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Accident description
Last updated: 13 December 2017
Status:Final
Date:Sunday 16 December 1951
Time:15:09
Type:Silhouette image of generic C46 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Curtiss C-46F-1-CU Commando
Operating for:Miami Airline
Leased from:United States Air Force - USAF
Registration: N1678M
C/n / msn: 22572
First flight: 1945
Total airframe hrs:4138
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51
Crew:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Passengers:Fatalities: 52 / Occupants: 52
Total:Fatalities: 56 / Occupants: 56
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:4 km (2.5 mls) WSW of Newark International Airport, NJ (EWR) (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Newark International Airport, NJ (EWR/KEWR), United States of America
Destination airport:Tampa International Airport, FL (TPA/KTPA), United States of America
Narrative:
The fully laden (117 pounds over the prescribed mtow) Miami Airlines C-46 was prepared for a direct flight from Newark to Tampa. After the aircraft was loaded both engines were run up. The right one was run up longer than the left engine, and a number of nearby persons saw smoke continuously coming from that engine. The flight then taxied to runway 28 and was cleared for takeoff at 15:02. Immediately after becoming airborne, the landing gear was retracted. Tower personnel then observed a trail of white smoke from the right side of the aircraft and the tower supervisor, fearing a fire, pressed the airport crash alarm button. A captain employed by Miami Airline witnessed the takeoff and believed that the source of the smoke was an overheated right brake. He immediately telephoned the control tower and asked that the flight he advised of his impression, suggesting that the landing gear not be raised and that it he extended if it had been raised. The tower complied, the flight acknowledged, and the landing gear was extended. The aircraft continued straight ahead in the direction of takeoff for a distance of approximately four miles, slowly gaining an altitude of approximately 800 to 1,000 feet. The smoke continued to increase in volume and shortly before the four-mile point was reached black smoke and actual flames were seen coming from the underside of the right nacelle as the landing gear was lowered. Shortly after the landing gear was extended, a large, "ball of fire" was seen coming from underneath the right nacelle. The aircraft then started a gradual left turn banked at an estimated 10 degrees. This turn and subsequent flight continued for an additional distance of approximately 4 1/2 miles with altitude continuously being lost, until the aircraft was approximately 3 miles southwest of runway 28 of the Newark airport. The aircraft at this time was over the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was nearly 60 degree from alignment with and approximately two and one-fourth miles distant from runway 06 of the Newark Airport. At this point and at an estimated altitude of about 200 feet the aircraft's then low left wing dropped about vertically downward with the right wing coming vertically upward and the aircraft fell with relatively little forward speed. Just before striking the ground the aircraft's left wing tip struck the gabled roof of a vacant house near its ridge. The aircraft continued ahead and down, struck a brick building used as a storage for water supply department materials, damaged this building and plunged a few feet ahead to the bank of the Elizabeth River, where it came to rest. The wreckage was in a generally inverted position and partially submerged in shallow water. A severe gasoline fire developed instantly, spreading to and damaging the storage building. Nearby fire fighting apparatus arrived quickly and about 17 minutes later, the fire was extinguished. All aboard were killed and one person on the ground was seriously injured.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A stall with the landing gear extended following a serious loss of power from the right engine. This loss of power was caused by the failure of the hold-down studs of the no.10 cylinder, precipitating a fire in flight which became uncontrollable."

Classification:

Loss of control

Sources:
» CAB File No. 1-0100


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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Newark International Airport, NJ to Tampa International Airport, FL as the crow flies is 1596 km (998 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

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Curtiss C-46

  • 3341 built
  • 720th loss
  • 106th fatal accident
  • 2nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 4th worst accident (currently)
» safety profile

 United States of America
  • 2nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 52nd worst accident (currently)
» safety profile