Plane crashes over Antarctica - HISTORY
Year
1979

Plane crashes over Antarctica

A New Zealander sightseeing plane traveling over Antarctica crashes, killing all 257 people on board, on this day in 1979. It was the worst airplane accident in New Zealand’s history.

During the 1970s, air travel to Antarctica became more popular, as tourists sought to view the isolated and mysterious continent at the bottom of the world firsthand. Day-long excursions from New Zealand gave people tremendous views of the Ross Ice Shelf. However, the trips did pose a danger, as flights to Antarctica can be problematic.

The vast ice plains provide virtually no visual reference points for pilots and magnetic compasses are useless so close to the South Pole. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 that carried 257 people to Antarctica on November 28 was piloted by five officers who had no experience flying to the icy continent. To make matters even worse, the data entered into the flight profile was wrong. When this same data had been used on prior flights, no problems had been encountered because visibility was good. The poor visibility on November 28, though, led to a fatal pilot error.

As the plane headed over the Ross Ice Shelf, the pilot descended below the clouds to give the passengers a better view. The pilot was supposed to stay above 6,000 feet at all times, but went down to 1,500 feet due to the overcast skies. Because of the wrong data on the flight profile, the pilot didn’t know that his descent came right as the plane reached Mount Erebus, a 12,444-foot volcano. The plane crashed into the side of the mountain at 300 miles per hour. There were no survivors.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Lady Astor becomes MP

American-born Nancy Astor, the first woman ever to sit in the House of Commons, is elected to Parliament with a substantial majority. Lady Astor took the Unionist seat of her husband, Waldorf Astor, who was moving up to an inherited seat in the House of Lords.Born in Danville, ...read more

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered in prison

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, serving 15 consecutive life sentences for the brutal murders of 15 men, is beaten to death by a fellow inmate while performing cleaning duty in a bathroom at the Columbia Correctional Institute gymnasium in Portage, Wisconsin.During a 13-year period, ...read more

Magellan reaches the Pacific

After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic.On September 20, 1519, Magellan ...read more

Johnson advised to bomb North Vietnam

President Lyndon Johnson’s top advisers–Maxwell Taylor, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and other members of the National Security Council–agree to recommend that the president adopt a plan for a two-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam.The purpose of this bombing was ...read more

FDR attends Tehran Conference

On this day in 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt joins British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at a conference in Iran to discuss strategies for winning World War II and potential terms for a peace settlement.Tehran, Iran, was chosen as ...read more

The Grand Ole Opry begins broadcasting

The Grand Ole Opry, one of the longest-lived and most popular showcases for western music, begins broadcasting live from Nashville, Tennessee. The showcase was originally named the Barn Dance, after a Chicago radio program called the National Barn Dance that had begun ...read more

William Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway

On this day in 1582, William Shakespeare, 18, and Anne Hathaway, 26, pay a 40-pound bond for their marriage license in Stratford-upon-Avon. Six months later, Anne gives birth to their daughter, Susanna, and two years later, to twins.Little is known about Shakespeare’s early life. ...read more

Talk-show host and comedian Jon Stewart born

On this day in 1962, Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a “fake news” program that satirizes politicians, celebrities and the media, among others, is born in New York City. Stewart’s irreverent take on national and world events has been a huge hit with ...read more

Battle of Cane Hill, Arkansas

On this day in 1862, during the Battle of Cane Hill, Union troops under General John Blunt drive Confederates under General John Marmaduke back into the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas.The battle was part of a Confederate attempt topush the Yankees back into Missouri ...read more

John Adams replaces Silas Deane

After the judgment and loyalty of Silas Deane is called into question, Congress appoints John Adams to succeed Deane as the commissioner to France on this day in 1777.Deane had been recalled to America by Congress after fellow diplomat Arthur Lee accused him of misappropriating ...read more