Date 28 October 1949
Site Pico da Vara
Number of deaths 48
Operator Air France
Passenger count 37
|Summary Pilot error – controlled flight into terrain.|
Aircraft type Lockheed L-749A-79-46 Constellation
Similar Air France Flight 007, 1948 Air France Latécoèr, Air France Flight 178, 1952 Air France SNCASE, Air France Flight 117
The 1949 Air France Lockheed Constellation crash on 28 October 1949 happened when a Lockheed L-749A-79-46 Constellation of Air France crashed into a mountain while attempting to land at Santa Maria Airport, Azores on a stopover during a scheduled international passenger flight from Paris-Orly Airport to New York City. All 48 people on board were killed.
The aircraft involved was a Lockheed L-749A-79-46 Constellation F-BAZN, msn 2546, built in 1947.
The aircraft was operating a scheduled international passenger flight from Paris-Orly Airport, France to New York City, with a stopover at Santa Maria Airport, Azores. There were 11 crew and 37 passengers on board. The flight departed from Orly at 21:00 on 27 October.
At 02:51 on 28 October, the pilot reported he was at a height of 3,000 feet (910 m) and had the airport in sight. After no further communications were received from the aircraft, a search was initiated, involving eight aircraft and several ships. The aircraft was found to have crashed into Pico da Vara on São Miguel Island, 60 miles (97 km) due north of the airport. All 48 on board were killed in the crash and subsequent fire. The wreckage was spread over an area in excess of 500 square yards (420 m2). The bodies of the victims were recovered and initially taken to the church in Algarvia before they were repatriated. At the time, the accident was the deadliest to have occurred in Portugal and also the deadliest involving the Lockheed Constellation. A memorial to the victims was erected on Pico da Vara at 37°48′N 25°12′W.
The accident was investigated by the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile. The investigation found that the cause of the accident was controlled flight into terrain due to inadequate navigation by the pilot whilst operating under VFR conditions. It was found that the pilot had sent inaccurate position reports and that he had failed to identify the airport.
Notable people killed in the accident included the French former middleweight world champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, Algerian lover of Edith Piaf; French violinist Ginette Neveu, and her brother Jean Neveu; Guy Jasmin, editor-in-chief of the Montreal-based newspaper Le Canada; artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel; and Kay Kamen, a director of the Walt Disney Company.