Narrative:Capital Airlines Flight 500 departed Memphis for a flight to Washington-National Airport, DC (DCA) via Norfolk and Newport News. At 18:43 the DC-3 took off from Newport News en route to Washington and climbed to its cruising altitude of 4,000 feet. The crew reported over Richmond at 19:10, and was then cleared by Air Route Traffic Control to proceed at 8,000 feet to the Clifton Intersection, which is 32 miles southwest of the Washington National Airport. By the time that the flight arrived over Clifton, however, ceiling and visibility at Washington were below landing minimums, so instructions were given to the flight to hold. Approximately 410 gallons of fuel remained on board, and weather conditions at the alternate airports of Richmond and Norfolk were remaining well above landing minimums. At 20:25 weather was reported to be just enough for landing: the ceiling was 400 feet variable, and the visibility was 3/4 of a mile. The flight was cleared to descend to 3,500 feet in the holding pattern. While the visibility was increasing to 1,5 miles restricted by light rain and fog, the flight was cleared to descend to 1,500 feet and to commence its landing approach. At 20:38, the flight reported leaving the outer marker, five miles south of the end of runway 36, at which time it was cleared by the tower to land.
When the flight was 1,5 miles out, it began to deviate to the right from the center line. The GCA operator advised the flight that it was drifting sharply to the right, and indicated that it had gone 1,500 feet off course. While manoeuvring back to the left, the aircraft was stalled at too low an altitude to effect recovery. The aircraft struck the water of the Potomac River, left wing and nose first, in a steep nose down, left turning attitude.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The stalling of the aircraft at an altitude too low to permit a recovery."
» CAB File No: 1-0150
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 Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, VA to Washington-National Airport, DC as the crow flies is 196 km (122 miles).