Pam Am flight 214, a Boeing 707-121, took off from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport at 4:10 p.m. EST on December 8, 1963 for a flight to Philadelphia Philadelphia. The 73 passengers and 8 crew on board had no idea that they would go down in history.
The airplane was built in 1958 and was named the “Clipper Tradewind”. It had logged 15,609 hours, as recorded by the Aviation Safety Network.
After a stop at Baltimore’s Friendship Airport (now BWI-Marshall) for a refueling stop the flight headed for Philadelphia. There were heavy winds at Philadelphia and it was determined that they would stay in a holding pattern instead of trying to land. Then at 8:58 p.m. EST, the plane was struck by lightning, causing an explosion.
With a final distress call of “Mayday Mayday Mayday. Clipper 214 out of control. Here we go.”, the plane crashed moments later near Elkton, Maryland. All 81 people on the flight were killed.
Prior to this it was believed that lightning could not damage an aircraft. This myth proved to be in error and costly.
It took nearly two years for the Civil Aeronautics Board to issue a probable cause of the accident. On March 3, 1965 issued a statement that read; “Probable Cause: 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 of control.”
Photo of the Memorial Monument was added to the article on April 26, 2012. Photo by Carol Crawley.