This Day In History: August 3

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On August 3, 1975, a chartered Boeing 707 jetliner crashes in the Atlas Mountains near Agadir, a coastal city in Morocco. All 188 people aboard the plane were killed, in the fourth worst air disaster to that date.

Owned by the Jordanian airline Alia and chartered to Royal Air Maroc, the 707 left LeBourget Airport in Paris at 2:20 a.m. on the morning of August 3, 1975. Apart from four Europeans, all of the passengers on board were Moroccan citizens who worked in France and were traveling home for their summer holidays. The flight disappeared from Agadir airport-control radar at 4:28 a.m.; an airport official had spoken via radio with the pilot moments earlier, with no hint of trouble. The plane was scheduled to land in Agadir just two minutes later, at 4:30 a.m., and was descending for approach in heavy fog when the right wing tip and one of the engines struck a peak at an altitude of 2,400 feet. The pilot lost control of the plane, which crashed into a ravine, exploded and burned near the small, remote village of Imzizen. All 181 passengers were killed, along with seven crew members.

The incident outside Agadir marked the fourth worst air disaster in history, after a Turkish DC10 that crashed March 3, 1974 north of Paris, killing all 345 passengers and crew; a U.S. military plane that went down outside Saigon on April 4, 1974, killing more than 200; and a chartered Dutch DC8 jetliner that crashed in Sri Lanka on December 4, 1971, killing 191.

The Boeing 707 first went into service in 1958, having been developed to meet the need of airlines (particularly Pan-American) for a trans-Atlantic jetliner with a large seating capacity. With its four engines, the 707 was capable of traveling some 6,000 miles (enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean) nonstop, and boasted a seating capacity of up to 190 people. Thanks to the popularity of the 707 among international airlines, Boeing became world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer, pushing aside rival Douglas Aircraft Company (later the McDonnell Douglas Corporation).

The Morocco crash of August 1975 was the second crash of a Boeing 707 to occur over the course of the 1970s; a Jordanian 707 had crashed at Nigeria’s Kano Airport in January 1973, killing 176 people. In 1978, Boeing ended production of the 707. U.S. airlines sold most of their remaining 707s to Third World carriers, some of them priced as low as $1 million.