1954 – November 18, Italian Airlines Airport 451 (4ο) approach crash, NY Idlewild IAP, NY–26 (2023)

— 26 Aviation Safety Network. Description of the accident. Linee Aeree Italiane, December 18, 1954.
— 26 CABIN AIR. Italian Airlines…NY IAP, Jamaica, NY, December 18, 1954 (file no. F-105-54).
—26 NFPA. "High-loss fires of 1954". NFPA Quarterly, Vol. 48, nº 3, January 1955, p. 313

narrative information

Aviation Safety Net: "The DC-6 was making its fourth attempt to land at New York-Idlewild when it hit the pier supporting the left edge of the runway 04 approach lights. The plane went down in flames and sank in Jamaica Bay. plane flew from Rome-Ciampino to New York via Milan, Paris, Shannon, Gander and Boston.

"PROBABLE CAUSE: "An unstable approach that resulted in a descent at too low an altitude to avoid hitting the pier. A contributing factor to this accident was pilot fatigue due to the particular and difficult conditions." (Aviation Safety Network. Linee Aeree Italiane, December 18, 1954).

Civil Aeronautics Board: "At about 2:00 pm, December 118, 1954, an Italian DC-6B aircraft, Italian registration 1-LINE, collided with the pier supporting the left line of approach lights from the runway to runway 4 at Nea York International Airport. Airport (Idlewild). The accident occurred during the fourth instrument approach of the flight to the airport. All 10 crew and 16 of the 22 passengers were killed. 4 of the 6 survivors were seriously injured. The aircraft was scrapped on impact and sank in Jamaica Bay. Intense fuel fire followed the impact and spread across the surface of the water and the pier.

flight history

“Flight 451 is one of Italian Airlines' weekly tourist flights over Atlantic Worth between Rome Ciampino Airport, Rome, Italy, and New York International Airport, Jamaica. New York, with scheduled stopovers in Milan, Italy. Paris, France; Shannon, Ireland; Gander, Newfoundland, (technical stop); and Boston, Massachusetts. The estimated elapsed time for the flight is 23 hours and 50 minutes, with 20 hours and 45 minutes of flight time.

"Flight 451 Dec 17-18, departed Rome at 1810 G.c.t. (GMT), Dec 17, 1 hour 10 minutes late due to delayed connecting flight. Crew for 10 multiple flights consisted of . .. The stops in Milan and Paris were canceled due to local fog and the flight arrived in Shannon at 2320 G.c.t. The aircraft was refueled and checked there.

“The flight over the North Atlantic was smooth. Regular position reports were made and the flight received and recorded regular weather reports en route and destination. This and previous segments were described as very smooth, with little or no instrument flying and no apparent mechanical difficulties. Arrival and departure times in Gander were 0945 and 1038 G.c. t.

"As the flight approached Boston, instrument conditions were encountered but were less and the I-LINE descended at 0928. Nine passengers disembarked and the aircraft was filled with 804 gallons of fuel, totaling the flight's fuel approximately 2415 gallons, enough for about 7 hours of flight.... The flight left Boston at 10:13 am.

“After a smooth instrument flight that did not include routing and air route traffic control, Flight 451 reported at 11:22 to Idlewild Approach Control as above Mitchell radio range station 7,000 feet. The flight was then cleared to enter the Scottish holding pattern (located approximately 13 nautical miles southwest of the airport) and then 'descended' to the number one approach position.

“Between 11:47 and 11:59, weather conditions deteriorated below the minimum 400-foot ceiling for landing on runway 22, the runway in use at the time. The flight continued to hold.

“At 1159, reported weather conditions improved and the I-LINE was cleared for an approach to runway 22 using the ILS (Instrument Landing System) aft. At 12:18 pm, the flight reported that it had aborted this approach. Missed approach instructions were then issued and he returned to the Scottish holding pattern. Shortly thereafter, weather conditions were again reported below the minimums for runway 22. They were reported as: ceiling 300ft, broken, 2500ft, cloudy. Visibility 2-1/2 miles, light rain and fog. south-southeast wind 20 knots.

“While on hold, approach control asked the flight if it could approach runway 4, the ILS runway, due to the downwind component. The flight accepted runway 4 and was cleared at 1:07 pm for an ILS approach. At 13:13, the 451st reported to the tower that the approach had been lost.

“The GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) flight was then offered and accepted. This approach was abandoned at 13:24, a missed approach procedure was followed and the flight returned to Scotland.

“At 1:27 pm, the Chief of Station of Italian Airlines, in a message transmitted from the tower, asked the flight for the remaining fuel and received the answer that there were three hours of fuel in standby. The station manager then suggested that the flight be grounded for 1 1/2 hours and, if unable to land, continue to Washington, D.C. At 13:29, the flight acknowledged this message.

“At 13:49, the flight was again cleared for an ILS approach, the third approach to runway 4 and the fourth to the airport. Around 2 pm, the aircraft collided with the left pier. The impact was accompanied by a loud explosion followed by intense fire. Tower staff immediately sounded the shock alarm and emergency procedures were initiated.

To look for

“Accident scene investigation revealed that the aircraft hit the left entry pier. The pier, constructed primarily of heavy wooden piles, spans approximately 2,000 feet into Jamaica Bay, with the offshore end 2,530 feet from the approach end of Runway 4. The pier floor was approximately 14 feet above sea level. from the sea. The water level in the bay at low tide. . At the far end of the shoreline, a highway was constructed with numerous piles forming each of its four corners, the tops of which were about six feet above the pier floor.

“The first contact was with the pier just a few meters from the water. At the time of impact, the aircraft was traveling nearly parallel to the pier towards runway 4. The impact ruptured the east half of the pier end, breaking and shattering the tops of most of the 11 pilings that make up the southeast corner. Most of the aircraft's wreckage sank in about 30 feet of water, mostly along the starboard side of the pier, at a distance of about 1,550 feet from shore. The nature of the damage to the pier, its proximity to the water, and the fact that there was little debris near the point of impact indicated that the aircraft hit without an appreciable rate of descent.

“A propeller cut mark from a number one propeller blade was found on the center pier at the inshore end of the pier. This section revealed that the number one engine cowl was nearly centered in this position and that the aircraft was slightly raised at the time of impact. After the propeller shaft was installed, it was clear that the number two engine had reached the southeast corner of the pier. Comparison of the heights of the damage marks at the end of the pier revealed that the aircraft was almost laterally flat at the time of impact.

“After the initial impact, the outer flap of the left wing enveloped the stack and broke. The center section of this wing wants to advance onto the dock platform, destroying several light fixtures before turning right.

“On initial impact, the fuselage was on the starboard side of the pier and therefore the main body of the aircraft continued to make additional contact with the pier during this journey. These impacts broke the outer structure of the right wing and the forward fuselage. During this period, engines number three and number four were commissioned. As the rest of the aircraft moved forward, it rotated about 180 degrees, and when it was about 1,300 feet beyond the point of initial impact, it moved backwards.

“The six surviving passengers were seated in various positions in the main passenger cabin. Two managed to climb out of the wreckage and onto the burning pier, but before the fire, allowing them to immediately proceed to safety. The others were forced into the bay and rescued by a private boat operator or by helicopters sent by the Port Authority of New York, the New York Police Department and the Coast Guard. The smoke, fire and crash site presented great difficulty for rescue operations. However, they were achieved as quickly and efficiently as possible given the circumstances….

“Recovery operations. Performed under extremely difficult conditions, it produced around 80 percent of the aircraft. The wreckage was placed for data examination, the result of which revealed no evidence of fatigue cracking, structural failure or pre-impact control malfunction….

“During the early part of the ILS approach, radar contact was made and as the aircraft approached the four-mile landing point, it was observed to be slightly right of the runway and banked to the left. Before reaching this position, the flight deviated slightly from its course and descended normally. During this time, it is recommended to maintain altitude. the flight continued to descend.

“Around the three-mile mark, the radar controller informed the flight that it appeared to be at 500 feet and still descending. He then strongly advised the pilot to level off.

"As the aircraft approached the two-mile mark, the controller informed the flight as follows: 'Item Nan level easy, its altitude is showing as 200 feet. It is about to intercept the glide path, 150 feet below the glide path.” In explaining this warning, the controller indicated that the flight descended to 200 feet or less, then stopped the descent and began to climb….

“The controller stated that when observing the aircraft climb, he provided heading information. "Two miles from landing, 400 feet of course, 300 feet of course." Upon providing this information, the aircraft began another descent to a very low altitude. He advises: “The altitude is very, very low, get up. Item Nan Easy pull up, unless you have the runway in sight." At this point, the controller indicated that the aircraft began a steep climb by turning to the right. The climb angle momentarily decreased and then continued. The climb continued until the aircraft was at or above glide height. At this point, the controller believed the flight had initiated a missed approach procedure and continued: "Item Nan Easy, I see you stalling, 500 feet left of course, a right turn bow 130….

“A second eyewitness, located approximately 1-1/4 miles north of the end of the runway 4 approach, stated that he saw the aircraft descend under overcast skies on what appeared to be a slight nose-down approach. steeper than normal. He then says the nose quickly rises to an almost flat position. He said the aircraft at this point appeared to be sluggish and swaying. The aircraft continued to descend during his observations until he could no longer see it behind slightly higher ground. Seconds later, he heard the roar of engines and almost simultaneously saw fire and smoke pouring vertically upwards. Then he heard another roar from the engines….

“The investigation revealed that the flying crow was skilled and experienced. the captain had made 150 flights over the Atlantic, 75 of which ended at New York International Airport….


“….During the board's investigation and review of this accident, the possible misinterpretation of the approach lights or an illusion associated with them was carefully considered. Evidence of misrepresentation or delusion would primarily be crew testimony. This was not available for examination, the entire crew was mortally wounded….

“Although the entire crew was lost and actual rest periods are unknown, there is no reason to believe that normal rest procedures were not followed. However, fatigue is believed to have been a factor in this accident. It existed not only as a result of the time on the road, approximately 22.5 hours, but primarily as a result of the additional extended period of 2.5 hours devoted to all four focuses and the high mental and physical demands. event for pilots. The element of fatigue is strongly suggested especially during the latter approach. Fatigue is evidenced by the pilot's poor adherence to the location runway, the final descent to a very low altitude before the sudden launch, and the indication of abrupt control action. It can also be noticed, to some extent, in the slow response of the pilot to the changing wind and the possible loss of speed caused by the descent before the aircraft reaches the pier. These factors lend credence to the belief that the pilot's efficiency and normal ability were seriously affected by fatigue….

“The Board considers that the probable cause of this accident was an erratic approach that resulted in a descent too low to avoid hitting the pier. A contributing factor to this accident was pilot fatigue due to the particular and difficult conditions." (Board of Civil Aeronautics. Accident Investigation Report. Italian Airlines (Linee Aeree Italiane), New York International Airport, Jamaica, New York York, December 18, 1954 (File No. F-105-54. Washington, DC: Taxi, September 19, 1955, 14 pages.)

NFPA: “Dec. 18, New York, N. Y. Italian Airlines, DC-6B, $1,250,000, 26 dead.

“A missed approach at New York International Airport resulted in this accident when a DC-6B en route from Rome struck a pier supporting 'slope' approach lights and caught fire. Heavy fire followed a first and second impact on the pier and only six survivors could be rescued. The 2,000-foot-long pier presented difficult firefighting problems, and rescue operations were hampered by smoke and flames on the wooden pier and gasoline floating on the surface of the water. The accident occurred after the pilot had made three previous attempts to land on runway 22 at Idlewild, but each time he was told his plane was not properly aligned to make a safe landing. (National Fire Protection Association. “Large Loss Fires of 1954.” Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association, Vol. 48, No. 3, Jan. 1955, pp. 201-326.)


Aviation Safety Network. Description of the accident. Linee Aeree Italiane, December 18, 1954. Accessed February 20, 2009 at: http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19541218-0

Civil Aeronautics Council. Accident investigation report. Italian Airlines (Linee Aeree Italiane), at New York International Airport, Jamaica, New York, December 18, 1954 (file # F-105-54). Washington, DC: Cab, September 19, 1955, 14 pages. Viewed at http://dotlibrary1.specialcollection.net/scripts/ws.dll?file&fn=8&name=*S%3A%5CDOT_56GB%5Airplane%20accidents%5Cwebsearch%5C121854.pdf

National Fire Protection Association. "High-loss fires of 1954". Quarterly Journal of the National Fire Protection Association, Vol. 48, No. 3, January 1955, pp.

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