February 17th in Aviation History

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

On the 17th of February, 1959, A Turkish Airlines Vickers Viscount Type 793 was carrying the Turkish Prime Minister and other government officials. The flight was a special charter flight for the Turkish delegation to the United Kingdom for a conference with British and Greek Prime Ministers on the Cyprus issue, which was politically pressing at that time. The charter flight carrying a total of 24 occupants including the delegation and crew took of from Ankara’s Esenboga Airport for London’s Heathrow Airport. It had two stopovers. One in Istanbul and one in Rome, Italy.

Due to fog at London’s Heathrow Airport, the Vickers Viscount was redirected to Gatwick Airport. On approach to the airport, the aircraft crashed 5.2 kilometers from the runway. 14 of the 24 occupants died in the crash. The Turkish Prime Minister Survived.

The survivors were screaming as they tried to leave the wreckage. Turkish Premier Adnan Menderes, who was seated at a left window seat in the rear passenger cabin, survived the crash with only light scratches to his face, hanging in an upside-down position with his foot stuck in the floor. He was rescued by a fellow statesman.

Subsequent investigations could not conclude the exact cause of the crash. But generally, visibility was poor throughout the city. The investigation concluded that:

“The evidence was insufficient to establish the cause of the accident. There was no indication however that this can be associated either with a technical failure of the aircraft or with a failure of the ground services.”

This was the first Turkish Airlines crash ever.

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