Narrative:At 19:04, United's DC-4 "Mainliner Lake Tahoe" was ready to depart, and the pilot advised: "Ready for take-off." The tower operator asked whether the flight wished to wait out a storm on the ground. The captain answered. "I'll take off." The tower then advised the flight: "Cleared for immediate takeoff, or hold; traffic on final approach north of Riker's Island." Flight 521 rolled onto runway 18, and accelerated for takeoff immediately. The captain applied back pressure to the control column but the controls felt heavy and the aircraft did not respond. The captain decided to discontinue take-off. About 1,000 feet from the south end of the runway he applied brakes, ordering the co-pilot at the same time to cut the engines. A ground-loop was attempted by heavy application of left brake. The aircraft, however, proceeded to roll straight ahead. Then, with both brakes locked it continued over the remainder of the runway, crashed through the fence at the airport boundary, and half-bounced, half-flew across the Grand Central Parkway. The aircraft finally came to rest immediately east of the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics, a distance of 800 feet from the end of runway 18 and 1,700 feet from the point at which brakes were first applied. It was almost immediate enveloped in flames.
Investigation revealed that the guts locks on the plane had been altered, permitting it to remain locked even after removal of the gust lock warning tape.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was either the failure of the pilot to release the gust lock before take-off, or his decision to discontinue the take-off because of apprehension resulting from rapid use of a short runway under a possible calm wind condition."
» CAB Accident Investigation Report
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not
display the exact flight path.
Distance from New York-La Guardia Airport, NY to Cleveland Municipal Airport, OH as the crow flies is 667 km (417 miles).