SkyNet - Special Report
Date: December 8th, 1963
Type: Boeing 707-121
Operator: Pan American World Airways
Where: Elkton, Maryland
Report No.: File # 1-0015
Report Date: March 3rd, 1965
The following report was summarized from the Civil Aeronautics Board report about the
incident, which was released March 3rd, 1965.
File # 1-0015 December 8, 1963
Pan American World Airways Flight 214, Boeing 707-121, registration
N709PA, near Elkton, Maryland.
A Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-121, N709PA, Flight 214,
crashed at 20:59 e.s.t., December 8, 1963, near Elkton, Maryland.
Flight 214 was in a holding pattern awaiting an insturment approach to
the Philadelphia International Airport when it was struck by lightning.
Immediately thereafter, the aircraft was observed to be on fire. A
large portion of the left wing seperated in flight and the aircraft
crashed in flames approximately ten nautical miles southwest of the New
Castle, Delaware VOR. All persons aboard, 73 passengers and eight crew
members, perished in the crash and the aircraft was destroyed.
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
Flight 214 crashed two miles east of Elkton, Maryland, at 20:59 e.s.t.
. All persons aboard were killed instantly. The aircraft was destroyed
by explosion, impact, and fire.
(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.
The Board determines the probable cause of this 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
BY THE CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD:
/s/ ALAN S. BOYD, Chairman
/s/ ROBERT T. MURPHY, Vice Chairman
/s/ CHAN GURNEY, Member
/s/ G. JOSEPH MINETTI, Member
/s/ WHITNEY GILLILLAND, Member
The Flight Crew
Captain George F. Knuth, age 45
First Officer John R. Dale, age 48
Second Officer Paul L. Orringer, age 42
Flight Engineer John R. Kantlehner
Boeing 707-121, N709PA, was purchased by Pan American in 1958, and had a total flying time of 4,609 hours. The last major inspection was performed March 25, 1963, and the last layover
transit inspection December 7, 1963. The aircraft was powered by four Pratt and Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines.
Many thanks to Tim Hufnell for his research and assistance in compiling this report.
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