Article — Remembering a Forgotten Tragedy — Mohawk Airlines Flight 411

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Remembering a Forgotten Tragedy
Mohawk Airlines Flight 411

By LONNIE SPATH, [email protected]
Uploaded Friday, November 18, 2005

Thirty-six years ago Saturday evening, it was a cold, windy, rainy night. 

On that night, Nov. 19, 1969, ill-fated Mohawk Airlines Flight 411 took off from La Guardia Airport in NewYork with 44 passengers and 3 crew members for its final destination of Glens Falls. All but 11 passengers disembarked in Albany.

The final resting place of Mohawk Airlines “The City of Burlington” (N7811M) seen here in Buffalo in 1968 is, tragically, the southwest slope of Pilot Knob.

Around 8:15 p.m. the plane had flown over Glens Falls and out over Lake George so it could turn around and make an approach from the north. As it headed south for a landing, the plane was caught in a lee side downdraft phenomenon on Pilot Knob. This phenomenon occurs when wind that has blown over the summit of a mountain travels down the back side of it like the air going over a moving car tends to flow down the back and over the trunk. 

On the evening of November 19, it was strong enough to cause Flight 411 to crash.

The plane hit a row of pine trees, then slammed into a cliff and plummeted 38 feet to the base of the cliff. Everyone on board was killed instantly, including both 31-year-old pilots and the 24-year-old stewardess.

Recovery efforts, according to The Post-Star and Glens Falls Times reports, were hampered by the nearly inaccessible terrain and worsening weather.

PHOTO © 1968, 2005 BILL ARMSTRONG, used with permission.

Both newspapers had extensive coverage of the event and many who lived in the area at the time can still recall the incident. For younger readers or new residents, the incident is unknown.

In those days, Warren County Airport had scheduled airline service and it was not uncommon to see small twin-engine prop-driven commuter aircraft approaching and departing the airport now known as Floyd D. Bennett Warren County Airport. The Mohawk aircraft was a Fairchild-Hiller 227, a domestically produced variant of the Fokker F-27 twin turbine “prop-jet” that has been used extensively from the late 1960’s.

In 1969 most scheduled service from Warren County Airport was from Mohawk Airlines. Mohawk Airlines was a small regional airline originally based in Ithaca that in 1972 was absorbed by Allegheny Airlines. In the late 1970’s Allegheny Airlines became USAir and today is the struggling USAirways.

And now, in order to get a flight from Floyd D. Bennett Warren County Airport, it has to be a charter.

After an investigation into the 1969 Pilot Knob crash, the NTSB report determined the probable cause to be pilot error:

“The captain, while conducting an approach, exceeded his clearance limits and, thereafter, flew the aircraft into a severe ‘lee of the mountain downdraft’ at an altitude insufficient for recovery. No evidence was found to explain why this particular approach was attempted.” 

PHOTO © 1969 WALT GRISHKOT, used with permission.

The NTSB found no evidence that there was anything wrong with the aircraft nor was there any transmission from them referring to any problems.

Today, small sections of the plane can still be seen if you are brave enough to make the hike to the spot. The area around the southwest slope of Pilot Knob is trail-less and pretty treacherous and a GPS receiver would be helpful for getting in and out.

ILLUSTRATION — LONNIE SPATH

Mohawk Airlines had a rather tragic history — the Pilot Knob crash was not its only local fatal accident. On March 3, 1972, an aircraft of the same type crashed into a house on approach to Albany County Airport, killing 14 of the 44 passengers, both pilots and one person on the ground.

Passengers who lost their lives on Pilot Knob November 19,1969:

• Mrs. Vernon Dasher – Glenville, Georgia
• Miss Jeanne Dasher – Glenville, Georgia
• Mr. Frederich D. Titterington – South Glens Falls
• Mr. Andrew Calvi – Fair Haven, Vermont
• Mrs. Hazel Calvi – Fair Haven, Vermont
• Mrs. Anna Lant – Hudson Falls
• Mrs. Blanche Jablonski – Argyle
• Mr. Jean J. Crozet – Courbevoie, France
• Mr. Serge Braschi – Azemont, France
• Mr. Jean Legoff – LeChesany, France
• Mr. W. R. Bendy – Saint Louis, Missouri

Crew members lost :

• Captain Raymond P. Hourihan, 31, Dover, New Hampshire
• First Officer John P. Morrow, 31, Orchard Park, New York.
• Stewardess Anne M. Miklochik, 24, Kings Park, New York 

NTSB Accident report for Mohawk Airlines flight 411 in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University archive: Accident Investigation Report NTSB-AAR-71-12 2.8mb PDF

Bill Armstrong’s classic airliner photos at Airliners.net

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