ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-7CF N500AE San Juan-Isla Verde International Airport (SJU)
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Sunday 31 December 1972
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC7 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas DC-7CF
Operator:American Express Leasing
Registration: N500AE
MSN: 45130/823
First flight: 1957
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Total:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:off San Juan-Isla Verde International Airport (SJU) (   Puerto Rico)
Phase: Initial climb (ICL)
Departure airport:San Juan-Isla Verde International Airport (SJU/TJSJ), Puerto Rico
Destination airport:Managua-Las Mercedes Airport (MGA/MNMG), Nicaragua
The DC-7, 4193 lb (1902 kg) overloaded, entered an uncontrolled descent and crashed into the sea, after the no. 2 engine failed and the no. 3 engine lost power.
The engine failure resulted from inadequate maintenance and inspection and previous damage (taxiing accident Dec. 2, 1972). The Flight Engineer was unqualified for the DC-7.
Baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed in the accident. Clemente was on a relief mission to deliver supplies for earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Probable Cause:

powerplant - engine structure: master and connecting rods
powerplant - engine structure: cylinder assembly
powerplant - engine structure: piston,piston rings
miscellaneous acts,conditions - excessive-wear/play
personnel - maintenance,servicing,inspection: inadequate maintenance and inspection
pilot in command - inadequate preflight preparation and/or planning
personnel - operational supervisory personnel: deficiency,company maintained eqpmt,services,regulation
miscellaneous acts,conditions - improperly loaded aircraft-weight-and/or c.g.
miscellaneous acts,conditions - previous damage
miscellaneous acts,conditions - aircraft came to rest in water


Loss of control

» Lawsuit (p.376-381)


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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 San Juan-Isla Verde International Airport to Managua-Las Mercedes Airport as the crow flies is 2258 km (1412 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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