“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Dangers of Scraping the Sky

In 2008 I took a trip to New York City. Whilst there I visited the September 11th Memorial on Staten Island and the former location of the World Trade Center, where a Memorial and Museum were being constructed at the time of my visit.

During this visit I remember wondering if the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center, on September 11th 2001, were the first instances of aircraft crashing into skyscrapers in New York or whether such an incident had occurred before. I was surprised by the answer!

It seems that prior to September 11th 2001, there had been two instances of aircraft crashing into skyscrapers in New York:

July 28, 1945

The pilot of a  B-25 Mitchell bomber, flying from Bedford Army Air Field to Newark Airport, became disoriented in fog over the city and crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 78th and 80th floors (for comparison, the observation deck where the below pictures of the city were taken is on the 86th floor).

The accident damaged the building and killed 14 people, 3 people on-board the aircraft and 11 in the building. Amazingly an elevator operator (Betty Lou Oliver) was reported to have survived a plunge of 75 floors in the elevator. Apparently this remains the current Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall!

Interestingly, the spire of the Empire State Building was originally designed to be a mooring point for dirigibles, with the 103rd floor planned as a landing platform where passengers could embark/disembark. It seems that this idea was abandoned after the first few attempts as the updraughts caused by the building proved problematic.  There were also difficulties with finding a way to securely moor the dirigibles to the building, which on balance made the proposal too dangerous. Had this venture taken off, the Empire State Building may have been the centre of more that one aircraft related accident.

May 20, 1946

The Trump Building (40 Wall Street) was hit by a United States Army Air Force C-45 Beechcraft airplane, which was on route to Newark Airport from Lake Charles Army Air Field in Louisiana. Similarly to the accident at the Empire State Building the cause of the crash was poor visibility due to fog.

The aircraft impacted the 58th floor of the building and killed all 5 of the people on-board the plane. Luckily nobody in the building or on the ground were hurt during the incident.

Post September 11th 2001 there has been one further accident:

October 11, 2006

A Cirrus SR20 single-engine light aircraft crashed into the 30th floor of the Belaire Apartment Building. The accident killed both of the people on-board the aircraft and the resulting fire injured 21 people inside the apartment complex, 11 of which were fire-fighters responding to the accident. Unlike the previous two accidents, this accident did not occur in foggy conditions and was attributed to probable pilot error.

So, over the years it seems that New York has seen three accidents where aircraft and skyscrapers have coexisted in both time and space. I wonder how this compares to other cities with equally magnificent skylines?

The September 11th Memorial on Staten Island. 
The September 11th Memorial on Staten Island. 
The Empire State Building.
View from the Empire State Building's 86th floor viewing platform. 
View from the Empire State Building's 86th floor viewing platform.
The Trump Building (40 Wall Street) - the tallest building with the green pinnacle.
The Trump Building nestled in a jam-packed skyline.

Pictures New York City (2008).

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