Two Airplanes Collide Over New York City -1960 New York Mid-Air Collision

CRB Tech Reviews write about historic moments or events that changed the course of history.

Decades before the 11th September terrorist attacks, New York City witnessed another tragic event in its skies, just weeks before Christmas when two airplanes crashed in mid-air over Brooklyn.

Two passenger planes United Airlines Flight 826 and Trans World Airlines Flight 266 collided while they were diving towards Idlewild and LaGuardia on December 16, 1960, leaving a trail of carnage and flames in their wake.

Owing to the tragedy, a new era of flight safety measures was initiated which includes includes the black boxes which are used to investigate airline crashes. Economy was also affected with sharp decline in flight tickets.

Above 2,500 firefighters and policemen arrived at the scene to combat the raging flames.


Early on that fateful morning, the United Airlines flight was journeying from O’Hare Airport in Chicago to Idlewild Airport, now renamed as John F Kennedy International Airport. The Douglas DC-8 was carrying 84 people, including seven crew members.

It overshot its holding point by nearly 12 miles, and collided with the TWA plane, a Lockheed Super Constellation carrying 44 people from Columbus, Ohio to LaGuardia. As per officials the snowy weather played a crucial role in the collision.

Shortly after 10.30am on that December morning, the DC-8 crashed into the quiet Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, which was in the midst of preparing for the upcoming Christmas holidays.

Residents were terrified to see a passenger plane wing coming down a narrow street. Next, there was an explosion, when the plane crashed to the neighborhood, destroying the Pillar of Fire church and several houses. The flying debris blew out many nearby windows.


Ten miles away, the TWA airplane crashed onto a small military field, killing all aboard the plane. The New York Daily News reported that wreckage was scattered four miles, miraculously, no one on the on the ground was killed.

Those in Brooklyn weren’t so fortunate. The plane’s pilot made a last effort to land at LaGuardia, but instead landed at Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place in the heart of Park Slope. What was moments ago a Christmas scene had turned into carnage with twisted metal, burnt plane parts and charred corpses littered the streets.

The New York Daily News reported that above 200 homes were ablaze, and six on the ground including a butcher, a Christmas tree seller and a dentist were dead.

On the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, a granite monument was revealed in nearby Greenwood Cemetery.

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