ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed L-049E Constellation N2737A Richmond International Airport (Byrd Field), VA (RIC)
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Wednesday 8 November 1961
Type:Silhouette image of generic CONI model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed L-049E Constellation
Operator:Imperial Airlines
Registration: N2737A
MSN: 1976
First flight: 1946
Total airframe hrs:32589
Engines: 4 Wright R-3350 (745C18BA3) Cyclone
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 5
Passengers:Fatalities: 74 / Occupants: 74
Total:Fatalities: 77 / Occupants: 79
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:1,5 km (0.9 mls) S of Richmond International Airport (Byrd Field), VA (RIC) (   United States of America)
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Domestic Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Baltimore/Washington Friendship International Airport, MD (BWI/KBWI), United States of America
Destination airport:Columbia Metropolitan Airport, SC (CAE/KCAE), United States of America
Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 was scheduled to transport newly inducted members of the U.S. Army to Columbia, SC, for training. The Lockheed L-049 was to depart Columbia (CAE), enplane passengers at Newark, NJ (EWR), Wilkes Barre, PA, and Baltimore, MD (BWI), and transport them to Columbia.
The flight departed for Baltimore at 19:12, VFR at an altitude of 4,500 ft. The flight landed at Baltimore and 17 additional passengers were boarded.
The trainee flight engineer opened the Nos. 3 and 4 crossfeeds like he had done on previous occasions on the flight, in anticipation of a drop in fuel pressure. The Constellation departed at 20:30, climbing to 4500 feet.
En route, the no. 3 and 4 engines continued to run the no. 4 fuel tank dry. Suddenly, the airplane yawed to the right and the fuel pressure warning lights for engines 3 and 4 came on. Engine no.3 stopped and engine no.4 surging between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm.
They were unable to restart the engines, so the props were feathered and a diversion to Richmond was initiated.
As the flight approached the airport for an intended landing on runway 33, the captain (who was acting as co-pilot), without warning to the pilot-in-command, turned the aircraft to attempt a runway 02 landing and selected the gear down. When the landing gear didn't extend because of mismanagement of the hydraulic system under the existing conditions, a go-around was attempted with only the no. 1 and 2 engines operating. During the poorly executed go-around the no. 1 engine failed as a result of overboosting. In an attempt to reach runway 33 the aircraft crashed and burned half a mile to the left of the extended runway centerline and one mile short of the runway threshold.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The lack of command coordination and decision, lack of judgement, and lack of knowledge of the equipment resulting in loss of power in three engines creating an emergency situation which the crew could not handle."

Accident investigation:

Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 90 days (3 months)
Accident number: File No. 10025
Download report: Final report

Fuel starvation

Loss of control


photo of Lockheed-L-049E-Constellation-N2737A

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 Baltimore/Washington Friendship International Airport, MD to Columbia Metropolitan Airport, SC as the crow flies is 700 km (438 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Lockheed L-049

  • 88 built
  • 23rd loss
  • 15th fatal accident
  • 2nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 3rd worst accident (currently)
» safety profile

 United States of America
  • 4th worst accident (at the time)
  • 34th worst accident (currently)
» safety profile

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