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“It was a trauma and a great loss.”

January 31 1957 - Eight people on the ground in Pacoima, California are killed following the mid-air collision between a Douglas DC-7 airliner and a Northrop F-89 Scorpion fighter jet.

Pacoima Junior High School after the Crash

On the 31st January 1957, on the final functional test flight of the new airliner Douglas DC-7B (N8210H) aircraft before it was delivered to Continental Airlines and Northrop F-89D Scorpion on a similar test flight took off. Both performed their individual tests at an altitude of 25,000 feet in clear skies over the San Fernando Valley when a high-speed, near head on midair collision occurred.

Douglas DC-7B: American Airlines

The Douglas DC-7B was a variant of DC-7, an airliner/transport aircraft. The DC-7 and DC-7B was identical except for the increased fuel capacity in extended engine nacelles that extended the flight range of the later variant.

Northrop F-89D Scorpion

The Northrop F-89 Scorpion was a jet powered all weather interceptors. Its variant F-89D was the main production version with removed cannon and new Hughes E-6 fire control system with AN/APG-40 radar and an AN/APA-84 computer.

The midair collision results to the loss of all the Douglas DC-7B crew, 1 of 2 occupants of F-89D, and 3 junior high school students on the ground. The Douglas DC-7B crews are the pilot William Carr, 36; co-pilot Archie R. Twitchell, 50, a veteran flier and a part-time actor and appeared in over 70 films which include “I Wanted Wings” and “Among the Living”; the flight engineer Waldo B. Adams, 42; and the radio operator Roy Nakazama, 29. And the three dead boys are Ronnie Brann, Bob Zallan, and Evan Elsner.

The probable cause of the crash was said to be the high rate of near head on closure at high altitude, together with physiological limitations that resulted in a minimum avoidance opportunity during which the pilots didn’t see each other’s aircraft.

The midair collision and the outrage over the deaths led to the construction of a hospital in Pacoima and a ban on military operations over the Valley.


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