National Airlines Flight 2511 Crashes, Killing 34

The DC-6 was one of two aircraft substituted for a Boeing 707 which had incurred mechanical difficulty.

En route to Miami the aircraft disintegrated in flight. Portions of the wreckage fell near Kura Beach and the major wreckage fell about 13 miles West of Kure Beach. It appeared that a dynamite explosion had occurred which was detonated by means of dry cell batteries. The explosion occurred near the right of seat row 7.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The accident was caused by the detonation of dynamite within the passenger cabin."

The 105 passengers with tickets on National Airlines 707 jet flight to Miami waited impatiently at New York's Idlewild Airport one night last week. Scheduled departure was 9:15 p.m., but the ground crew reported a cracked windshield on the Boeing 707, and National had to substitute two other planes—a turboprop Lockheed Electra and a conventional Douglas DC-6B. First come, first served, 76 passengers went aboard the Electra, and the plane roared off for Miami at 11:25, arrived safely about 3½ hours later. At 11:51 p.m. the remaining 29 passengers and a crew of five took off in the DC-6B. Less than three hours later they were dead.

As airline and Civil Aeronautics Board investigators pieced things together, the DC-6B had just started a 550-mile over-water leg between Wilmington, N.C. and Miami at the assigned altitude of 18,000 ft. when the plane began to disintegrate.

Fifty years ago Wednesday, an explosion ripped a hole in the side of National Air Lines Flight 2511 and sent the crippled DC-6 airliner plummeting into a farmer's field outside the Brunswick County town of Bolivia.

Parts of the plane were found as far away as Fort Fisher.

One of the worst air disasters in Southeastern North Carolina history, the crash claimed 34 lives.

"It was a gruesome sight," recalled Clarence "Lucky" Swartz, a retired State Highway Patrol officer who was on the scene.

In fact, it could have been worse. Federal investigators determined that a dynamite bomb felled NAL 2511 on the morning of Jan. 6, 1960. The case remains technically open, though, and much about it remains a mystery.

National Airlines Flight 2511, registration N8225H, was a Douglas DC-6B aircraft which exploded over Bolivia, North Carolina en route from New York International (Idlewild) Airport, New York City, New York, to Miami, Florida on January 6, 1960. All 34 on board were killed in the accident.

The aircraft had been called into service on short notice when the normal aircraft used for the evening flight to Miami, a Boeing 707 jet identified as Flight 601, was grounded due to a cracked window. Most of the passengers who were to have flown on Flight 601 boarded a Lockheed Electra, registration N5003K; those who could not be accommodated on the Electra were boarded on Flight 2511.