Airplane Crackup, Worst Crash In History, Kills Senator Lundeen – LIFE Magazine (1940)

LIFE Magazine, September 16, 1940:

“AIRPLANE CRACK-UP, WORST CRASH IN HISTORY, KILLS SENATOR LUNDEEN”

The news U.S. air-transport men have been dreading finally came in August 31, 1940.  That afternoon a Pennsylvania Central Airlines DC-3 transport dived full speed into a field near Lovettsville, Virginia.  Its 22 passengers, two pilots and stewardess were all killed.  It was the first fatal airline accident in 17 months and the worst in all U.S. airline history.

Pennsylvania Central flies between Norfolk, Virginia and Milwaukee.  It had never had a fatal crack-up in 13 years of operation. On August 31 [1940] the weather was stormy.  The doomed plane reported all well at 2:31 p.m., then headed into a squall.  At 2:41 it crashed at top speed into a field of alfalfa, ricocheted 50 yards into a cornfield.  There it disintegrated completely.  Its wings flew off.  Its cabin split like a dried pod.  Its engines burst from their nacelles.  The bodies of a passenger and the stewardess were flung 1,500 feet from the crash.

From what little was left of the plane it was hard to tell what had happened.  The pilot had his engines wide open.  The plane was in a 45 degree dive.  The Senate threatened an investigation, for on the plane was Ernest Linden of Minnesota, the second U.S. Senator to be killed in an airline crash within five years.

(Many thanks to Judy Virts-Beard Fox, Lovettsville Historical Society Board member, for donating this copy of LIFE Magazine to the LHS Museum.)

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