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Last updated: 4 December 2021
Date:Tuesday 5 March 1957
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC7 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas DC-7
Operator:American Airlines
Registration: N316AA
MSN: 44137/436
First flight: 1954
Total airframe hrs:8803
Engines: 4 Wright R-3350 (972TC18DA)
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 5
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 41
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 46
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Repaired
Location:near Memphis, TN (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:New York-Idlewild International Airport, NY (IDL/KIDL), United States of America
Destination airport:Dallas-Love Field, TX (DAL/KDAL), United States of America
American Airlines flight 87 originated at New York International Airport (Idlewild) for San Francisco, California, with one stop scheduled at Dallas, Texas. On board were a crew of 5 and 41 passengers.
Departure from Idlewild was at 08:15 hours central standard time on an IFR flight plan. Routine position reports were made during the flight and at 11:13 hours the aircraft reported over Jackson, Tennessee, at 14000 feet. At approximately 11:27 the captain noticed vibration in the cowling of no. 1 engine. He started checking engine instruments and told the flight engineer to use the ignition analyser. Vibration increased; the captain quickly decided to feather the engine and started closing no. 1 throttle. When it was halfway back, engine speed rose to about 3300 rpm, whereupon he closed all throttles, disengaged the autopilot, and nosed the aircraft up to lose speed. Engine speed of no. 1 continued to rise to an estimated 4300 rpm and as the captain was using the toggle switch to reduce this rpm the propeller and nose section separated from the engine. The rotating propeller struck the top of the fuselage causing a large area to blow out. This was 20 to 25 seconds after the vibration was first noticed. Just about that moment the flight engineer had pressed the no. 1 feathering button and pulled no. 1 mixture control to idle cutoff.
The captain told his first officer to report an emergency; descent and landing clearance at Memphis were quickly coordinated by company radio, ARTC and the tower. Descent was started at a rate of about 2000 feet per minute with airspeed about 200 knots. The aircraft came below clouds and into weather conditions allowing visual flight at an altitude of 2500 feet when some four miles southeast of the Memphis Airport. An uneventful landing was made on runway 27 at 11:34 in light rain with three miles visibility.

Probable Cause:

Probable Cause: "The probable cause of this accident was failure of the propeller thrust bearing assembly, which resulted in separation of the propeller and subsequent penetration of the fuselage causing explosive decompression of the aircraft in flight."

Explosive decompression
Prop/turbine blade separation
Forced landing on runway


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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 New York-Idlewild International Airport, NY to Dallas-Love Field, TX as the crow flies is 2207 km (1379 miles).

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