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Last updated: 3 December 2021
Status:
Date:Friday 30 October 1959
Time:20:40
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas C-47A-90-DL (DC-3)
Operator:Piedmont Airlines
Registration: N55V
MSN: 20447
First flight: 1944
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 23 / Occupants: 24
Total:Fatalities: 26 / Occupants: 27
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Bucks Elbow Mountain, VA (   United States of America)
Crash site elevation: 792 m (2598 feet) amsl
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Washington-National Airport, DC (DCA/KDCA), United States of America
Destination airport:Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, VA (CHO/KCHO), United States of America
Flightnumber: 349
Narrative:
Piedmont Airlines flight 349 was a scheduled service from Washington-National Airport, DC to Roanoke, Virginia, with intermediate stops at Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Virginia.
The DC-3 departed Washington-National Airport at 19:49 hours local time. The flight was according to an instrument flight plan and clearance which specified a routing over airway V-140 and a cruising altitude of 4000 feet. The aircraft flew a heading of 260° on airway V-140, but did not turn left to 239° over the Casanova VOR to continue on the airway. Instead it remained on the same heading.
It began the instrument approach to Charlottesville 8 to 11 miles west of the manoeuvring area prescribed by the instrument approach procedure. During the inbound portion of the procedure turn the aircraft struck the rocky slope of a 3100 feet mountain at an elevation of about 2600 feet.

The investigators learned that the captain of the flight was suffering from serious emotional and mental stress episodes since 1953. He was under psychotherapy at the time of the accident and his last appointment was the night before the accident. He was likely taking Prozine in the period leading up to the accident, an antipsychotic medicine.
The investigation board stated that the investigation of this accident demonstrated the need for re-examination of the use of drugs that might affect the capabilities of a flight crew member. The Board noted that several psychopharmacological drugs had been developed since 1953-1954, which should be considered falling under section of the Civil Air Regulation covering the use of drugs.
In any case, the Board concluded that "if a flight crew member's personal situation demands tranquilizers he should be removed from flying status while on the drugs."

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A navigational omission which resulted in a lateral course error that was not detected and corrected through precision instrument flying procedures. A contributing factor to the accident may have been pre-occupation of the captain resulting from mental stress."

Classification:
Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Mountain

Sources:
» ICAO Circular 64-AN/58 (68-75)


Photos

photo of Douglas-C-47A-90-DL-N55V
accident date: 30-10-1959
type: Douglas C-47A-90-DL (DC-3)
registration: N55V
photo of Douglas-C-47A-90-DL-N55V
accident date: 30-10-1959
type: Douglas C-47A-90-DL (DC-3)
registration: N55V
 

Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Washington-National Airport, DC to Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, VA as the crow flies is 145 km (91 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Douglas DC-3

  • ca 13.000 built
  • 3466th loss
  • 1324th fatal accident
  • 43rd worst accident (at the time)
  • 90th worst accident (currently)
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