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On This Day in 1963, Pan Am Flight 214 Explodes Due to Lightning

8 Dec 2016, 1:42 pm

On this day in 1963, Pan American World Airways flight, a Boeing 707 exploded near Elkton, Maryland. The flight was scheduled from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Baltimore, Mayland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On December 8th, 1963, the flight departed Isla Verde International Airport at 4:10 p.m. EST, with 69 passengers on board. It landed as scheduled at Baltimore’s Friendship Airport, which is now called Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

At 8:24 p.m., the flight departed for Philadelphia with 73 passengers and 8 crew members on board. High winds in the area caused the flight to wait in a holding pattern, along with five other airplanes.

At 8:58 p.m., while in the holding pattern, the aircraft exploded. The crew managed to transmit a final message, “Mayday, mayday, mayday … Clipper 214 out of control … here we go,” before crashing near Elkton, Maryland. All 81 people on board were killed

Lightning is believed to have caused the explosion of residual fuel vapor in one of the outboard wing tanks as the plane passed through a vicious, out-of-season thunderstorm.

In response to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s findings, the Federal Aviation Administration asked operators to install lightning discharge wicks (or static dischargers) on all commercial jets flying in US airspace.

The accident is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (2005) as the “Worst Lightning Strike Death Toll.” It remains the deadliest airplane crash in Maryland state history.

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