Portland, Maine – March 29, 1956
On the evening of March 29, 1956, Northeast Airlines Flight 124 departed La Guardia Airport in New York City bound for Bangor, Maine, with stops at Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.
The aircraft was a Convair 240, registration # N90659, with 32 passengers and a flight crew of 3 aboard.
The weather was snowy, and the flight was made on instrument flight rules. The flight landed at Boston’s Logan Airport without incident, and departed for Portland at 9:20 p.m.
When the flight arrived at Portland Airport, tower personnel saw the aircraft approaching runway 20, but lost sight of it briefly due to the weather. It then reappeared, approaching the runway with its landing lights on in an apparently normal final approach. Just after the aircraft landed the landing gear collapsed and after a short distance the nose suddenly plowed into the snow and the tail section went up in the air before dropping back to the ground.
Rescue vehicles were immediately dispatched. Passengers were evacuated through the front of the plane due to the elevated tail section. As with any aviation accident, fire is always a possibility after a crash. The crew did their best to make for a quick evacuation of passengers, but some insisted upon retrieving their personal belongings before leaving the plane. Thankfully, there was no fire and all aboard were evacuated safely, with only five passengers suffering minor injuries.
Investigation revealed that the cause of the accident was due to inoperable runway lights on the right side of the runway, as well as other runways lights not being visible to the flight crew due to being covered by heavy drifting snow. This combined with poor visibility caused the aircraft to set down to the left of the runway.
In the final analysis under “Probable Cause”, the Civil Aeronautics Board investigators stated in their report, “The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was inadequate maintenance of runway lights and incorrect reporting of their condition resulting in an illusionary position of the runway under conditions of low visibility.”
Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report, #1-0048, Adopted September 11, 1956, released September 14, 1956.