Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plane hits New York skyscraper

An aeroplane flies into a skyscraper in New York. Not yesterday's crash involving Cory Lidle. Not 9/11.

No, it is part of my campaign to prove that nothing is as novel as we think it is. As the Damn Interesting site tells the story:
On a Saturday morning in July of 1945, Army Air Corps bomber pilot Lt. Colonel William Smith was trying to fly his B-25 bomber through a steadily increasing fog. He was on his way to Newark airport to pick up his commanding officer when he appeared above New York Municipal airport (now La Guardia airport) about 25 miles to the east of his destination. He was requesting a weather report.

Municipal tower reported extremely poor visibility over New York, and urged him to land, but Lt. Colonel Smith requested and received clearance from the military to continue his flight. "From where I'm sitting," the tower operator warned, "I can't see the top of the Empire State Building." Despite the advice from the Municipal tower, Smith plunged into the soupy fog with his two crewmen, bound for Manhattan.

Partway through their flight, the pilot quickly became disoriented because he was unable to see the ground below, and he lost his way. Despite Manhattan regulations that forbade aircraft from flying below 2,000 feet, Smith made the decision to drop below 1,000 feet in an attempt to untangle his bomber from the densest part of the fog. When his plane emerged from the thick, his visibility indeed improved. All around his aircraft, silhouettes of skyscrapers towered above Smith and his crew… and the New York Central Building was directly ahead.

Smith reacted quickly and banked hard, pushing the lumbering bomber to its stress limits to try to avoid the collision. His plane just missed the New York Central Building, flying past its west side with little room to spare. Dozens of skyscrapers lay beyond the first one, leaving a forest of fog-shrouded towers in the plane's path. Smith tried to gain altitude as he weaved between the ghostly shadows of buildings, forcing the bomber to maneuver at its operational extremes.

When the Empire State Building emerged from the fog right ahead of his craft, Smith banked his plane and pulled back as hard as he was able, but the bomber lacked the maneuverability to dodge the large tower looming over it. At 9:49 a.m, in the middle of a desperate, climbing turn, the ten-ton B-25 slammed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.
Fourteen people died as a result of the accident.

1 comment:

Tom Barney said...

Wasn't there a neat aeroplane-shaped hole left in the building? I think I've heard of this case before in the context of a discussion of Ronan Point: in New York the skyscrapers were built on rigid steel frames and could therefore withstand a plane flying into them, whereas Ronan Point was system-built in such a way that every part of the building supported every other part, with the result that a really quite small gas explosion (statistically likely to occur in the building's lifetime) by blowing out a single panel caused the whole tower to collapse.