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Last updated: 17 October 2019
Status:Final
Date:Friday 26 June 1959
Time:ca. 17:35
Type:Lockheed L-1649A Starliner
Operator:Trans World Airlines - TWA
Registration: N7313C
C/n / msn: 1015
First flight: 1957
Total airframe hrs:6671
Engines: 4 Wright R-3350 (988TC18)
Crew:Fatalities: 9 / Occupants: 9
Passengers:Fatalities: 59 / Occupants: 59
Total:Fatalities: 68 / Occupants: 68
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:32 km (20 mls) NW of Milano (   Italy)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Milano-Malpensa Airport (MXP/LIMC), Italy
Destination airport:Paris-Orly Airport (ORY/LFPO), France
Flightnumber:TW891
Narrative:
The TWA Lockheed Starliner, named "Star of Severn", departed Rome, Italy at 15:00 hours on a flight to Chicago, USA, via Milan, Italy and Paris, France. The flight reached Milan at 16:36 after a normal flight.
The aircraft departed Malpensa Airport at 17:20 in weather conditions with scattered thunderstorms. The flight crew received clearance to the Saronno NDB, where it has to fly a climbing circuit to at least 10000 feet. It then has to proceed to the Biella NDB, which has to be reached at at least 18500 feet before crossing the Alpine mountains. At 17:26 the flight reported climing through 6000 feet in the Saronno circuit. Six minutes later they report having reached 10000 feet and continuing to Biella, which they estimate to reach at 17:45.
About 17:35 the aircraft suffered a structural failure occurred, initiated by a wing separation. The aircraft broke up and crashed, with debris scattered over an area of about 3 square kilometers.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The breaking-up in flight was due to the explosion of the fuel vapours contained in tank No.7, followed immediately by either an explosion of pressure or a further explosion in tank no.6. In the absence of other significant concrete evidence, taking into account the stormy weather conditions, with frequent electric discharges, existing in the area at the time of the crash, it may be assumed that the explosion of the fuel vapours contained in tank No.7 was set off, through the outlet pipes, by igniting of the gasoline vapours issuing from these pipes as a consequence of static electricity discharges (streamer corona) which developed on the vent outlets."

Classification:
Lightningstrike
Fuel tank explosion
Loss of control

Sources:
» ICAO Accident Digest Circular 62-AN/57 (132-152)
» Memorial Website


Follow-up / safety actions

issued 2 Safety Recommendations

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Map
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 Milano-Malpensa Airport to Paris-Orly Airport as the crow flies is 587 km (367 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

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