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Thu Oct 10, 2013, 07:29 AM

80 years ago today - first instance of aircraft brought down by onboard bomb

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1933_United_Airlines_Boeing_247_mid-air_explosion


Restored Boeing 247 in United Air Lines livery, similar to the crashed aircraft. This one is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

On October 10, 1933, a Boeing 247 propliner operated by United Air Lines and registered as NC13304, crashed near Chesterton, Indiana. The transcontinental flight, carrying three crew and four passengers, had originated in Newark, New Jersey, with its final destination in Oakland, California. It had already landed in Cleveland and was headed to its next stop in Chicago when it exploded en route. All aboard died in the crash, which was proven to have been deliberately caused by an on-board explosive device.

Eyewitnesses on the ground reported hearing an explosion shortly after 9 p.m., and saw the plane in flames at an altitude of about 1,000 feet (300 m). A second explosion followed after the plane crashed. The crash scene was adjacent to a gravel road about 5 miles (8 km) outside of Chesterton, centered in a wooded area on the Jackson Township farm of James Smiley.

Investigators who combed through the debris were confronted with unusual evidence: The toilet and baggage compartment had been smashed into fragments. Shards of metal riddled the inside of the toilet door while the other side was free of the metal fragments. The tail section had been severed just aft of the toilet and was found mostly intact almost a mile away from the main wreckage.

Melvin Purvis, head of the Chicago office of the United States Bureau of Investigation described the damage, "Our investigation convinced me that the tragedy resulted from an explosion somewhere in the region of the baggage compartment in the rear of the plane. Everything in front of the compartment was blown forward, everything behind blown backward, and things at the side outward." He also noted: "The gasoline tanks, instead of being blown out, were crushed in, showing there was no explosion in them."

An investigator from the Porter County coroner's office, Dr. Carl Davis, and experts from the Crime Detection Laboratory at Northwestern University examined evidence from the crash, and concluded that the crash had been caused by a bomb, with nitroglycerin as the probable explosive agent. One of the passengers was seen carrying a brown package onto the plane in Newark, but investigators who found the package amidst the wreckage ruled it out as being the cause of the explosion. A rifle was found in the wreckage but it was determined to have been carried aboard as baggage for a passenger who was en route to attend a shoot at Chicago's North Shore Gun Club. Despite the efforts of the investigators, no suspect was ever identified or charged in this incident, and it remains unsolved. This is thought to be the first proven act of air sabotage in the history of commercial aviation.
Pilot Captain Terrant, his co-pilot, flight attendant Alice Scribner and all four passengers were killed. Scribner was the first United flight attendant to be killed in a plane crash.


Never heard of this before today.

9 replies, 1032 views

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply 80 years ago today - first instance of aircraft brought down by onboard bomb (Original post)
Cooley Hurd Oct 2013 OP
B Calm Oct 2013 #1
Cha Oct 2013 #2
Cooley Hurd Oct 2013 #3
Cha Oct 2013 #6
Blue_Tires Oct 2013 #4
Cooley Hurd Oct 2013 #5
Rhiannon12866 Oct 2013 #7
Art_from_Ark Oct 2013 #9
Rhiannon12866 Oct 2013 #8

Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 07:35 AM

1. Probably one of those terrorists that Obama pals around with caused it.

sarcasm

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 07:54 AM

2. Nor I, Cooley.. and too bad they couldn't solve it. People can be so mindlessly cruel.

But, it made me flash on an instance when I was a young girl in Denver.. someone was crying at school about a plane that went down because of a bomb.. as if they had a loved one aboard.

So I googled it.. a hellava long time ago

"United Airlines Flight 629, registration N37559, was a Douglas DC-6B aircraft, named "Mainliner Denver," which was blown up with a dynamite bomb placed in the checked luggage. The explosion occurred over Longmont, Colorado while the airplane was en route from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1955. All 39 passengers and five crew members on board were killed in the explosion and crash.

Investigators determined that Jack Gilbert Graham was responsible for bombing the airplane to kill his mother and obtain a large life insurance policy on her. Graham was tried, convicted and executed for his crime."


snip//

"Authorities were shocked to discover that there was no federal statute on the books at the time (1955) that made it a crime to blow up an airplane. Therefore, on the day after Graham's confession, the Colorado district attorney moved swiftly to prosecute Graham via the simplest possible route: premeditated murder committed against a single victim -- his mother, Mrs. King. Thus, despite the number of victims killed on Flight 629 along with Mrs. King, Graham was charged with only one count of first degree murder. It was the first trial in Colorado to be televised and it was covered by KLZ (now KMGH-TV) & KBTV (now KUSA-TV)."

More
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_629

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Response to Cha (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 05:46 PM

3. What a sad event...

Thanks for the link, Cha - as a retired aviator, I find these things fascinating.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #3)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 06:28 PM

6. Wow.. I guess so you would be even

more interested than most people.

Funny how things trigger memories from so long ago they we never would have remembered otherwise. in this case..

Cooley

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 05:50 PM

4. insurance policies used to be sold at the airport

until the early 1970s, iirc...

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #4)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 05:54 PM

5. I don't think I've seen one in years...

...but I remember them, too.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #5)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 11:17 PM

7. I remember then, too, from when my parents used to travel

It was up to me to drive my father's car home from the airport and then drive it back so my jet-lagged father could drive home...

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #4)

Fri Oct 11, 2013, 12:43 AM

9. They sell insurance policies for international flights in Japan

Maybe domestic flights as well.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Thu Oct 10, 2013, 11:21 PM

8. Is there enough evidence preserved so this case could be solved today?

Sounds like a fascinating - and tragic - case.

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