Pan Am Flight 816

Pan Am Flight 816
Boeing 707-321B Pan Am Freer.jpg
Sister ship to the accident aircraft, Clipper Yankee Ranger (N418PA).
Date July 22, 1973
Summary Crashed during takeoff; cause undetermined
Site Off Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
17°30′56″S 149°35′10″W / 17.51556°S 149.58611°W / -17.51556; -149.58611Coordinates: 17°30′56″S 149°35′10″W / 17.51556°S 149.58611°W / -17.51556; -149.58611
Aircraft type Boeing 707-321B
Aircraft name Clipper Winged Racer
Operator Pan American World Airways
Registration N417PA
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
Occupants 79
Passengers 69
Crew 10
Fatalities 78
Injuries 1
Survivors 1

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.[1] 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.

Accident description

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.[1] Because the turn was made towards the sea at night, no visual references were available.[1]

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.[1][2] Speculation at the time also focused on a catastrophic windshield failure, as well as a gyro horizon malfunction.[3] 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.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  2. ^ "Pan Am's Accidents". Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  3. ^ "Official crash report" (PDF). (in French). May 12, 1977. Retrieved 2009-10-20.

External links