Chicago, IL O'Hare Airport Jet Crash, Sept 1961


'No Control' Was Pilot's Last Message Before Fatal Plunge.

CHICAGO (AP) -- "No control!" These frantic last words from a plunging Northwest Airlines Electra provided a major clue for investigators seeking the cause of a crash Sunday that took 37 lives.
Thirty-two passengers- including a mother and her four young children - and the crew of five died as the Florida-Bound flight ended in a muddy field southwest of O'Hare International Airport within a minute after take-off. There were no survivors.
The Electra crash was the second major air disaster in the Chicago area this month. On Sept. 1, a Trans-World Airlines Constellation crashed near suburban Clarendon Hills minutes after its departure from Midway Airport. Seventy-eight persons died in that accident.
The final words from the Northwest plane --"no control" -- as it spun to earth from a height estimated variously at 200 to 300 feet were recorded at the O'Hare control tower. Other words from the pilot or co-pilot of the doomed plane were lost in an overlay from another pilot calling the control tower.

ATTEMPTS will be made to separate the messages on the record.
"We are going to have the tape examined by the finest analysts in the country," said NAJEEB HALABY, Federal Aviation Agency administration, who flew from Washington to direct the investigation.
ALLAN S. BOYD, chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, said that "so far as we know, there were no malfunctions" in the Electra before it crashed. HALABY said: "There is no reason to believe there was any explosion within the aircraft that would be the result of a bomb or sabotage."

THE NORTHWEST AIRLINES flight originated in Milwaukee, Wis. It was bound for Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Fla., with a stop at Chicago where it took on 24 passengers. Eight had boarded the plane in Milwaukee.
At 8:56 a. m. (EST) the big ship took off in perfect weather. A minute later it had crashed disintegrated and burned.
ALFRED M. COUTU, 35, a disabled Korean War veteran and factory worker from Waukegan, Ill., saw the tragic crash which killed his wife and four children.
COUTU escorted his wife, JOYCE, 29, and their children, three boys and a girl, all under five, aboard the plane for a flight to Tampa to visit MRS. COUTU'S parents. COUTU then went to the observation deck to watch the take-off. From there he witnessed the crash.

FEDERAL aviation officials after a cursory examination of wreckage and witnesses accounts said the plane probably did not crash because of engine failure, an obvious structural fault or sabotage.
Witnesses said the prop-jet Electra reached an altitude of several hundred feet, then faltered and appeared to lose power. Its right wing dipped almost vertically as it made a right turn, plunging toward the ground. The plane cut through high tension wires, hit a 35-foot high railroad embankment, bounced into the air, then crashed into a pumpkin field just west of the airport.
Of the 32 passengers, 14 were women, 5 children and 13 men. The crew included a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and two stewardesses.

The Hammond Times Indiana 1961-09-18

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