On This Day — Pan Am Flight 214 Crashes (December 8 1963)

“Aviation investigations are replete with accident scenarios that couldn’t happen. And given the lack of bomb evidence so far, neither scenario has been ruled out, officials said. First is the possibility that the doomed plane’s front section, which has a history of structural fatigue cracks and must undergo regular inspections, simply unzipped from the rest of the plane as weakened structural frames gave way.”

TWA 800 — Washington Post (August 1 1996)

December 8 2018 — Pan Am Flight 214 was a scheduled flight of Pan American World Airways from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On December 8, 1963, the Boeing 707 serving the flight crashed near Elkton, Maryland, while en route from Baltimore to Philadelphia, after being hit by lightning, killing all 81 on board. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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The accident is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (2005) as the “Worst Lightning Strike Death Toll.”

On December 17, 1963, nine days after the crash of flight 214, Leon H. Tanguay, director of the CAB Bureau of Safety, sent a letter to the FAA recommending several safety modifications as part of future aircraft design.

One modification related specifically to volatile fuel vapors that can form inside partly empty fuel tanks, which may be ignited by various potential ignition sources and cause an explosion.

Tanguay’s letter suggested reducing the volatility of the fuel/air gas mixture by introducing an inert gas, or by using air circulation.

Thirty-three years later, a similar recommendation was issued by the NTSB (the CAB Bureau of Safety’s successor) after the TWA Flight 800 Boeing 747 crash on July 17, 1996, with 230 fatalities, which was also deemed to have been caused by the explosion of a volatile mixture inside a fuel tank.

In the case of TWA 800, the FBI is known to have attempted to hide vital information pointing to a mechanical failure while trying to portray the accident as an act of terrorism.

“FBI’s former chief metallurgist, William Tobin, testified that bureau officials repeatedly and angrily dismissed scientific evidence that pointed to a mechanical malfunction.

The FBI didn’t want to hear about anything but a missile or a bomb, because otherwise there was no FBI case,” said Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight.

Their conduct was disturbing from the very beginning.” (WP May 9 1999)

REFERENCES

Pan Am Flight 214 — Wikipedia

FBI: No criminal evidence behind TWA 800 crash — CNN

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On This Day — Pan Am Flight 214 Crashes (December 8 1963)

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