American Airlines Flight 6780

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

American Airlines Flight 6780
Convair CV-240, American Airlines JP7312361.jpg
An American Airlines CV-240 similar to the accident aircraft
DateJanuary 22, 1952
SummaryCFIT on approach for reasons unknown
SiteElizabeth, 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
Total fatalities30
Aircraft typeConvair CV-240-0
Aircraft nameFlagship Baltimore
OperatorAmerican Airlines
Flight originBuffalo Municipal Airport
1st stopoverRochester Municipal Airport
Last stopoverHancock Airport
DestinationNewark International Airport
Ground casualties
Ground fatalities7

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.


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.[10]


  1. ^ "FAA Registry (N94229)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. ^ [1] Archived June 13, 2015, at the Wayback Machine 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 March 14, 1952 p.305
  8. ^ "The Doolittle Report" Flight July 11, 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)
  10. ^ Hyman, Vicki (December 15, 2014). "Judy Blume's upcoming adult novel tackles real-life plane crashes in 1950s Elizabeth". Retrieved December 17, 2019.