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Accident description
Last updated: 18 October 2017
Status:Final
Date:Tuesday 3 February 1959
Time:22:05 UTC
Type:Silhouette image of generic B701 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 707-121
Operator:Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)
Registration: N712PA
C/n / msn: 17591/6
First flight: 1958-10-13 (4 months)
Total airframe hrs:705
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 10
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 119
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 129
Airplane damage: Substantial
Airplane fate: Repaired
Location:over Atlantic Ocean (   Atlantic Ocean)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:London-Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL), United Kingdom
Destination airport:Gander Airport, NF (YQX/CYQX), Canada
Flightnumber:PA115
Narrative:
Pan American Flight 115 was a scheduled flight between Paris, France, and New York, USA with intermediate stops planned at London, England, and Gander, Canada.
The aircraft was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet in smooth air with the autopilot engaged when the captain left the cockpit and entered the main cabin. During his absence the autopilot disengaged and the aircraft smoothly and slowly entered a steep descending spiral. The copilot was not properly monitoring the aircraft's instruments or the progress of the flight and was unaware of the actions of the aircraft until considerable speed had been gained and altitude lost. During the rapid descent the copilot was unable to effect recovery. When the captain became aware of the unusual attitude of the aircraft he returned to the cockpit and with the aid of the other crew members was finally able to regain control of the aircraft. Recovery was made at an altitude of approximately 6,000 feet.
Following recovery the aircraft was flown to Gander, Newfoundland, where a safe landing was made.

Probable Cause:

Probable Cause:
The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the inattention of the copilot to the progress of the flight, during the absence of the captain from the cockpit, following the involuntary disengagement of the autopilot. Contributing
factors were the autopilot disengage warning light in the dim position and the Mach trim switch in the "off"-position.

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 273 days (9 months)
Accident number: File 1-006
Download report: Final report

Classification:
Loss of control

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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 London-Heathrow Airport to Gander Airport, NF as the crow flies is 3745 km (2341 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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