Last revised: September 06, 2013

1959 | 1962 | 1965 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1972 | 1974 | 1977 | 1979 | 1981 | 1982

ATC - 25 Best Years - (1958-83)
Album # 7A.


St. Louis, MO - Skyjacking

June 23, 1972 - In the 9th copycat "D.B. Cooper-Style" hijacking, a man hijacked an American Airlines B-727 from St. Louis to Tulsa, and demanded $502,500. The jet flew back and forth between St. Louis and Tulsa while the money was raised. A man in St. Louis, after seeing the TV news coverage of the case, crashed at 80 mph through the airport fence into the plane struts in a Cadillac convertible. The hijacker transferred to another B-727 and jumped out of the jet over Indiana.

The money bag and gun were discovered by searchers near Peru, Indiana. While in Marion Federal Prison, the hijacker and fellow inmate (also a hijacker - see January 28, 1972) on May 24, 1978 attempted a prison escape after a girlfriend hijacked a helicopter. The escape attempt ended when the helicopter pilot grabbed the woman's gun and killed her. The hijacker was paroled from prison in 2010.

  (Midair Collision)  -Wisconsin


June 29, 1972 - Appleton, Wisconsin - A North Central Airlines Convair CV-580 crashed into an Air Wisconsin De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter under VFR conditions. At the time of the collision, there was bright sunshine beneath a scattered cloud layer. The NTSB noted that the North Central crew would have had to look toward the sun to see the approaching Air Wisconsin plane, as they flew over Lake Winnebago about 6 miles south of Appleton and 2 miles east of Neenah, WI at about 2,500'. Both flight crews failed to see and avoid the other aircraft.

The NTSB report stated that both crews could have been scanning instruments in preparation for descent at the time of the collision. It also noted that the decision by both flight crews to fly under VFR rather than IFR and the fact that neither captain requested in-flight advisories deprived both aircraft of air traffic control report.     (13 Fatalities)

The FAA began an evaluation project to recommend the daytime use of high-intensity white lights on all air carrier aircraft. The use of strobe lights in daytime operations would improve the conspicuity of aircraft and make them easier to detect by pilots of other aircraft.

Miami, FL - Skyjacking

FBI agent wearing only swim trunks, delivers $1 Million ransom money to Hijacked Delta jet in MIami.

July 31, 1972 - Delta Air Lines Flight #841 DC-8 was hijacked by five members of the Black Liberation Army including the elusive George Wright. The flight was originally from Detroit to Miami. The hijackers exchanged the passengers for $1 Million in Miami and forced the plane to fly to Boston, for refueling and the addition of another pilot, then to Algeria who returned the plane and the cash but released the hijackers.

August 1, 1972 - Northeast Airlines merged into Delta Airlines. Northeast began as Boston-Maine Airways in 1931, and changed the name to Northeast Airlines in 1940.

September 24, 1972 - - Sacramento, California


September 24, 1972 - A privately owned Korean war vintage F-86 Sabrejet, participating in the Golden West sport Aviation Show, crashed into a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Sacramento, CA killing 22 people on the ground, including 12 children. (The Sacramento 49ers 'little league' football team was celebrating at Farrell's.)  (34 Fatalities)

The pilot tried to lift off too early in an attempted takeoff from Sacramento Executive Airport. He was pulled from the wreckage and survived.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the over-rotation of the jet, which was the result of inadequate pilot proficiency in the F-86 Sabrejet and misleading visual cues.

The FAA made some major changes in the regulations and procedures governing certification of aircraft in the experimental category and the control of pilots who fly them. The FAA issued a General Notice (GENOT) to all field offices on 'Future Civil Certification, Operation and Maintenance of Military Surplus Jet Airplanes.'

October 20, 1972 - The Federal Labor Relations Council certified PATCO as the sole bargaining unit for Air Traffic Controllers.

Houston, TX - Skyjacking

October 29, 1972 - Four fugitives killed a ticket agent and hijacked an Eastern Air Lines B-727 at Houston, TX and forced it to fly to Havana, Cuba.

Birmingham, AL - Skyjacking

November 10, 1972 - Three men successfully hijacked a Southern Airways DC-9 from Birmingham, AL to Havana, Cuba with $10 million and 10 parachutes (which they demanded, earlier). The three hijackers had handguns and hand grenades when they took over the jet. 31 people were aboard the jet when it was hijacked.

They had the plane flown to several locations in the USA and to Toronto, Canada before finally flying to Cuba. However, Cuban President Fidel Castro did not accept them into that country, and the hijackers next had the jet flown to Orlando, FL.

The hijackers threatened to crash the plane into the Oak Ridge Nuclear Installation at McCoy AFB, Orlando, FL if their demands were not met. While stopped for refueling at McCoy AFB, the FBI shot out two of the jet's four main tires, prompting the hijackers to shoot and injure the co-pilot and forcing the Captain to take off.

The hijacking came to an end when the plane landed on a partially foam-covered runway in Havana. The hijackers were removed from the jet at gunpoint by Cuban authorities and captured after attempting to escape. Cuba returned the jet, crew, passengers and ransom money to the United States. The hijacking lasted a total of 30 hours and covered 4,000 miles.

December 8, 1972 - - Chicago Midway

December 8, 1972 - Midway Airport, Chicago, IL - United Air Lines B-737, from DCA to MDW, crashed while executing the VOR approach to runway 13L, after the crew was told to go around and abort their first landing attempt. The jet struck trees and then roofs along W. 71st St. before crashing into a house. The crash destroyed five houses and damaged three others, killing two people on the ground.

Failure of the captain to properly fly the approach, leading to a loss of airspeed, stall, and loss of control caused the accident. (43 Fatalities)

The crash was the first fatal incident involving a B-737, which entered airline service in 1968.

There was a lot of controversy about this crash as the wife of convicted Watergate conspirator, E. Howard Hunt was killed. Michelle Clark, CBS news correspondent was traveling with Mrs. Hunt, and rumor had it that the Hunts were about to announce information about the Nixon white house and its involvement in the Watergate burglary. A large sum of money (between $10,000 and $100,000) was found amid the wreckage in the possession of Mrs. Hunt. Several pages of documentation are available for further reading at:

Also on Wikipedia:

  (Airport Collision)  -Chicago, IL


December 20, 1972 - Chicago O'Hare Airport collision between Delta Air Lines Convair-880 and North Central Airlines DC-9. -- (45 fatalities on NC, 88 on Delta)


ATC cleared the Delta Convair-880 to cross the runway while the North Central DC-9 was on its departure roll.

North Central DC-9 rolling down the runway (1/4 mi. visibility) into the fog, the captain spotted the Delta flight and gave the order "Pull 'er up!" and he and the 1st officer pulled back on their control columns in an attempt to lift their DC-9 over the Delta CV-880. Although the DC-9 lifted into the air, it was too late to avoid contact with the CV-880 and they collided.

The DC-9 captain attempted to land, the main landing gear collapsed rearward, and the aircraft skidded on its belly onto a grassy area where it stopped and immediately burst into flames. (133 Fatalities)

The NTSB found that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of ATC to ensure adequate aircraft separation during a period of limited visibility. It also noted that non-standard terminology was used to expedite traffic flow and included the omission of words, altered phraseology and use of colloquialisms. Lack of clarity of wording on the part of the ground controller with Delta, and the Delta crew's failure to request confirmation were the major causes of the accident. The controller was confused as to the location of the CV-880, and neither the controller nor the Delta crew realized that they were referring to different run-up pads as the holding area for the Delta CV-880.


December, 1972 - An new FAA emergency rule required all U.S. air carriers to screen passengers carry-on luggage for weapons and dangerous objects.

December 29, 1972 - - Everglades, FL

December 29, 1972 - Everglades National Park, FL - Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 TriStar from New York's JFK to Miami crashes into the Everglades. (103 Fatalities)  


The pilots broke off their approach to Miami International Airport after the nose-gear light failed to illuminate, indicating that the gear was properly lowered.

While in a holding pattern at 2,000' over the Everglades, the captain bumped his control column, leading to the disconnection of the autopilot. All three crew members were focusing on the landing gear problem and the extinguished light, and failed to notice as the aircraft descended into the ground.

69 passengers and 8 of the 10 flight attendants survived this crash. Of the cockpit crew only the Flight Engineer survived. The swamp absorbed much of the energy of the crash, lessening the impact of the jet, and saved many lives as mud blocked many wounds sustained by survivors, preventing them from bleeding to death.

The NTSB discovered that the autopilot had been inadvertently switched from altitude hold to CWS (Control Wheel Steering) pitch. In this mode once the pilot releases pressure on the yoke the autopilot will maintain the pitch altitude selected by the pilot until he moves the yoke again. The captain probably accidentally leaned against the yoke while turning to speak to the Flight Engineer, and the slight forward pressure on the stick would have caused the jet to enter a slow descent.

The altitude alert sounded to warn the pilots of an inadvertent deviation from the selected altitude, but went unnoticed by the fatigued and frustrated crew due to the crew being distracted by the nose gear light. Visually, since it was nighttime and the jet was flying over darkened terrain of the Everglades, there were no ground lights or other visual indications that the TriStar was slowly descending into the swamp.

Pilot error was reported as the cause of the crash: "the flight crew failed to monitor flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight and failed to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."

December 31, 1972 - - San Juan, PR

December 31, 1972 - Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star Roberto Clemente, 38, was on  his way to Nicaragua with relief supplies for earthquake victims when his plane, a leased DC-7, plunged into the waters off the coast of San Juan after losing power in the No. 2 and 3 engines, and Roberto and 4 other passengers died. The plane was overloaded and was poorly maintained.




February, 1973 - An understanding was reached between the USA and Cuba that hijackers would face punishments (up to 20-years) in whichever of the two countries they were captured.

 March 14, 1973 -  President Nixon names retired Air Force Colonel/Pilot  Alexander P. Butterfield  to become the 5th FAA Administrator.

- April 30, 1973 - FAA and PATCO signed a nationwide agreement recognizing the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for Air Traffic Controllers.

July 23, 1973 - - St. Louis, MO

July 23, 1973 - St. Louis, Missouri - an Ozark Airlines Fairchild FH-227, from Nashville to St. Louis with 4 intermediate stops, crashed while attempting to land in a thunderstorm containing severe winds and heavy rain. Microburst induced wind-shear and the Captain's decision to land in a thunderstorm were cited as the cause.     

A TWA flight, landing just before the FH-227 reported getting caught in a strong updraft, and was forced to execute a missed approach, rather than land. The captain and first officer both survived the accident and the captain reported hail hitting the airplane, pulling up on the control stick, and seeing fire after impact. The cockpit area was clear of the main wreckage, as the FH-227 broke into several pieces. The aircraft was in a high nose-up attitude at impact.

Although the crew knew thunderstorms were in the vicinity, the controller's lack of urgency seemed to lead the crew to believe they could land ahead of the storms. Investigators believed that high winds and a strong downdraft pushed the plane below the glide slope. The crew's evasive actions were not enough to prevent the plane from striking the ground. Investigator's questions why the air traffic controller had not indicated the severity of the storm to the flight and also why the crew had not requested a different flight path to avoid the storm.

 ((38 Fatalities)  of the 44 persons aboard)

July 31, 1973 - - Boston, MA

July 31, 1973 - Boston, MA - Delta Air Lines DC-9 crashed into a sea wall while attempting an ILS approach to Boston's Logan International Airport. Air Traffic Control was at fault for vectoring the jet to only a 4-mile final for the approach. The crew was also at fault for continuing the approach with insufficient time to stabilize the aircraft on final.

The Air Traffic Controller was busy handling a potential collision conflict between two other aircraft and neglected to clear the Delta DC-9 for the approach. The crew had to ask the controller for an approach clearance, which was given immediately, but more than a minute after the intercept vector had been issued. They were high and fast and almost over the outer marker and unable to stabilize the descent rate and airspeed, and descended below the glide slope and drifted away from the localizer course hitting a sea wall.

The weather was partially obscured by fog, with a 400' ceiling, 1/2 mile visibility and light winds. The NTSB concluded that the flight crew inadvertently switched to a "go around' mode during the final approach, instead of the appropriate approach mode. This caused confusion and additional pressure, and contributed to the unstabilized approach and deviation below the glide slope and decision height until it struck the seawall and crashed. Also no altitude callouts were made by the crew during the final approach. (89 Fatalities)

September 8, 1973 - - King Cove, Alaska

September 8, 1973 - King Cove, Alaska - A World Airways DC-8 crashed into Mt. Dutton at the 3,500' level, about 15 miles east of the airport and was destroyed by impact and fire. World Flight #802 was a military contract cargo flight from Travis AFB , CA to Clark AFB in the Philippines with stops at Cold Bay, Alaska and Yokota AFB, Japan.

The jet was cleared for an approach, and the pilot reported leaving 31,000'. (The last recorded transmission).

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the captain's deviation from approved instrument approach procedures resulting in the jet's descent into an area of unreliable navigation signals and obstructing terrain.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder indicated that the crew discussed the requirements and specified minima for the ILS back course DME approach to runway 32, and that the captain did not plan to make a procedure turn. After calling out a DME reading of 29 miles, the copilot questioned the captain: "We should be a little higher than that our here, shouldn't we?" About 3 minutes later the jet struck Mt. Dutton.

The 3-man crew and 3 'non-revenue' company employees lost their lives in this crash.  (6 Fatalities)

The FAA modified the Instrument Approach Chart for the ILS back course DME approach to runway 32 at Cold Bay, Alaska and highlighted the altitude restrictions on the use of VORTAC and the hazards associated with deviations from prescribed approach procedures.

Approach charts were also improved for other airports where situations exist similar to those in Cold Bay, including advice that NAVAID signals beyond 40 miles of the VORTAC are  unusable below certain altitudes. NAVAID restrictions also now have notes that 'high terrain either side of final approach course within 4 miles of the airport.'

September 20, 1973 - - Louisiana

September 20, 1973 - Louisiana - Jim Croce, 30, was killed when a Beechcraft E-18 crashed into trees at the end of the runway while taking off. Pilot failed to see/avoid obstructions. All 6 aboard were killed including comedian George Stevens.


Jim Croce was an American singer-songwriter who released albums with ABC Records.

"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"
"Time in a Bottle"
"You Don't Mess Around with Jim"
"Workin' at the Car Wash Blues"
"I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song"


September 27, 1973 - - Arkansas

September 27, 1973 - A Texas International Airlines Convair-600 from Memphis, TN to Dallas, TX with intermediate stops crashed into Black Fork Mountain, Arkansas. With thunderstorms in the area, the pilots found a 17 mile-wide break in the storm and the crew, departed at night under VFR.

The cockpit voice recorder revealed that the First Officer was flying the plane while the Captain advised him of headings and altitudes to navigate around the storm.  Expressing concern that their position was unknown and what the terrain clearance was, the First Officer, followed the Captain's orders and descended to 2,000'. He then consulted an en route instrument chart and alerted the Captain that they were too low: "Minimum en route altitude here is forty-four hun...". At that the recorder cut off as the plane struck Black Fork mountain.

Because the Convair-600 had deviated around the weather, over 100 miles North, the crash site was not found until 3 days later. A search helicopter crashed while searching for the lost plane and 3 people died.


The NTSB concluded that the crew did not discuss the details of their intended route with Flight Service or activate the IFR flight plan from their airline dispatch to Flight Service. Under IFR they would have been tracked by radar or required to make position reports to en route controllers.

The cause of this accident was the Captain's decision to continue into instrument weather at night, his choice to not to use nearby navigational aids to determine their position, and his decision to descend despite the First Officer's concerns about position and terrain.

Eight passengers and three crewmembers were killed.   (11 Fatalities)

The FAA regulations were changed to require all airliners to operate only on instrument flight plans when passengers were carried. IFR rules specify altitudes and routes that must be followed to provide terrain clearance.

November 3, 1973 - - Albuquerque, NM

November 3, 1973 - A National Airlines DC-10 suffered an uncontained engine failure after the crew experimented with the auto-throttle system causing one of the wing engines to overspeed. The engine fan assembly disintegrated and its fragments penetrated the fuselage and the right wing area. Resulting damage caused decompression of the aircraft cabin and the loss of certain electrical and hydraulic systems.


The crew initiated an emergency descent and landed safely at Albuquerque International Airport 19 minutes after the engine failed. Evacuation slides were used to evacuate 115 passengers and 12 crewmembers. However, one passenger died and 24 persons were treated for smoke inhalation, ear problems, and minor abrasions. (1 Fatality)

One passenger was partially sucked through a failed cabin window that had been struck by engine fragments. Efforts to pull the passenger back into the jet were unsuccessful and he was forced entirely through the cabin window. The body was not recovered until two years later when someone came upon his skeletal remains.

The NTSB said the probable cause was the disintegration of the No. 3 engine fan assembly as a result of an interaction between the fan blade tips and the fan case, caused by the acceleration of the engine to an abnormally high fan speed and destructive vibration. One theory is the crew was experimenting with the auto-throttle system.

1959 | 1962 | 1965 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1972 | 1974 | 1977 | 1979 | 1981 | 1982

Last revised: September 06, 2013

Copyright 2013 by RWF2000 Internet Consulting