By Jim Cutler
You can find ANYTHING on the net. This past weekend I scanned a batch of old slides taken by my family 50+ years ago. Some slides are damaged. They are all of airplanes at LaGuardia Airport from an unknown date in the late 1950’s. I’m ridiculously curious about everything so I wondered about their fates. What ever became of the planes that just happened to be in the photos taken on that day?
The slides are nothing special, but they are survivors. The have survived more than five decades of house-moves, weren’t destroyed by fire or thrown out during 50 years of garage clean-outs. Finally they were handed down to curious Jim. This was from a typical day when nothing special happened, just a walk to the airport and some snapshots. So what happens to old planes?
It would actually be possible to check the airport logs to find out the dates that all of these tail-numbers were there at the same time. I will. But for now I wanted to just Google the tail numbers and learn what eventually happened to each of them.
Googling a tail number from the first slide, N19428, shows this little plane had a dramatic end. Built in 1943, it was still flying in 1973 when it ran out of fuel during a flight from Orlando to West Palm and the pilot crashed it on a highway. The accident report reads, “The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a truck. The airplane sustained substantial damage.” The report says, “beyond repair” and the pilot seems to have been blamed.
This next one ended badly, too. The TWA plane on the left in the background is N6901C.
The tail number just made it into the photo and I mean JUST:
Its first flight was 1952. In March of 1966 it crashed into the sea flying from Lima, Peru to Asunción, Paraguay. The accident report says, “Complete engine failure-3 engines-FORCED LANDING OFF AIRPORT ON WATER”. Another listing shows “The Super Constellation had to be ditched following engine trouble. The flight crew was rescued by a fishing vessel.” Amazingly here is a photo on the web of the inside of THIS EXACT plane. Click the “more info” link next to the photo (at that link) and you’ll see that it is indeed the inside of N6901C. The internet is incredible.
Here’s another of our slides from that day in the very late 1950’s of an American Airlines plane.
Passengers from the tarmac are boarding American Airlines “Flagship Lake Ontario”. A guy in a T-shirt is on the wing. Another guy in a T-shirt is loading brown boxes in the stern. A luggage handler is just under the plane’s nose. So what can the web tell me about N94237?
The web says when delivered to American Airlines in 1948 it was called the “Flagship Akron” then re-named “Flagship Lake Ontario”. Here it was still flying in 1979 after being sold to Wright Airlines and given a new tail number. The remarks in that link say it was sold to Central Airlines in 1960. This report showing its new paint job and tail number N74850, says it crashed in Tulsa in 1965 with “substantial damage”. They must have fixed it. Central Airlines then merged with Frontier in 1967. This shows it was sold to Wright Airlines in 1982. Here is a photo of it owned by SMB Stage Airlines circa 1985. Sold to Kitty Hawk AirCargo in 1991. Listed as withdrawn from usage and “broken up” in 1995. That’s a lot of takeoffs and landings since 1948. Our family’s photo (above) shows it in happier times.
The last plane with a tail number is this guy from the same damaged slide as the previous:
Made in England by Vickers Viscount in 1956 for Capital Airlines, it was sold to Evangelist Oral Roberts in 1968. No further info could be found after that.