Civil Aeronautics Board on

Above: Detail from map in CAB report on crash of Flight 823 on Rikers Island Feb. 1, 1957.

The public is indebted to Aviation Week for publishing in its April 14, 1958 issue the full text of the Civil Aeronautics Board's report of the crash of Flight 823 on Rikers Island. NYCHS also is indebted to Megan Shaw Prelinger of the Prelinger Library/Archives for calling this to to our attention and for making a copy of the report available. The main text on this web page consists of excerpts from that report. Click image above to access Aviation Week's web site.
Northeast Airlines Flight 823, a Douglas DC-6A, N 34954, crash landed on Rikers Island, New York, at 18021 on Feb. 1, 1957. The accident occurred at night under IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] conditions less than one minute after takeoff from runway 4, La Guardia Field, New York.

There were 101 persons aboard the aircraft -- 95 passengers (which included 11 children) and six crew members. Of these 20 passengers received fatal injury, 25 passengers and three stewardesses serious injury, and 50 passengers minor injury. The pilot, copilot, and flight engineer were uninjured.

The aircraft received major damage from ground impact and was destroyed by subsequent ground fire.

Northeast Airlines Flight 823, a DC-6A, N 34954, was scheduled to originate at La Guardia Field, a nonstop to Miami, Florida, with a departure time of 1445. This aircraft and the same crew, operating as Flight 822, had arrived at La Guardia from Miami at 1250. . . .

Snow, which had started at La Guardia at 1202, began to accumulate on the aircraft’s horizontal surfaces after its arrival at the La Guardia ramp position. Snow removal by ground personnel, during pre-flighting, was ineffective because of the continuing snowfall.

Above is a map from the CAB report illustrating the path of the Northeast Airlines Douglas DC-6A which crash landed on Rikers Island Feb. 1, 1957. Accident occurred under Instrument Flight Rules conditions less than one minute after takeoff.
Accordingly, about 1600 the aircraft was taxied, with all occupants aboard, to a nose hangar on the west side of the airport for snow removal.

This was accomplished and at 1745 the crew advised La Guardia ground control that they were ready to taxi from the nose hangar for the IFR departure to Miami.

Flight 823 was then cleared to runway 4 and was advised that the wind was north- east 10, altimeter setting 30.12, and a time cheek of 17471. Air Route Traffic Control cleared the flight as follows: “Cleared to Bellemead, maintain 7,000 ft.”

A supplementary climb-out clearance was then given: “After takeoff, a left turn direct Paterson, direct Chatham, cross 081- deg. radial of Caldwell 4,000 ft. or above, cross Paterson between 5,000 and 6,000 ft. and cross the northwest course of Idlewild, not above 6,000 ft." Both clearances were repeated and acknowledged . . . .

Fire equipment and assistance were supplied promptly by personnel from the nearby city penal institution on Rikers Island. Those who had been able to leave the aircraft were conducted to shelter and given medical aid.

The full text of the CAB report was contained in columns of type on various pages from page 77 (above) through 107 in the April 14, 1958 issue of Aviation Week. The NYCHS webmaster has organized those columns into 10 Adobe Acrobat (PDF) pages. Each PDF is 200 dpi, letter size, readable, downloadable and printable.
Access the pages via the table below.
Page 1 -- 1,110 Kb
Page 2 -- 1,817 Kb
Page 3 -- 1,749 Kb
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Rikers Island is irregularly oval with its greatest dimension, from east and west, approximately one mile. Its southern shoreline is some 600 yards north of the northeast corner shoreline of La Guardia Field. The northwestern area of the island is occupied by New York City penal buildings. The DC-6A came to a stop and was destroyed by fire a short distance south of these buildings.

Flight 823 first struck small trees while on a heading of 285 deg. magnetic. The left wing tip struck the ground first; the right wing tip struck 150 ft. beyond.

The aircraft, after striking the ground nearly level longitudinally, skidded approximately 1,500 ft. and came to a stop on a heading of 241 deg. The ground elevation differential between the initial impact point and the stopping place is less than 10 ft.

It was determined that the angle of descent at impact was seven degrees. Groundspeed at impact, computed from propeller slash marks and engine rpm., was approximately 138 kt.

The above image of a DC-6A instrument panel is from the CAB report. Those who prefer a 30-page version of the CAB report to the 10-page version, click the above image for 2.1 Mb PDF from the federal DOT archives.
Impact occurred approximately 60 sec. after start of the takeoff and after a left turn of approximately 119 deg. from the heading of runway 4.

The airplane struck the ground while descending in a slightly left wing low attitude. Numbers 1 and 2 engines separated from their nacelles and subsequently the entire left wing and outer right wing parted from the airplane as it skidded along the ground.

Click image for Part III of this presentation.
There were many more pieces of the aircraft and its components strewn along the path of travel on the ground.

Those near the point of initial impact showed no signs of fire damage.

No pieces of the airplane were found back along the flight path beyond the point of initial impact of the airplane with the ground.

The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, the right inboard wing, and the empennage.

The fuselage belly had been flattened and torn away during the ground slide . . .

Click image for Part I of this presentation.
Click image for Part II of this presentation.

To List of DOC staffers honored for air crash response.
To: List of names of those aboard Northeast Airlines DC-6A Feb. 1, 1957
To The Andersons of Canada remember.
To Remembering Mario DeRosa.
To Remembering Esther Chopelas.
To: Other views, other voices: Rikers air crash
To: 1989 airplane crash into Rikers Island channel waters
To: NYCHS home page.
To NYC DOC history menu page.