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Last updated: 25 March 2019
Status:Final
Date:Saturday 18 January 1969
Time:18:21
Type:Silhouette image of generic B721 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 727-22C
Operator:United Airlines
Registration: N7434U
C/n / msn: 19891/631
First flight: 1968-09-04 (5 months)
Total airframe hrs:1036
Engines: 3 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7
Crew:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 32 / Occupants: 32
Total:Fatalities: 38 / Occupants: 38
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:20 km (12.5 mls) W off Los Angeles, CA [Santa Monica Bay] (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Los Angeles International Airport, CA (LAX/KLAX), United States of America
Destination airport:Denver-Stapleton International Airport, CO (DEN/KDEN), United States of America
Flightnumber:UA266
Narrative:
United Airlines flight 266, a Boeing 727-22C impacted Santa Monica Bay approximately 11.3 miles west of the Los Angeles International Airport, California, USA. The aircraft was destroyed and the six crewmembers and 32 passengers on board were all fatally injured.
The aircraft, N7434U, performed a scheduled service from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado and Milwaukkee, Wisconsin. It had been operating since January 15, 1969, with the no. 3 generator inoperative. This was allowed because according to the Minimum Equipment List, the aircraft is airworthy with only two generators operable provided certain procedures are followed and electrical loads are monitored during flight.
Flight 266 was scheduled to depart the gate at 17:55, but was delayed until 18:07 because of the inclement weather and loading problems. The flight commenced its takeoff roll on runway 24 at approximately 18:17. At 18:18:30 the sound of an engine fire warning bell was heard in the cockpit. The crew reported a no. 1 engine fire warning and stated that they wanted to return to the airport. Shortly after shutdown of the no. 1 engine, electrical power from the remaining generator (no. 2) was lost. Following loss of all generator power, the standby electrical system either was not activated or failed to function. Electrical power at a voltage level of approximately 50 volts was restored approximately a minute and a half after loss of the no. 2 generator. The duration of this power restoration was just 9 to 15 seconds. The Boeing descended until it struck the sea. The ocean depth at this point was approximately 950 feet.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The loss of attitude orientation during a night, instrument departure in which all attitude instruments were disabled by loss of electrical power. The Board has been unable to determine (a) why all generator power was lost or (b) why the standby electrical power system either was not activated or failed to function."

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 2 months
Accident number: NTSB/AAR-70-06
Download report: Final report


Follow-up / safety actions

FAA issued 4 Airworthiness Directives
NTSB 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 Los Angeles International Airport, CA to Denver-Stapleton International Airport, CO as the crow flies is 1356 km (848 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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Boeing 727

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  • 10th loss
  • 9th fatal accident
  • 6th worst accident (at the time)
  • 39th worst accident (currently)
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 United States of America
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  • 89th worst accident (currently)
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