American Airlines Flight 6780

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American Airlines Flight 6780
Convair CV-240, American Airlines JP7312361.jpg
An American Airlines CV-240 similar to the accident aircraft
Date January 22, 1952
Summary CFIT on approach for reasons unknown
Site Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
40°39′28″N 74°12′52″W / 40.6579°N 74.2144°W / 40.6579; -74.2144Coordinates: 40°39′28″N 74°12′52″W / 40.6579°N 74.2144°W / 40.6579; -74.2144
Aircraft type Convair CV-240-0
Operator American Airlines
Registration N94229[1]
Flight origin Buffalo Municipal Airport
1st stopover Rochester Municipal Airport
Last stopover Hancock Airport
Destination Newark International Airport
Passengers 20
Crew 3
Fatalities 30 (including 7 on the ground)
Survivors 0

American Airlines Flight 6780, the first fatal crash of a Convair 240, occurred on January 22, 1952.[2][3]

The twin-propeller aircraft was on the routing Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Newark. On final approach to runway 6 at Newark Airport using the instrument landing system, it crashed at 3:45 p.m. into a house at the intersection of Williamson and South Streets, in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southeast of Newark. The cause of the crash was never determined.

The plane, which had gone 2,100 feet (640 m) off course to the right, narrowly missed hitting the Battin High School for girls, which had dismissed for the day only 45 minutes before.


All 23 occupants on board (20 passengers and 3 crew), plus 7 people on the ground, were killed in the crash and ensuing fire.

The Captain, Thomas J. Reid, whose home was only blocks from the crash scene, had recently returned from an airlift to Japan; his wife heard the crash and told reporters that they had been planning to move to a house they had constructed in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.[4]

Among the passengers was Robert P. Patterson, a jurist and former Undersecretary of War under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former War Secretary under Harry S. Truman. Patterson was returning from meeting Thomas J. Watson of IBM, who had just hired him for a new case on the previous day.[5] Patterson had finished a federal case in Buffalo earlier than expected the day before, and changed his rail ticket in for the aircraft seat, according to the Jan. 23 edition of the Deseret News. Also on board were former war correspondent John F. Chester and US Civil Aeronautics Administration officials George T. Williams and John D. Rice, both engaged in the development of airport radar systems and navigational aids.

One of those killed on the ground was a seven-year-old girl, Donna Mandel. Her then two-year-old sister Linda was severely burned. A third sister, Judy Mandel, who was born after the crash, wrote a memoir about the crash and its effects on her family and identity, Replacement Child.


This was the second in a string of three crashes to hit the town of Elizabeth in less than two months. On December 16, 1951 a Miami Airlines C-46 had crashed into the Elizabeth River shortly after take-off, with 56 people on board and no survivors.

The third crash, National Airlines Flight 101, on February 11, 1952, killed 29 of the 63 people on board and narrowly missed an orphanage. Following a public outcry, Newark Airport was immediately closed by the Port of New York Authority and remained so for nine months, until November 15.[6] The State of New York passed a bill requiring operators to approach airports over water wherever possible.[7]

President Harry Truman launched a temporary commission of inquiry, headed by Jimmy Doolittle, to study the effects of airports on their neighbors. The report recommended the establishment of effective zoning laws to prevent the erection of schools, hospitals and other places of assembly under final approach paths.[8][9]

The three crashes later provided the inspiration to writer and Elizabeth resident Judy Blume for her 2015 novel In the Unlikely Event.


  1. ^ "FAA Registry (N94229)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. ^ [1] Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Report
  3. ^ "Convair CV-240" ASN Aviation Safety Database
  4. ^ Staff. "Plane Falls in Elizabeth, 31 Die, 8 of them in 3 homes set on fire; Ex-Secretary Patterson a Victim; All Aboard Perish; Craft From Buffalo Was on a Radar Approach to Newark Airport; Buildings Burn Quickly 'Gas' Tanks Explode on Impact -- Pilot's Wife Hears Crash in Her Home, Near Scene; Searching For Victims After Convair Struck Dwellings in Jersey Plane Crash Kills 31 In Elizabeth", The New York Times, January 23, 1952. Accessed February 24, 2009.
  5. ^ Thomas J. Watson, Peter Petre. Father, Son & Co: My Life at IBM and Beyond 2nd ed. Bantam Books (1991) p.233 ISBN 0-553-29023-1
  6. ^ Jean-Rae Turner, Richard T. Koles "Elizabeth: First Capital of New Jersey" pp. 128-129 Arcadia Publishing (2003) ISBN 978-0-7385-2393-4
  7. ^ "Airport Moats Needed?" Flight 14 March 1952 p.305
  8. ^ "The Doolittle Report" Flight 11 July 1952 pp.53-54
  9. ^ J. H. Doolittle, et al., "The Airport and its Neighbors", The Report of the President's Airport Commission. May 16, 1952. LCCN 52061225 (recommendation 5)


  • "Plane Crash" The Herald-Press, January 23, 1952. St. Joseph, Michigan. pp. 1, 6
  • "Airliner Crash Deaths Reach 28" The Deseret News January 23, 1952. pp. 1,2
  • "Patterson called Great American by Truman" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 23, 1952 pp. 1,3
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