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Major Accidents on Same Day

Q: Indeed it seems probable that the near simultaneous crashes of those two Russian airliners in late August was the work of suicide bombers. But I have to ask: excluding acts of terror, have there ever been two major accidents on the same day?

Not that I know of. Give me a two day window, however, and I have a story. It’s not my usual practice to sensationalize crashes, particularly those whose only claim to notoriety is a burst of coincidence, but what happened in Tokyo in 1966 is so enthrallingly peculiar that I can’t resist…

On March 5th of that year, a Canadian Pacific (CP Air) DC-8 crashed on landing at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Arriving in heavy fog, the plane went low, struck a sea wall and burst into flames. Sixty-four of the 72 people on the jet were killed.

The next afternoon, a BOAC (precursor to British Airways) 707 carrying 124 people took off from the very same airport, bound for Hong Kong as part of a round-the-world service originating in London. Apparently to give passengers a nice view, the 707’s captain, Bernard Dobsen, chose to make an unusual visual climbout away from the published departure path and toward the summit of Mt. Fuji — directly into an area of extreme turbulence and 70-knot winds. Approaching the peak, the plane hit a severe gust — a so-called “mountain wave” — and broke apart in mid-air, throwing wreckage over a ten-mile swath.

One of the most gruesomely ironic things I’ve ever seen is a newspaper photograph of the crashed CP Air DC-8. Behind the wreckage, the BOAC 707 is clearly visible, taxiing for takeoff on its own doomed flight.

This article is part of a collection that originally appeared on Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.