A Trans-African DC-7 crashes on takeoff in Douala, Cameroon, on this day in 1962. A simple mechanical failure doomed the flight and its 111 passengers and crew. This was the first single-airplane disaster in history in which more than 100 people died.
The DC-7 was a charter plane owned by the Trans-African Coach Company. On March 4, Flight 153 took off from Mozambique, stopped in Lisbon, Portugal, and then arrived in Cameroon before it was due to fly on to Luxembourg. The previous legs of the flight had been uneventful, so it came as a surprise when the plane had difficulty taking off from Douala Airport.
At about 6:20 p.m., the flight was cleared for takeoff, but it took nearly the entire length of the runway for the plane to get off the ground. About a mile and a half into its journey, the plane struck several trees and crashed into a swamp. The subsequent fireball killed all 101 passengers and 10 crew members on board. An investigation later revealed that the probable cause of the catastrophe was a jammed elevator spring tab, a part of the plane critical to controlling lift and altitude.
Two more airplane disasters killing more than 100 people also occurred in 1962. In fact, just 12 days later, 107 people died in a Pacific Ocean crash involving a Lockheed Super Constellation plane. Two more accidents killing more than 100 followed that summer.