Accident Boeing 707-121 N709PA, Sunday 8 December 1963
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Date:Sunday 8 December 1963
Type:Silhouette image of generic B701 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Boeing 707-121
Owner/operator:Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)
Registration: N709PA
MSN: 17588/3
Year of manufacture:1958
Total airframe hrs:15609 hours
Engine model:Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6
Fatalities:Fatalities: 81 / Occupants: 81
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed, written off
Location:Elkton, MD -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Baltimore/Washington International Airport, MD (BWI/KBWI)
Destination airport:Philadelphia International Airport, PA (PHL/KPHL)
Investigating agency: CAB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Pan American Flight 214 departed San Juan, Puerto Rico at 16:10 EST for a flight to Philadelphia with an intermediate stop at Baltimore. The aircraft, named 'Clipper Tradewind' arrived at Baltimore at 19:35 and took off again after refueling at 20:24. After contacting Philadelphia Approach Control the crew elected to wait in a holding pattern along with 5 other aircraft because of extreme winds at Philadelphia. Flight 214 entered a holding pattern west of the New Castle VOR on the 270 radial.
At 20:58 the airplane suffered a lightning strike. This caused the initial ignition of flammable fuel vapours inside the left reserve fuel tank. This triggered explosions in the centre and right reserve fuel tanks as well. Fuel spilled and caught fire; the complete left wingtip separated as a result. The aircraft was then seen to crash in flames. A 'Mayday' call was received by Philadelphia Approach as the plane was descending out of control.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Lightning-induced ignition of the fuel/air mixture in the no. 1 reserve fuel tank with resultant explosive disintegration of the left outer wing and loss of control."

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: CAB
Report number: Final report
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 2 months
Download report: Final report


ICAO Accident Digest No.15 - Volume II, Circular 78-AN/66 (121-133)

History of this aircraft

Other occurrences involving this aircraft

25 February 1959 N709PA Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) 0 over Chartres sub


  • 4th worst accident in 1963
  • 3rd worst accident of this aircraft type
  • 2nd worst accident of this aircraft type at the time



photo (c) John Ryan; unknown

photo (c) Georges Cozzika; Paris-Le Bourget Airport (LBG/LFPB); 1958

photo (c) Bob Jenner Hobbs; London-Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL)

Revision history:


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