ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed L-188A Electra N9705C Buffalo, TX
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Tuesday 29 September 1959
Type:Silhouette image of generic L188 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed L-188A Electra
Operator:Braniff International Airways
Registration: N9705C
MSN: 1090
First flight: 1959-09-04 ()
Total airframe hrs:132
Engines: 4 Allison 501-D13
Crew:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 28 / Occupants: 28
Total:Fatalities: 34 / Occupants: 34
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:6 km (3.8 mls) ESE of Buffalo, TX (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Houston International Airport, TX (HOU/KHOU), United States of America
Destination airport:Dallas-Love Field, TX (DAL/KDAL), United States of America
Flightnumber: 542
Braniff International Airways Flight 542, a Lockheed L-188A Electra, departed the ramp at Houston International Airport at 22:37, 22 minutes behind schedule. The delayed departure was due to a mechanical discrepancy involving No. 3 generator. This generator was inoperative on arrival of N9705C at Houston. Prior to departure from Houston the Nos. 3 and 4 voltage regulators were interchanged. The estimated time en route to Dallas was 41 minutes.
The flight was given an IFR clearance which was to the Leona omni, via Victor Airway 13 west to the Gulf Coast intersection, direct to Leona, to maintain 2,300 feet altitude to Gulf Coast, then to climb to and maintain 9,000. At approximately 22:40 the flight was cleared for takeoff and at 22:44 the crew reported airborne.
After takeoff Houston departure control advised that it had the flight in radar contact and requested it to report when established outbound on the 345-degree radial of the Houston omni. Flight 542 complied and subsequently was cleared to 9,000 feet and advised to contact San Antonio Center upon passing the Gulf Coast intersection.
At approximately 22:52 Flight 542 reported to San Antonio Center as being over Gulf Coast intersection at 9,000 feet. The flight was then issued its destination clearance to the Dallas Airport and it was cleared to climb to its cruising altitude of 15,000 feet. After the Electra had passed Leona at 23:05, the crew contacted company radio with a message for maintenance, advising that the generators were then OK but that there had been insufficient time for maintenance to insulate the terminal strip on No. 3 propeller at Houston and it would like to have it done in Dallas.
At 23:09 the left wing and the No. 1 gear box propeller separated. The horizontal stabilizer then broke up under the impact of parts coming from the wing; wing planking from the right wing tip came free; the No. 4 powerplant tore loose; and the right wing outboard of engine No. 4 separated. All of these events happened in a short period of time. Somewhat later, at much lower altitudes, the fuselage broke in two separate portions at a point about halfway back near fuselage station No. 570.
All 34 on board were killed in the accident.

On March 17, 1960, while the investigation into this accident was still ongoing, a second Lockheed Electra crashed under similar circumstances near Cannelton, Indiana.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Structural failure of the left wing resulting from forces generated by undampened propeller whirl mode."

Accident investigation:

Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 7 months
Accident number: 1-0060
Download report: Final report

Wing failure
Loss of control

» ICAO Circular 64-AN/58 (51-61)
» Northwest Flight 710 accident, 17 March 1960

Follow-up / safety actions
The FAA requested Lockheed to conduct an engineering reevaluation of Electra model airplanes following two fatal accidents (Sept. 1959 and March 1960).
The program disclosed two discrepancies in the design of the airplane. One, significant loads imposed on the wing's intermediate ribs between the fuselage and outboard nacelles by shell distortion had not been included in the design loads. Two, the dynamic response of the outboard nacelles in turbulence was different from the design assumptions.
Lockheed redesigned the engine mounts, nacelles, and cowlings, and modified the wing to improve strength capabilities. No Electra accidents have resulted from whirl-mode flutter since.


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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 Houston International Airport, TX to Dallas-Love Field, TX as the crow flies is 384 km (240 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-188

  • 222 built
  • 2nd loss
  • 2nd fatal accident
  • 2nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 13th worst accident (currently)
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