Pan Am Flight 214
, a Boeing 707-121
registered as , was a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Baltimore
, which crashed
on December 8
near Elkton, Maryland
, after being hit by a lightning strike
while in a holding pattern
, killing all 81 persons on board.
On December 8
, Pan Am
Flight 214, a Boeing 707-121
named Clipper Tradewind
by Pan Am, took off from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
in San Juan, Puerto Rico
at 4:10 p.m. EST, for a flight to Philadelphia
with 73 passengers and 8 crew on board. At 7:35 p.m. EST, Flight 214 made an intermediate stop at Friendship International Airport (now called Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
, or BWI) for refueling. At 8:24 p.m. EST, Flight 214 departed. Due to high winds in the Philadelphia area, the crew chose to wait in a holding pattern with five other airplanes rather than attempt to land in Philadelphia.
At 8:58 p.m. EST, while in the holding pattern, the aircraft was hit by lightning, which ignited fuel vapors in the number one (left) reserve tank, causing an explosion. The crew of Flight 214 managed to transmit a final message – "Mayday Mayday Mayday. Clipper 214 out of control. Here we go." – before it crashed near Elkton, Maryland. All 81 people on board were killed.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigated the accident, and issued the following Probable Cause statement on March 3, 1965:
As a result of the crash of Flight 214, the Federal Aviation Administration
ordered lightning discharge wicks
to be installed on all commercial jets flying inside U.S. airspace.
Volatile fuel vapor recommendation
On December 17
, nine days after the crash of Flight 214, Leon H. Tanguay, director of the CAB
Bureau of Safety, sent a letter to the FAA recommending several safety modifications as part of future aircraft design. One modification related specifically to volatile fuel vapors that can form inside of partly empty fuel tanks, which may be ignited by various potential ignition sources and cause an explosion. Mr. Tanguay's letter suggested reducing the volatility of the fuel/air gas mixture by introducing an inert gas, or by using air circulation. Thirty three years later, a similar recommendation was issued by the NTSB
(the CAB's successor) after the TWA Flight 800 Boeing 747
crash on July 17
, with 230 fatalities, which was also determined to have been caused by the explosion of a volatile mixture inside a fuel tank.
Guinness world record
The crash of Pan Am Flight 214 was registered in the Guinness Book of World Records
) as the "Worst Lightning Strike Death Toll".
, LANSA Flight 508
was also brought down by a lightning strike, but has no mention in the Guinness Book of World Records, despite having more casualties (91 fatalities).