Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Miracle of two flight attendants – only survivors of plane crash that killed 130

Sunday, June 3, 1962, remains one of the darkest days in aviation history.

Air France Flight 007 took off from Orly Airport in Paris, headed for Atlanta, Georgia, but crashed on takeoff, killing 130 people.

Among those who died were 122 passengers and eight crew members.

Astonishingly, two flight attendants survived, walking away with minor injuries. The women had been sitting near the back of the Boeing 707 aircraft when it erupted in flames, becoming a fireball.

According to eyewitnesses, the jet's nose lifted off the runway, but the main landing gear remained on the ground.

The plane, known as the Chateau de Sully, was travelling at approximately 200mph and barely lifted 7ft off the ground.

This meant it had already exceeded the maximum speed at which takeoff could be safely aborted within the remaining runway length.

Sadly, the crew, including, Captain Roland Hoche and First Officer Jacques Pitoiset, had little choice but to give it a try.

With less than 3,000ft of runway remaining to bring the plane to a halt the pilots tried to abort takeoff.

They attempted to use the wheel brakes and reverse thrust to to slow the 707. But disaster struck when they destroyed the main landing gear tires and wheels by braking too hard.

Subsequently, the aircraft ran off the end of the runway and into the town of Villeneuve-le-Roi, where its right wing hit the ground causing the plane to crash, before exploding 50 yards from the end of the runway.

Only the tail section of the aircraft – where the two survivors had been seated – remained intact.

Due to the intense heat of the burning wreckage local services were unable to assist with the rescue effort and it was 90 minutes before firefighters could reach the victims.

Air France has launched an immediate inquiry into the accident.

It was discovered that a motor driving the elevator trim may have failed, leaving the pilots unable to complete rotation and lift off.

Most of the 122 passengers were members of the Atlanta Art Association.

At the time, the crash was the worst single-aircraft disaster and the first single civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths.

President John F. Kennedy sent a message of sympathy to the Atlanta Art Association and victims' families.

This death toll would be surpassed in February 1966, when All Nippon Airways Flight 60 crashed into Tokyo Bay, killing all 133 people.

Artist Andy Warhol used the Orly crash as inspiration for first "disaster painting", named 129 Die in Jet!

The artwork was based on the June 4, 1962, cover of the New York Mirror. At that time of printing the death count stood at 129.

One of the two known paintings is in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, and the other is in a private collection.

Air France continues to use the flight number AF7 today but with it only being used for trips back to France, and the flight now only runs from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The forward trip to New York uses flight number six.

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