Narrative:A Convair CV-240 passenger plane was destroyed in a crash-landing near Palm Springs, CA.
Western Air Lines Flight 19 was a scheduled passenger service between Las Vegas, NV, and San Diego, CA, with an intermediate stop at Palm Springs, California. The aircaft, N8405H was flown from Los Angeles to Las Vegas following heavy maintenance performed by the company at its overhaul base at Los Angeles.
Flight 19 departed Las Vegas at 12:30 and arrived at Palm Springs at 13:30.
After about six minutes at the terminal the engines were restarted and the first officer taxied the airplane to runway 31 for takeoff.
About 13:42 Flight 19 took off from runway 31. The takeoff appeared normal, and the aircraft climbed to approximately 500 feet above the ground. At this time several ground witnesses saw two or more silvery pieces separate from the aircraft. Most witnesses said the pieces seemingly separated from the area of the right wing. Almost simultaneously the aircraft was observed to nose down sharply and descend at a steep angle. There was severe buffeting and the first officer had problems maintaining control.
He then pushed the nose down to a 30-40 degree angle and added nearly full power. When the airspeed increased to 240-260 knots the first officer sensed a partial regaining of elevator control. He then added full power and when about 300 feet above the desert began decreasing the angle of descent. The landing gear was extended when 50 feet above the ground.
It contacted the ground raising at a speed of over 200 knots. The crew said the aircraft rolled fairly well over the rough terrain until it struck boulders which were scattered over the desert surface. The landing gear failed when it struck the boulders and mounds of drifted sand. The aircraft then slid to a stop and fire broke out in the left wing. Almost at once the fire spread and became uncontrollable.
There were no fatalities but serious injuries resulted to 5 of the 18 passengers and minor injuries to most of the others. The crew of three received minor or slight injuries.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The failure of a mechanic to secure properly the right wing leading edge section as a result of which the unit separated in flight. This improper installation was undetected because of inadequate inspection."
» ICAO Accident Digest, Circular 59-AN/54 (75-78)