National Airlines Flight 101

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National Airlines Flight 101
DC-6NationalMay52 (4479496227).jpg
A National Airlines DC-6 similar to the accident aircraft
Date 11 February 1952 (1952-02-11)
Summary Propeller failure, pilot error; aircraft destroyed
Site Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
40°40′46″N 74°13′05″W / 40.679369°N 74.218083°W / 40.679369; -74.218083Coordinates: 40°40′46″N 74°13′05″W / 40.679369°N 74.218083°W / 40.679369; -74.218083
Aircraft type Douglas DC-6
Operator National Airlines
Registration N90891
Flight origin Newark Airport, New Jersey
Destination Miami, Florida
Passengers 59
Crew 4
Fatalities 33 (4 on the ground)
Survivors 34

National Airlines Flight 101 was a scheduled flight from Newark Airport, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida, that on 11 February 1952 crashed in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, shortly after take-off.[1] It was the third plane crash occurring in Elizabeth in less than two months, following the loss of a Miami Airlines C-46 in December and the crash of an American Airlines Convair 240, three weeks earlier.


The aircraft, a four-engined, propeller-driven Douglas DC-6, had departed from Newark Airport's runway 24 at 00:18 EST and was observed by personnel in the control tower suddenly losing altitude, while veering to the right. Two minutes later, the plane clipped an apartment building in Elizabeth, setting it on fire; it then crashed to the ground and burst into flames, narrowly missing an orphanage.[2]

Of the 63 people on board (59 passengers and 4 crew members), 29 perished, while most of the survivors were injured, many seriously. Four residents in the apartment building were also killed. Among the passengers was actress Mildred Joanne Smith, who suffered severe injuries, including a broken back.


The official investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Board concluded that a failure in the propeller governor of engine No. 3 caused the propeller to go into reverse during climb-out. The engine was left running at high power, while engine No. 4 was mistakenly feathered. Under such conditions, the aircraft was no longer able to maintain altitude and descended into the ground.[2]

In the wake of this third accident in Elizabeth, mounting public concern led to a lengthy closure of Newark Airport and to a nationwide review of the safety of airport operations. The airport reopened only nine months later, on 15 November 1952, after the investigations into the crashes determined that the airport facilities were not at fault.[3]

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


  1. ^ "Douglas DC-6 N90891 Newark International Airport, NJ". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Nyrop; Ryan; Adams; Gurney (16 May 1952). National Airlines Inc, Elizabeth, New Jersey, February 11,1952. Civil Aeronautics Board. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Crash From The Past". NJ Today. CMD Media. 16 Dec 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
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