A few days ago retired pilot John Lear sent me a link to a U.K. Daily Mail Online article about a December 16, 1960 mid-air collision of two airliners over Brooklyn, New York. It was the worst air disaster of the era and led to a reevaluation of Air Traffic Control policies.
The photos fascinate: while grisly they portray the familiar aftermath of real airliner crashes—which excludes the four alleged crashes of 9/11 which produced the cleanest “crash sites” in aviation history.
The United Airlines plane in the 1960 collision was a DC-8, a four-engine jetliner smaller than a Boeing 767 but larger than the 757. The TWA plane was a Lockheed Constellation powered by four propeller engines of supercharged radial piston design with each engine developing over 3,000 hp. The Lockheed was smaller than the DC-8 or a 757 but could carry as many as 109 passengers.
United flight 826 carried 84 including a crew of seven while TWA flight 266 carried 44 total. The only crash survivor was an 11-year-old boy who died within 27 hours of his injuries. The United plane killed six people on the ground in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. No one on the ground was killed when the TWA plane landed ten miles away in a military field on Staten Island. Wreckage was strewn over four miles.
The Brooklyn crash included a wing careening down a narrow street, raging fires in over 200 homes and a church, and over 2,500 first responders fighting fires. The New York Daily News wrote that the Staten Island wreckage resembled a battlefield, with bodies and Christmas presents strewn across the field.