Physics Strikes Back: The crashes of Braniff flight 542 and Northwest Orient flight 710

This artist’s impression of Northwest orient Airlines flight 710’s in-flight breakup appeared on the cover of certain editions of Robert J. Serling’s 1963 book “The Electra Story.”
United Airlines was the first US carrier to order the Vickers Viscount, the first turboprop airliner. (Mach 2 Aircraft Models)
A brand new Lockheed Electra flying for American Airlines. (Smithsonian)
A local newspaper in Massachusetts breaks the news of the American Airlines crash in February 1959. (Timothy Hughes Rare Newspapers)
N9707C, the sister ship of N9705C, the Braniff aircraft involved in the accident. Because N9705C was in service so briefly, no known photos of it exist. N9707C was itself lost in a crash along with 85 lives in 1968. (Mel Lawrence)
An actual photo of the flight engineer’s log, recovered from the wreckage of flight 542, as it appeared in Macarthur Job’s “Air Disasters: Volume 4.” The original photo was released by the CAB.
A map of flight 542’s flight path, as rendered by Aero Illustrations for Macarthur Job’s “Air Disasters: Volume 4.”
: This was the only photograph I could find which could be positively identified as showing the wreckage of flight 542. (Bettmann)
The front page of the CAB’s final report. (CAB)
N121US, the Northwest aircraft involved in the accident. (Leo J. Kohn)
This artist’s impression of flight 710’s in-flight breakup appeared on the cover of certain editions of Robert J. Serling’s 1963 book “The Electra Story.” Note that it used the wrong livery!
Most of the wreckage was ripped to shreds and buried in this muddy crater. (World Wide Photos, published in Macarthur Job’s “Air Disaster: Volume 4”)
Flight 710’s severed right wing. (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)
A mathematical depiction of resonance. (Wikimedia user MasterHD)
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed due to aeroelastic flutter of the bridge deck. (US Department of Transportation)
Another view of the right wing of flight 710. (Original photo by UPI, published in Macarthur Job’s “Air Disaster: Volume 4”)
The best diagram I could find of the extremely counterintuitive phenomenon known as gyroscopic precession. (FAA)
Damped vs. undamped whirl mode. (Own work)
In this NASA demonstration video, a researcher induces whirl mode in a propeller with weak mounting points. Later on, the video shows that by decreasing the speed of the oncoming air in the wind tunnel, the amplitude of the wobbles was reduced and the whirl mode was eventually damped.
The results of NASA’s highly successful attempt to replicate the sequence of events that brought down the two flights. (NASA)
Flight 710’s right main landing gear came to rest near the wing. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
A fire continued to burn in underground beneath flight 710’s impact crater for several days after the crash. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Some of the changes which were made to the Electra’s design after the crashes. (Original images by Lockheed, published in Macarthur Job’s “Air Disasters: Volume 4”)
A diagram of the wing stiffness improvements. (Original images by Lockheed, published in Macarthur Job’s “Air Disasters: Volume 4”)
American Airlines conducted Electra sightseeing flights to try to improve the aircraft’s public reputation. During these flights, these Electra models were given away to children who could guess the airplane’s present speed and altitude. The models normally cost $1.00. (Worthpoint)
NOAA uses heavily modified P-3 Orions to penetrate hurricanes. (Seeker)
A memorial to the victims of Northwest Orient flight 710 now stands near the crash site in southern Indiana. (Sarah Ewart)

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Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.

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Admiral Cloudberg

Admiral Cloudberg

8.9K Followers

Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.