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Pan Am Flight 816
|Date||July 22, 1973|
|Summary||Crashed during takeoff; cause undetermined|
|Site||Off Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
|Aircraft type||Boeing 707-321B|
|Aircraft name||Clipper Winged Racer|
|Operator||Pan American World Airways|
|Flight origin||Auckland Airport, New Zealand|
|Stopover||Fa'a'ā International Airport, Tahiti, French Polynesia|
|1st stopover||Los Angeles International Airport, California, United States|
|Destination||San Francisco International Airport, California, United States|
Pan Am Flight 816 was an international flight from Auckland, New Zealand, to San Francisco, California, via Tahiti, French Polynesia and Los Angeles. It was operated by a Pan Am Boeing 707-321B bearing the registration N417PA and named Clipper Winged Racer. On July 22, 1973, at 10:06 P.M. local time, the Boeing 707 took off from Fa'a'ā International Airport in Papeete. Thirty seconds after takeoff, the airliner, carrying 79 passengers and crew, crashed into the sea.
The pilot was Robert M. Evarts of Grass Valley, California, 59, who had 25,275 flight hours. Evarts's copilot was Lyle C. Havens, 59, from Medford, Oregon, who had 21,575 flight hours. The flight engineer was Isaac N. Lambert, 34, of Danville, California (9,134 flight hours). The navigator was Frederick W. Fischer, 32, of Rochester, New York. He had 3,961 flight hours.
When the aircraft had reached an altitude of 300 ft (91 m), it began to descend, banking left. The increasingly excessive bank caused the 707 to crash into the sea and sink off Papeete. Because the turn was made towards the sea at night, no visual references were available.
The sole survivor of the accident was a Canadian citizen. At the time, he said he had no memory of the actual crash, but "woke up" in the water. Many private vessels sortied from Papeete harbor that night, with more joining at first light to aid in the search for survivors. The bodies of several of the flight attendants were the only ones recovered.
Although no official cause was determined, it is believed that an instrument failure during the climb out turn may have contributed to the accident. Speculation at the time also focused on a catastrophic windshield failure, as well as a gyro horizon malfunction. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are believed to have sunk in 2,300 ft (700 m) of water, and were never recovered.
- List of sole survivors of airline accidents or incidents
- Other aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff after pilots lost spatial orientation:
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