1956 Grand Canyon Collision: The Creation of the FAA

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Jeorge Marquet
March 31, 2012

1956 Grand Canyon Collision: The Creation of the FAA

In today’s world, flying is generally an extraordinarily safe experience. Within the last five years, only one fatal plane crash has occurred. This is an impressive record considering that more than 87,000 flights can be found in United States airspace on any given day (NATCA). However, air safety has not always been as advanced as it is currently. Past accidents and collisions have triggered crucial safety improvements over the years. The 1956 plane crash over the Grand Canyon was a major catalyst for change as it caused the creation the Federal Aviation Agency. The sky was clear on the morning of June 30, 1956 when two planes, the TWA Super Constellation and the United DC-7, departed Los Angeles International Airport within three minutes of each other. Both aircrafts had “been flying in uncontrolled airspace, under visual flight rules without the guidance of any air traffic controllers, radar or even official flight plans” (Chang). Both pilots had requested to fly in undesignated airspace thus taking responsibility for the safety of themselves and those on board. Ninety minutes after leaving the airport in LA, in an effort to give their passengers a better view of the Grand Canyon scenery, the DC-7’s left wing and propellers ripped into the Connie’s tail. The air carriers “drew slowly together in perfect visibility, being apparently within visual range of one another for many minutes; but the TWA DC-7 was below and in front of the United Constellation, and neither pilot could see the other aircraft…there were no survivors”(Machol). The crash killed all 128 occupants aboard the two planes. And, since the crash occurred while the pilots were flying under visual flight rules in uncongested airspace, the “accident dramatized the fact that, even though United State’s air traffic had more than doubled since the end of World War II, little had been done to mitigate the risk...
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