Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 Crashes

Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 was a Lockheed Constellation L-049 four-engine propliner, registration N2737A, chartered by the United States Army to transport new recruits to Columbia, South Carolina, for training.

On November 8, 1961, at 21:24 Eastern Time Zone (EST), the aircraft crashed as it attempted to land at Byrd Field, near Richmond, Virginia. While there were no apparent impact-related injuries, all seventy four passengers and three crew members died as a result of carbon monoxide asphyxiation in the ensuing fire and smoke. Two crew members—the captain and flight engineer—survived after escaping the burning wreckage. This was the second deadliest accident in American history for a single civilian aircraft.

As the flight approached the airport for an intended landing on runway 33, the captain (who was acting as co-pilot), without warning to the pilot-in-command, turned the aircraft to attempt a runway 02 landing and selected the gear down. When the landing gear didn't extend because of mismanagement of the hydraulic system under the existing conditions, a go-around was attempted with only the no. 1 and 2 engines operating. During the poorly executed go-around the no. 1 engine failed as a result of overboosting. In an attempt to reach runway 33 the aircraft crashed and burned half a mile to the left of the extended runway centerline and one mile short of the runway threshold.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The lack of command coordination and decision, lack of judgement, and lack of knowledge of the equipment resulting in loss of power in three engines creating an emergency situation which the crew could not handle."

The No. 3 and No. 4 engines were out, and the No. 1 engine was beginning to lose power. Coming in for an emergency landing, the pilot discovered that the nose wheel was not locked down into place. He pulled up the laboring Constellation, began to circle for another approach—and smashed into a swampy wood outside Richmond, Va. The crash and fire last week killed 74 Army recruits who were being flown to Fort Jackson, S.C., and touched off bitter criticism of the Army's system of transporting troops.

On November 8, 1961, at 2124 e.s.t., an Imperial Airlines, Lockheed L-049, crashed and burned during an attempted landing at Byrd Field, Richmond, Virginia. Seventy-four passengers and three flight crew members died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Two members of the flight crew escaped from the burning
wreckage. The aircraft was totally destroyed.

The flight was en route from Baltimore, Maryland, to Columbia, South Carolina, when in the vicinity of Richmond the crew as a result of fuel mismanagement allowed the Nos. 3 and 4 engines to run the No. 4 fuel tank dry. When they were unable to restart the two engines, they feathered the propellers and elected to land at
Richmond. As the flight approached the airport for its intended landing on runway 33, Capital Greenlee, who was acting as copilot, without warning to the captain in command, turned the aircraft to attempt a landing on runway 02 and put the landing gear selector in the down position.