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Last updated: 17 January 2019
Date:Tuesday 3 February 1959
Type:Silhouette image of generic L188 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed L-188A Electra
Operator:American Airlines
Registration: N6101A
C/n / msn: 1015
First flight: 1958
Total airframe hrs:302
Engines: 4 Allison 501-D13
Crew:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 5
Passengers:Fatalities: 63 / Occupants: 68
Total:Fatalities: 65 / Occupants: 73
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:1,5 km (0.9 mls) NE off New York-La Guardia Airport, NY (LGA) (   United States of America)
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Chicago-Midway Airport, IL (MDW/KMDW), United States of America
Destination airport:New York-La Guardia Airport, NY (LGA/KLGA), United States of America
The crew of Flight AA320 were carrying out an ILS backcourse approach to New York-La Guardia (LGA) runway 22 with autopilot engaged. The Lockheed Electra aircraft descended until it struck the water some 5000 feet short of the runway and 600 feet to the right of the extended centreline. Ground speed on impact was 150 mph and undercarriage and flaps were extended. The wreckage sank in 10 m deep East River. Weather at the time of the accident was marginal with a 300-400 feet ceiling, 2 miles visibility in light rain and fog with a 6 knots SSW wind.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines the probable cause of this accident was premature descent below landing minimums which was the result of preoccupation of the crew on particular aspects of the aircraft and its environment to the neglect of essential flight instrument references for attitude and height above the approach surface.
Contributing factors were:
1. Limited experience of the crew with the aircraft type;
2. Faulty approach technique in which the autopilot was used in the heading mode to or almost to the surface;
3. Erroneous setting of the captain's altimeter;
4. Marginal weather in the approach area;
5. Possible misinterpretation of altimeter and rate of descent indicator; and
6. Sensory illusion with respect to height and attitude resulting from visual reference to the few lights existing in the approach area."

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Water

» ICAO Accident Digest Circular 62-AN/57 (87-98)

Follow-up / safety actions

CAB issued 2 Safety Recommendations

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photo of
photo of Lockheed L-188A Electra N6101A
photo of Lockheed L-188A Electra N6101A
This photo was taken nine hours before it crashed in New York.
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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 Chicago-Midway Airport, IL to New York-La Guardia Airport, NY as the crow flies is 1156 km (722 miles).
Accident location: Exact; deduced from official accident report.

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Lockheed L-188

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 United States of America
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