Little Bits of History

Air Disaster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2014
Lovettsville air disaster

Lovettsville air disaster

August 31, 1940: The Lovettsville air disaster takes place shortly after 2.30 PM. Pennsylvania Central Airlines Trip 19 was piloted by Captain Lowell Scroggins with copilot First Officer J Paul Moore beside him. They were flying a new (delivered on May 25, 1940) Douglas DC-3A from Washington, D.C. to Detroit with a stopover in Pittsburgh. They were over Lovettsville, Virginia and flying through a severe thunderstorm. They were flying at 6,000 feet. Aboard the plane was Senator Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota. Several witnesses noted a large flash of lightning immediately prior to the plane nosing over and plunging into an alfalfa field. The four crew members and 21 passengers were all killed.

There were limited investigation tools available in 1940. It was assumed the cause of the accident was wind shear. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigated the crash and noted the probable cause was a lightning strike. This was the first time CAB was called into action. Although the US had taken an early lead in aviation, they lost the competitive edge to Europe early on. After entering World War I, the government helped to expand and very limited aviation manufacturing industry. The government supported air mail usage and hoped it would be a model for commercial industries. Early flight was rife with accidents, some due to daredevil behavior and some due to the vagaries of flight itself. By the 1920s, US government officials began to think about some regulation of the industry in order to increase public confidence. The Air Commerce Act became law on May 20, 1926.

This Act created the Aeronautic Branch of the US Department of Commerce and its name was change to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1934. They began to take over issues with air traffic control. A new law in 1938 brought the CAB into existence under the Civil Aeronautics Authority. They were now responsible for studying the causes of a crash which would hopefully decrease the incidences as new information could help mitigate further misadventures. As flight technology progressed and jets became the norm, another law was passed and the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 produced the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). Also created that year was NASA.

With the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, more changes came along in three phases. The CAB was eliminated in 1984. As the new millennium began, the FAA was facing many challenges. While airline accidents are rare in statistical form, there was a need for greater safety. The volume of flights stressed the system but showed a popularity of the travel method. The September 11, 2001 attacks brought about another safety issue and a new Aviation and Transportation Security Act was passed in response. Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is tasked with making air travel as well as other transportation modes safe against criminal activity.

Air travel is the safest form of travel aside from walking; even then, the chances of being hit by a public bus at 30,000 feet are remarkably slim. I also have no problem with confined spaces. Or heights. What I am afraid of is speed. – Sloane Crosley

The whole infrastructure of air travel was, and is, part of government policy. It is not a natural development of a free economic system – at least not in the way that is claimed. The same is true of the roads, of course.  – Noam Chomsky

Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal: providing safe and efficient air travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day. – Janet Napolitano

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase

Also on this day: Who Was He? – In 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was brutally murdered.
Try This – In 1900, Coke was first sold in England.
Fairy Tale’s End – In 1997, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash.
Go West – In 1803, Meriwether Lewis began his great Expedition when he left Pittsburgh.

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