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American Airlines Flight 6780

American Airlines Flight 6780

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American Airlines Flight 6780 was the first fatal crash of a Convair 240
Convair 240
The Convair CV-240 was an American airliner produced by Convair from 1947 to 1954, initially as a possible replacement of the ubiquitous Douglas DC-3. While featuring a more modern design, the 240 series was able to make some inroads as a commercial airliner and also had a long development cycle...

 on January 22, 1952 at Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth largest city with an increase of 4,401 residents from its 2000 Census population of 120,568...

.

The twin-propeller aircraft was on the routing Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

-Rochester
Rochester, New York
Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, south of Lake Ontario in the United States. Known as The World's Image Centre, it was also once known as The Flour City, and more recently as The Flower City...

-Syracuse
Syracuse, New York
Syracuse is a city in and the county seat of Onondaga County, New York, United States, the largest U.S. city with the name "Syracuse", and the fifth most populous city in the state. At the 2010 census, the city population was 145,170, and its metropolitan area had a population of 742,603...

-Newark
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

. On final approach to runway 6 at Newark Airport
Newark Liberty International Airport
Newark Liberty International Airport , first named Newark Metropolitan Airport and later Newark International Airport, is an international airport within the city limits of both Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States...

 using the instrument landing system
Instrument Landing System
An instrument landing system is a ground-based instrument approach system that provides precision guidance to an aircraft approaching and landing on a runway, using a combination of radio signals and, in many cases, high-intensity lighting arrays to enable a safe landing during instrument...

, it crashed at 3:45 p.m. into a house at the intersection of Williamson and South Streets, in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth largest city with an increase of 4,401 residents from its 2000 Census population of 120,568...

 approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southeast of Newark. The cause of the crash was never determined.

The plane, which had gone 2100 feet (640.1 m) off course to the right, narrowly missed hitting the Battin High School for girls, which had dismissed for the day only 45 minutes before.

The flight number 6780 is still used by American today as a codeshare operated by Alaska Airlines flying from Los Angeles to Seattle.

Casualties


All 23 occupants on board (20 passengers and 3 crew) plus 7 people on the ground, were killed in the crash and ensuing fire.

The Captain, Thomas J. Reid, whose home was only blocks from the crash scene, had recently returned from an airlift to Japan; his wife heard the crash and told reporters that they had been planning to move to a house they had constructed in Point Pleasant, New Jersey
Point Pleasant, New Jersey
Point Pleasant is a Borough in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 18,392...

.

Among the passengers was Robert P. Patterson
Robert P. Patterson
Robert Porter Patterson was the United States Under Secretary of War under President Franklin Roosevelt and the United States Secretary of War under President Harry S. Truman from September 27, 1945 to July 18, 1947....

, a jurist and former Undersecretary of War under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former War Secretary under Harry S Truman. Patterson was returning from meeting Thomas J. Watson
Thomas J. Watson
Thomas John Watson, Sr. was president of International Business Machines , who oversaw that company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956...

 of IBM, who had just hired him for a new case on the previous day. Also on board were former war correspondent John F. Chester and US Civil Aeronautics Administration
Civil Aeronautics Administration
Civil Aeronautics Administration may refer to:*Civil Aeronautics Administration - a division of Ministry of Transportation and Communication, Executive Yuan, Republic of China...

 officials George T. Williams and John D. Rice, both engaged in the development of airport radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 systems and navigational aids.

One of those killed on the ground was a seven-year-old girl, Donna Mandel. Her then two-year-old sister Linda was severely burned. A third sister, Judy Mandel, who was born after the crash, wrote a memoir about the crash and its effects on her family and identity, Replacement Child. It was published to positive reviews in September, 2009.

Context


This was the second in a string of three crashes near the Newark Airport. On December 16, 1951 a C-46 with 56 aboard had crashed on takeoff into the Elizabeth River.

The third crash, on February 11, 1952, killed 25 of 59 passengers and narrowly missed an orphanage. Immediately afterwards, Newark Airport was closed by the Port of New York Authority
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a bi-state port district, established in 1921 through an interstate compact, that runs most of the regional transportation infrastructure, including the bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports, within the Port of New York and New Jersey...

 until November 15. The State of New York passed a bill requiring operators to approach airports over water wherever possible.

President Harry Truman launched a temporary commission of inquiry, headed by Jimmy Doolittle
Jimmy Doolittle
General James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, USAF was an American aviation pioneer. Doolittle served as a brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general in the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War...

, to study the effects of airports on their neighbors. The report recommended the establishment of effective zoning laws to prevent the erection of schools, hospitals and other places of assembly under final approach paths.

Sources