Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 831
|Date||November 29, 1963|
|Summary||Unknown for sure; possible systems failure|
|Site||Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville, Quebec, Canada
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-8-54CF Jet Trader1|
|Operator||Trans-Canada Air Lines|
|Destination||Toronto International Airport|
Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) Flight 831 was a flight from Montreal-Dorval Airport (now Montréal/Trudeau) to Toronto International Airport (now Toronto-Pearson) on November 29, 1963. The aircraft was a four-engine Douglas DC-8-54CF airliner, registered CF-TJN. About five minutes after takeoff in poor weather, the jet crashed about 20 miles (32 km) north of Montreal, near Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville, Quebec, Canada, killing all 118 people on board: 111 passengers and 7 crew members.2 The crash was the deadliest in Canadian history at that time, and is still the third-deadliest behind Swissair Flight 111 and Arrow Air Flight 1285.3 It was also the worst crash of DC-8 at the time, and is currently the sixth worst.
At 6:28 P.M., the DC-8 began its takeoff roll on runway 06. The crew reported back when they reached 3,000 feet (910 m) and were given clearance for a left turn. It was shortly after the clearance was given that the aircraft deviated from its expected flight path, and began a quick descent. At about 6:33 P.M. the jet struck the ground at an estimated 470–485 knots (870–898 km/h) while descending at about a 55-degree angle (± 7 degrees).3
The aircraft had plunged into a soggy field, about 100 metres from the main highway leading to the Laurentian Mountains. One witness said she had seen what looked like "a long red streak in the sky" just before the crash.4 The red-trimmed, silver jet dug a crater 6 feet (1.8 m) deep and 150 feet (46 m) wide in the ground that soon began to fill with rainwater.5 Rescue parties were hampered by deep mud around the wreckage, and by a fuel-fed fire that lasted for hours despite heavy rain.5 Although parts of the plane were scattered over a wide area, the craft broke into two main sections when it struck the ground. The site of the crash was a flat field away from houses in the town of 12,000 people. The main sections of the wreckage lay about halfway between Highway 11, now Quebec Route 117, and the Laurentian Autoroute (aka Highway 15 in English).
The plane was too badly damaged to determine a definite cause. The official report released in 1965 pointed to problems in the jet's pitch trim system (the device that maintains a set nose-up or -down attitude) as a possibility, since a pitch trim problem caused the similar crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 304, another DC-8, three months later in 1964.6 Other possible causes were put forward that could not be ruled out: 1) Icing of the pitot system; and 2) Failure of the vertical gyro.3
76 victims were from the Metropolitan Toronto-area, while only three victims were foreign nationals: two from the United States of America, and one from India.4 A TCA official was quoted as saying that "the bodies were so badly smashed that identification was virtually hopeless."4 The plane's flight crew included World War II bomber pilot Captain John (Jack) D. Snider, 47 years old, the pilot, of Toronto; First Officer Harry J. Dyck, 35, of Leamington, Ontario; and Second Officer Edward D. Baxter, 29, of Toronto.4
Police officers Sergeant John Bassett and Detective Kenneth Evans, and Donald Turnbull, son of inventor Wallace Rupert Turnbull.7 Also killed was Charles Stone of Montreal, a former co-owner of the Canadian Football League's (CFL) Montreal Alouettes; his death occurred during the CFL's Grey Cup week in Vancouver.4 The casualty count could have been higher. Traffic congestion on Montreal's main expressway caused 12 people to miss this flight.8 The traffic congestion, which extended all the way into the downtown core, also delayed emergency vehicles from getting to the crash-site.8
Among those on the flight were Donald Hudson and John Langdon, both from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Hudson was a television producer for Toronto, and Langdon, a London native, was Assistant Director of TV Operations in Toronto. They had been in Montreal preparing a bilingual television variety show called “A Show for Two Cities”. As a consequence, the CBC public affairs series “This Hour has Seven Days” began filming the aftermath, and the investigations into the crash. In November 1965 they broadcast their hour-long documentary.9 It was watched by over 2 million Canadians but appears that families directly affected avoided it, not wanting to revisit their tragedy.10
TCA, the predecessor to Air Canada, created a memorial garden near the site of the crash. The memorial is located at the Cimetière de Sainte-Thérèse.11 The crash site is now within a residential neighborhood.12
Though it is customary for airlines to retire a flight number after a major incident, Air Canada continues to use flight number 831 for the same route. Flight 831 originates in Geneva and terminates in Toronto with a stopover in Montreal.13
- "http://www.airliners.net/photo/Trans-Canada-Air-Lines/Douglas-DC-8-54CF-Jet/0069896/&sid=53daea8a2d0417812d53f07d2dd7208c". Airliners.net. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- SOS! Canadian Disasters, a virtual museum exhibition at Library and Archives Canada
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network for Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 831
- Bryant, George (1963-11-30). "Montreal TCA Crash Kills 118: 76 Victims From Metro Area". The Toronto Daily Star (Toronto). pp. 1–2.
- "Canada: Crater in the Field". Time. December 6, 1963. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network for Eastern Air Lines Flight 304
- "118 Killed as TCA Jet Crashes Near Dorval". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 1963-11-30. p. A1.
- UPI (1963-11-30). "Traffic snarl made 8 miss death flight". The Toronto Daily Star (Toronto). p. 5.
- James Carney, “At the Moment of Impact”, This Hour Has Seven Days, 7 November 1965, Canadian Broadcasting Coroporation
- Ernest J. Dick, “Our Search for Memory: Flight 831 – Ste-Therese, Quebec, November 29, 1963” DVD (2009)
- (French) Cimetière de Sainte-Thérèse at Wikimapia (English translation via Google Translate)
- Present-day aerial view of crash site at Wikimapia
- "Air Canada (AC) #831 Flight Tracker". Live Flight Tracker. Houston: FlightAware. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-29. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Photo of CF-TJN at airliners.net, taken a few months before the crash.
- Newsreel footage at British Pathe (requires Adobe Flash)
- List of victims
- (French) Period TV coverage (WMP) - Includes aerial views of the crash site and a look at the accident reconstruction.
- (French) 40th anniversary TV coverage (WMP)
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