crew members and 71 passengers, needless to say.

It was believed that one of the long-standing reasons for vandalism was to collect insurance money. The device was believed to have detonated when the plane crossed the South China Sea, and no trace of its cause remained.

The worst Convair 880 and 990 accident occurred six months later, on 3 December 1972, when an example of a 990A, registered EC-BZR and operated by Spantax, performed a takeoff roll from Los Rodios Airport in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Canary Islands, with seven crew members and 148 passengers to Munich.

The aircraft, piloted by Captain Daniel Nunez, circled through thick fog and climbed 300 feet, at which point it suffered an uncontrollable engine failure. Gravity-driven toward Earth, it bore down on the ground a thousand feet beyond the runway, taking all life with it.

Although the first officer who took off cited a loss of control as the reason, it was found that he had rotated at a VR speed 20 knots below the recommended VR speed for the aircraft’s gross weight, which could not generate enough lift. To establish a positive climb rate.

The last accident during this 15-year period was the result of a runway incursion. While taxiing to a gate in Chicago at the end of the Tampa sector as Delta Flight 954, aircraft N8807E crossed the active runway and was intercepted by a North Central DC-9-30, which turned prematurely to attempt to board it. The DC-9’s return to the runway resulted in 15 injuries and one fatality, while only one passenger of the CV-880 was injured during the ejection. With the top of its fuselage severed and its tail severed, however, the Convair was damaged beyond repair.

Article Source:

Lewis, W. David and Newton, Wesley Phillips. Delta: An Airline History. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1979.

McClement, Fred. It doesn’t matter where you sit. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 1969.

Proctor, John. Convair 880 and 990. Miami: World Transport Press, Inc., 1996.

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