1949 - a Pan Am Connie survives mid-air crash


With a 15-ft. gash in the top right side of the fuselage, a Pan American Constellation last week was landed safely at Mitchel Air Force Base, N. Y., after a private plane had plunged into it at a 4000-ft. altitude.

The PAA pilot, Capt. George Knuth, put the plane down without injury to passengers or crew five minutes after the collision. The Connie was bound from LaGuardia Field to London. Of the 23 passengers, 14 resumed the trip early the next morning in another PAA Constellation, five left on a later plane, and only one of the other four had definitely cancelled by middle of the week.

The collision occurred at 4:30 in the afternoon with visibility good. Knuth told investigators that he had just caught a glimpse of the smaller plane, a two-place Cessna, before the impact, and could not determine the direction of its flight. The two men in the Cessna were killed and parts of the engine and nose section were imbedded in the Constellation. The remainder of the small plane fell to the ground.

The Cessna struck the Connie just aft of the flight deck, tearing a huge hole in the fuselage above the galley. There was no apparent damage to controls, equipment or other parts of the Constellation structure. At midweek, PAA engineers still were undecided whether to dismantle the plane or to fly it out of Mitchel direct to PAA's base at Miami for repairs.

CAB investigators hold little hope of determining exactly what caused the collision. They speculated that the pilot of the small plane may have lost control of his craft, been stunting, or was in level flight and failed to see the Constellation, which was climbing.

Aviation Week | February 7, 1949