Texas International Airlines Flight 655
Texas International Airlines Flight 655 was a Convair 600, registered as N94230. The plane was en route from Memphis, Tennessee, to Dallas, Texas with scheduled stops in
Pine Bluff Arkansas, El Dorado, Arkansas and Texarkana, Texas. After leaving El Dorado, the plane crashed into Black Fork Mountain near Mena, Arkansas on the night of
September 27th, 1973. All eight passengers and three crewmembers on board were killed. This pictures shows N94230 just three months before the crash.
While on the ground in El Dorado, the crew consulted with tower staff on the weather conditions. The current conditions showed a line of thunderstorms 35 nautical miles west of El Dorado. The plane departed El Dorado at night under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). The crew did not inform the tower of a flight plan, which was not a requirement of commercial flights operating under VFR at that time.
The flight crew did not attempt to contact the ground after takeoff or during the flight. The first officer was flying with the captain navigating. The captain was trying to circumnavigate the storms under VFR. As the flight progressed, the first officer became increasingly concerned about the position of the aircraft to the terrain below.
About three minutes before the impact, the captain told the first officer that the highest point in the area was 1200 feet. The first officer consulted the charts and his last words before the impact were, "Minimum en route altitude here is forty-four hun...". At that point the aircraft crashed into the steep and heavily wooded north slope of Black Fork Mountain and disintegrated.
The crash occurred at an elevation of 2025 feet above sea level. The impact zone was about 600 feet below the top of the ridge.
When the flight was overdue at Texarkana, a search party was launched. Extensive searches along proposed flight paths did not reveal anything. The wreckage would be found almost 3 days later at 5:30pm on September 30th. An air traffic controller at Fort Worth Center observed an unidentified VFR target departing El Dorado and traveling to the northwest. Search personnel were able to use this information and successfully locate the wreckage. The headline seen to the right is from The Shreveport Times on October 1st, 1973.
The search was conducted both in the air and on the ground by the Arkansas Civil Air Patrol and the 43rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. In all, four hundred and seventy-eight sorties and 1,235.4 hours were flown by 224 aircraft. Unfortunately during the search, an Arkansas Army National Guard helicopter crashed, killing all three crewmembers. Once the wreckage was located, pararescuemen were lowered to the site, and they recovered the deceased and the black boxes. Due to the remote location of the site and the extreme difficulty in reaching it, the plane wreck has been left untouched and still sits in the same spot nearly 40 years later.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded all eleven passengers were killed instantly due to trauma from the impact forces. The NTSB also concluded the cause of the accident was the "captains attempt to operate the flight under visual flight rules in night instrument meteorological conditions without using all the navigational aids and information to him."
This flight helped pave the way for new FAA regulations. Since they flew VFR, there were not required to discuss their intended route. If they have been operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), they would have been tracked by radar and required to make position reports. The FAA now requires all airlines operating as commercial flights to operate only on IFR.
Listed below are the crewmembers and passengers who perished on Flight 655.
Captain Robert McDonald Crosman, 41, Irving, Texas.
First Officer William Fred Tumlinson, 37, Dallas, Texas.
Flight Attendeant Marilla Jeana Lotzer, 23, Dallas Texas.
Army Col. Clayton Craft, 49, Texarkana, Texas.
Army Col. Robert B. Hoppe, 47, Texarkana, Texas.
Army Col. Arthur B. Glenn, 46, Texarkana, Texas.
Marion Royce Evans, 39, Hooks, Texas.
Milton C. Johnson, 51, Texarkana, Texas.
John Thomas Torrence, 49, Texarkana, Texas.
John Hawkins, Jr., 18, Texarkana, Texas.
Mrs. Bonnie McCullough, 65, LaGrange, Georgia.
The NTSB report may be downloaded and read here.
1. United States. National Transportation Safety Board. Department of Transportation.
Aircraft Accident Report NTSB AAR-74-4. N.p.: n.p., n.d. AirDisaster.Com.
11 Apr. 1974. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www.airdisaster.com/>.
2. "Texas International Flight 655." Oklahoma Wreckchasing - Home. N.p., n.d. Web.
10 June 2012. <http://okwreckchasing.org/>.
3. "Missing Airliner Found Crashed Into Mountain; All 11 on Board Perish."
The Shreveport Times 1 Oct. 1973: n. pag. Print.
4. "Mena, AR Airliner Crashes In Rugged Hills. AIRLINER FEARED DOWN IN STATE."
Northwest Arkansas Times [Fayetteville] 28 Sept. 1973: n. pag. Print.
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