February 15th in Aviation History
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons
Sabena Flight 548 was a commercial passenger flight between New York City, United States of America and Brussels, Belgium. The flight was carried out by a Boeing 707-300 family quad jet. On the 15th of February 1961, the Boeing 707 was carrying the American Figure Skating Team. They were travelling to the World Figure Skating Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The total occupants of the aircraft comprising of the skating teams, their family and friends and the flight crew were 72. The 707 crashed in Kampenhout, Belgium. All aboard the aircraft perished in the crash.
The subsequent investigation was carried out by the Belgian National Aviation Authorities, in coordination with the American FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization. The US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also involved to look into a possible terrorist angle into the crash. After months of combing through evidence, no definite cause could be singled out for the tragic crash.
The authorities then had to agree on one possible and likely explanation, and that was a mechanical failure of of either the wing spoilers or the tail vertical trim stabilizer. There isn’t sufficient evidence to prove exactly what part malfunctioned. Overall, the exact cause still remains mystery till date.
The disaster prompted U.S. Figure Skating executives to issue a mandate that still applies today: No team traveling to an international competition would ever be allowed to fly together again.
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