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N709PA, Pan American Airways, Boeing 707-121, Panama, 1960s
Code Number:
N709PA, Pan American Airways, Boeing 707-121, Panama, 1960s
Built: 1958
Crashed: 1963

This Jet crashed after it was hit by a lightning strike. The type of fuel used at the time was changed.

Accident report:
Pan American Flight 214, a Boeing 707-121, N709PA, departed friendship International Airport, Baltimore, Maryland, for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 20:24 e.s.t., December 8,1963. The aircraft, with 73 passengers and a crew of eight, was on an Insturment Flight Rules (IFR) clearance. The flight reported over the New castle Delaware VOR at 2042 and was instructed to hold at 5000 feet, west of the VOR. At 2058 a "MAYDAY" transmission was heard from the flight. Shortly thereafter, the pilot of another aircraft radioed that "CLIPPER 214 IS GOING DOWN IN FLAMES".

Flight 214 crashed two miles east of Elkton, Maryland, at 20:59 est. All persons aboard were killed instantly. The aircraft was destroyed by explosion, impact, and fire.

The Investigation (a brief summary):
Analysis of the debris showed evidence of a lightning strike to the left wing, specifically at the No. 1 reserve fuel tank, and evidence of a strike near connection points for the HF antenna. Samples of fuels were taken from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Idlewild, New York, and Baltimore Maryland. The mixture of Types "A" and "B" fuels was studied, and not found to be a significant contributing factor. Testing of the aircraft's fuel tanks and supporting structures showed evidence of "magnetic anomilies" which would be consistent with the lightening strike theory. Of the 140 ground witnesses interviewed, 99 reported sighting an aircraft or flaming object in the sky. Seventy-two said they saw lightning, and seven stated that they saw lightning strike the aircraft. Three other persons reported seeing a "ball of fire" appear at the fork-end of the lightning stroke.

Probable Cause:
The Board determines the probable cause of this aviation accident was lightning- induced ignition of the fuel/air mixture in the No. 1 reserve fuel tank with resultant explosive disintegration of the left outer wing and loss of control.
Boeing 707, B-707, Four Engine, Narrow Body, Jet, Single Aisle, Fanjet, Long Range, Fixed wing multi engine, Turbojet, multi-engine, Jetliner, low-wing, Plane, Pan American World Airways, PAA, PanAm, Passenger Aircraft, Plane, Airline, Fixed-Wing Airliner, Commercial Aviation, Fleet, Livery, Equipment, Airframe, Commerce, Transport, Travel, Airplane, hull, Archive, Aerospace, Civil Transportation, Avion, History, Technology
Image by:
George H. Ulrich Jr.

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