Logan Airport – July 31, 1973

Logan Airport – July 31, 1973

Boston, Massachusetts

 

     On the morning of July 31, 1973, Delta Airlines Flight 723 left Burlington, Vermont, bound for Manchester, New Hampshire, and Boston’s Logan International Airport.  The aircraft was a DC-9, (N975NE).  At the time it left Burlington there were 57 people aboard.

     The flight would normally have been non-stop to Boston, but on this day the plane made a detour to Manchester to pick up 32 additional Delta passengers who had been left stranded when their earlier flight to Logan had been cancelled due to bad weather. 

     After the additional passengers boarded at Manchester, the plane taxied out to await clearance for take off.   One of those who had boarded at Manchester was a man who had a 2:00 p.m. business meeting in New York City.   It was while the plane was awaiting take off that he realized he wouldn’t make it to his meeting on time and asked the hostess to be let off the plane.  When she hesitated, he asked to speak with the pilot, and was allowed to do so.  The pilot graciously honored the request and brought the plane back to the terminal, where it was announced that anyone else who wished to deplane could now do so, but nobody else got off.        

     The DC-9 then left Manchester bound for Boston with 89 persons aboard. 

     The weather at Boston consisted a cloud ceiling of only 400 feet, and thick heavy ground fog which created a very low visibility situation.  Therefore the crew would need to make an instrument landing.   

     The last radio communication from Flight 723 came at 11:08 a.m., as the aircraft approached Logan Airport’s Runway 4R.  As the passenger jet came in to land it’s underside struck a concrete seawall at the end of the runway tearing away some of the fuselage.  The plane then slammed into the ground, broke apart, and erupted into flame.  The debris field was scattered for hundreds of feet beginning at the seawall and leading to the runway.    

     The official time of the accident is listed as 11:09 a.m.    

     The fog was so thick that the crash wasn’t observed by those in the control tower, nor by personnel stationed at the terminal, therefore the airport fire department wasn’t immediately notified.  

     The only witnesses to the accident were two airport construction workers who raced to the scene in their pickup truck.  They tried notifying the tower via the truck’s two-way radio, but discovered it wasn’t working.  Aware that there would be other incoming flights arriving shortly, one worker drove to the airport fire station about a mile away while the other stayed behind to search for survivors.    

     As with the control tower, the fire department was unaware of the crash for the thick fog also obscured their view of the runways.  At 11:15 a.m. the fire chief ordered “Box 612” struck, which notified fire and rescue personnel in 26 surrounding communities in the Boston area to send help.  

     An Eastern Airlines jet had landed without incident on Runway 4R just prior to the crash of Flight 723.   At the time of the crash, two other airliners scheduled to land after Flight 723 were beginning their long distance approach to Runway 4R.  Due to the heavy fog the incoming pilots couldn’t see the burning wreckage.   Miraculously the pilots of both aircraft executed “missed approaches” thus avoiding further disaster.  Other incoming aircraft were diverted to other airports.  

     Only six survivors were located amidst the debris and all were transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, but four were pronounced dead on arrival, and a fifth passed away later in the day.    

     The sixth survivor was 20-year-old Air Force Sergeant Leopold Chouinard, who was sitting towards the back of the cabin.  He managed to escape the burning tail section by crawling though a window, but in doing so suffered severe burns over 80% of his body.  Despite the best medical care available, he passed away on December 11, 1973.    

     The crash of Flight 723 became the worst civilian-air disaster in New England.

     This wasn’t the only accident involving an airliner to occur at Logan Airport.  On October 4, 1960, an Eastern Airlines, Lockheed Electra, (Flight 375), crashed on take off into Winthrop Bay killing 62 of the 72 people aboard.     

      Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Jet crashes In Fog At Logan; 88 Die- DC-9 Hits seawall And Disintegrates”, August 1, 1973, page 1

     Providence Journal, “Crash Scene: ‘No Way To Describe It'”, August 1, 1973, page 1

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Probe Opens Into Logan Air Crash”, August 1, 1973, page 1 

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Was R. I. Native”, August 1, 1973, page 25

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “He Got Off Plane At Manchester”, August 1, 1973, page 25

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Green Handles Diverted Traffic”, August 1, 1973, page 25

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Sergeant Survived Severe Auto Crash”, August 1, 1973, page 25

     The Providence Journal, “2 Ex-R.I. Residents Killed In Air Disaster”, August 2, 1973, page 2

     Boston (AP) “Probers Find Water In Jetliner’s Engines”, August 3, 1973.

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Ex-Pilot Was Retraining – Crash Ended His Hope”, August 14, 1973, page 9

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Survivor Remains Stable, Critical”, August 14, 1973, page 9

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Widow Sues In Jet Crash”, August 24, 1973, page 10

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Crash Survivor Fights On”, August 29, 1973, page 1

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Sergeant Testifies He Climbed Out Window”, August 29, 1973

     Providence Journal, “Probers Note Complaints Of Delta Crews”, August 30, 1973, page 15

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “2 U.S. Boards Disagree On Limiting Delta DC9s”, August 30, 1973, page 25

     Providence Journal Bulletin, (no headline) September 19, 1973, page 6 – partial pilot testimony.

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “New England: Air Controller Testifies At Crash Hearing”, September 20, 1973, page 2 

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “N. E. News: Pilots Testify At Hearing”, September 21, 1973, page 5 

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Public hearing Ends On Boston Jet crash”, page 7

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Reports Conflict On Delta Plane”, September 22, 1973, page 2

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Lone Crash Survivor Is Still Fighting Pain”, October 23, 1973, page 10

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Lone crash Survivor Dies After 4 Months”, December 12, 1973, page 36

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Worst N. E. Air Disaster Was A year Ago”, July 31, 1974, page B-9

Boston Airport – May 8, 1932

Boston Airport – May 8, 1932

     On May 8, 1932, a small single-engine airplane with three men aboard was taking off from Boston Airport when at an altitude of about 200 feet the motor suddenly quit.  The plane dove into a rough area near the edge of the field, with one wing and the nose striking first. 

     All three men received serious, but non life threatening injuries.  They were identified as (Pilot) Thurle Ellis, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gus Rose, and John Day, both of Revere, Massachusetts.  All were taken to East Boston Relief Hospital.  

      Sources:

     New York Times, “3 Hurt In Boston Air Crash”, May 9, 1932

    

Boston Airport – August 27, 1929

Boston Airport – August 27, 1929

     On August 27, 1929, two small monoplanes were racing each other from Philadelphia to Boston on the first leg of the Philadelphia-Cleveland Air Derby.  Both planes were the same model, manufactured by the same company.     

     The first was piloted by Edward J. (Red) Devereaux of Woodside, Long Island, N.Y.  With him were his wife Herma, and his mechanic, E.J. Reiss, of New York.   (Devereaux was a salesman for Curtis Flyting Service.)

     The second plane was piloted by Joseph L. McGrady of Hartford, Connecticut.

     Just before noon both planes bore down on Boston Airport where a finish line had been painted on the tarmac.  Devereaux was slightly ahead of McGrady, and zoomed over it first at an altitude of barely 50 feet, while traveling about 200 miles per hour.  Just as he did so the ailerons on both wings were seen to be fluttering just before they broke off.  The plane continued its forward momentum, sailing upwards and over the field before crashing in the mud flats near the edge of the airport.  The impact propelled Edward Devereaux and his mechanic through the roof of the cabin killing them instantly.  Mrs. Devereaux was found still alive, but trapped in the crumpled wreckage.  She died later that night at East Boston Relief Hospital.   

     McGrady’s aircraft crossed the finish line seconds after Devereaux’s and experienced the same situation with fluttering ailerons, but fortunately he was able to land safely.  When officials examined his plane they discovered three hinges on the left aileron had torn off, and the rear wing spar had broken.  His plane was immediately grounded.   

     Officials speculated that the ailerons failed due to the strain placed on them by the high speed dive.

     Source:

     New York Times, “Three Killed In Boston Crash In Air Derby; Pilot’s Bride Among Victims As Plane Fails”, August 28, 1929 

Boston Airport – August 27, 1929

Boston Airport – August 27, 1929

     On August 27, 1929, a Cessna monoplane, designed for racing, was approaching Boston Airport when it suddenly fell from the sky from an altitude of about 600 feet.  The plane crashed in about two feet of water along the mud flats between Wood Island Park and the airport.

     Witnesses said the wings of the airplane were flapping in the wind, making a sound that could be heard while the plane was still about a mile distant.  As it drew closer the pilot tried to attain more altitude, but then a piece of the wing broke free causing the plane to go down.   

     Killed in the crash was the pilot, Edward J. Devereaux, 23, and a passenger, Edward Reiss, both of New York.  Devereaux’s wife, Herma, 21, was taken to East Boston Relief Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries a few hours later.  The couple had been married only three months earlier. 

     Devereaux was the chief pilot for the Curtis Flying Service, and was participating in the Philadelphia – Cleveland Air Derby at the time of the crash.      

     Investigators blames “mechanical weakness in the aileron fittings” as the primary cause of the accident.   

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “2 Fliers dead In Plane Fall At Boston”, August 27, 1929, Pg.1

Berkeley Daily Gazette, “Plane Crash Laid To Poor Construction”, August 28, 1929

Boston Airport – July 24, 1923

Boston Airport – July 24, 1923

     On the afternoon of July 24, 1923, Lieutenant Kitchell Snow of the 101st Observation Squadron of the Massachusetts National Guard,  took off from Boston Airport in a former British training aircraft.   There were two passengers aboard, Sergeant Oscar D. Lecain, and his cousin, 10-year-old Howard Carkin of North Chelmsford, Mass. 

     As the plane rose off the runway and headed out towards the water, the engine suddenly quit.  Not wanting to land in the water with two passengers aboard, Snow banked the plane back towards shore, and when he did the aircraft suddenly dove nose first into the mud flats.  

     The impact drove the motor into the cockpit crushing Lieutenant Snow. Both passengers survived.

     It was reported that Lieutenant Snow was “the second victim of accidents at the field since its opening in June.”  The particulars of the first accident weren’t stated. 

     Another accident involving a plane from the 101st Observation Squadron occurred on December 18, 1924, when Chester E. Wright, flying a JNS-1 (23-536) crashed in Boston Harbor.   

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Lieut. Snow Killed In Airplane Crash”, July 25, 1923, Pg. 5

 

Boston Harbor – June 5, 1930

Boston Harbor – June 5, 1930

Updated January 19, 2016

     On June 5, 1930, a Ford Tri-motor aircraft,  Nacomis, (NC9675) owned by Colonial Air Transport, with fifteen people aboard, took off from Boston Airport bound for New York.  Just after becoming airborne, while at an altitude of 100 feet, the right motor suddenly quit, causing the plane to go into a side slip and spin into the water of Boston Harbor.

     The tide was out at the time, and the water was only several feet deep, which many believed prevented the accident from being worse than it was. 

     One passenger drowned before help could arrive.   The deceased was identified as P. S. Thorsen, a contractor of both Boston and New York.

     Others aboard included:

     (Pilot) Owen O’Connor, and (Co-pilot) Val Chick

     Passengers:

     Mrs. H. E. Webster, of N.Y.

     Simon De Vaulchier, of N.Y.

     W. E. Wilson, of Boston

     I. H. Morrison, of N.Y.

     M. H. Shapiro, of Boston

     H. D. Beaton, of N.Y.

     W. H. Sheafer, of Pittsburg, PA.

     Charles H. Jacobson, of Long Island, N.Y.

     Mrs. Charles Jacobson, of Long Island, N.Y.

     H. S. Ford Jr., of Brookline, MA.

     W. A. Stayton, of Rochester, PA.

     Henry Wallis, of Boston

     Sources:

     Aviation Safety Network,  aviation-safety.net

     The Pittsburgh Press, “Pittsburger Hurt As Plane Dives Into Sea”, June 5, 1930

     New York Times, “Air Liner Plunges 15 In Boston Bay, 1 Dies”, June 6, 1930

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