United Airlines Flight 608 Crash

The engines, scorched and twisted, were thrown 200 to 300 feet beyond the burned area, while a piece of the tail - 18 to 30 feet long - was the largest part of the craft remaining.

The bodies, burned and unrecognizable for the most part, were horribly torn apart. Two infants and 21 or more women were among the victims, one of the women was an expectant mother. The mutilated remains were flung across the 7,300-foot plateau or blown into the 200-foot deep canyon just behind the impact point. All bodies were left at the scene until this morning, with guards posted to protect them from coyotes.

As the aircraft descended, pieces of the plane, including portions of the right wing started to fall off. At 12:27 PM, the last radio transmission was heard from the plane: "We may make it - approaching a strip." United Flight 608 had passed over the crest of a tall plateau and was about a mile from the approach end of the runway at Bryce Canyon when the nose of the plane suddenly pitched over. Unable to counteract the loss of control, the aircraft impacted with such force that all four engines were ripped from their mounts and thrown 300 feet beyond the fireball. The airliner crashed onto National Park Service land, killing all 52 passengers and crew on board.

It was broad, bright daylight—no time for alarm, let alone tragedy. Yet radio receivers in United Air Lines offices at Salt Lake City, Denver and San Francisco crackled out a message pregnant with fear: "United 608 sending blind [i.e., calling any station because of emergency]. We have baggage afire aboard this airplane. We are going into Bryce. Don't know if the fire is out yet. We have a smoke-filled airplane."

The procedures developed as a result of this disaster make this crash historically important. It was the first time a plane was reconstructed from its wreckage to help determine the cause of the crash. This is now a standard procedure.

Wreckage was loaded onto trucks and moved to Douglas Aircraft Company in California where the plane was reassembled.

As a result of the disaster the entire fleet of 80 Douglas DC-6 aircraft, including the U.S. President's aircraft (which was a sister ship), were ordered grounded and recalled. Design changes that were made thereafter still stand today.

United flight 608 is now operated on Chicago (ORD) to Washington D.C (DCA) route.