How a USAF Convair C-131D Samaritan collided with a Munich tram in 1960

For many people, the former Munich-Rome Airport in the German federal state of Bavaria is inextricably linked with plane crash of 1958 several “Manchester United” football players became victims. However, did you know that it was also the subject of another winter tragedy involving a USAF Convair C-131D Samaritan transport plane just under three years later? Let’s consider the accident in more detail.

The flight and aircraft involved

As established, the flight, which later ended in tragedy, took off from Munich-Riem Airport, which served as the city’s main air hub until May 1992. It was located to the east of the city and is now the site of the urban area known as Mesestadt Rome. December 17, 1960 US Air Force A Convair C-131D Samaritan departed the airport.


Its purpose was not a commercial facility, but rather RAF Northolt in Great London, Great Britain. Earlier that year, a Pan Am Boeing 707 mistakenly landed at Northolt, mistaking it for the nearby London Heathrow Airport (LHR). According to the Aviation Safety Network, there were 13 passengers and seven crew on board this flight, which was deliberately heading to an RAF base in Greater London.

The Convair The C-131D Samaritan operating the flight had registration number 55-0291. A little over five and a half years old at the time, it was delivered to the US Air Force in April 1955, according to ATDB.aero. The C-131D was a military transport version of the CV-Convair. 340 airliner.

Catastrophic engine failure

According to the crash report, the C-131D, which was quite lightly loaded compared to its normal capacity of 44 passengers, took off over Munich at 2:10 p.m. local time. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse shortly thereafter, with the aircraft losing power from one of its Pratt & Whitney R-2800 “Double Wasp” radial engines.

This caused problems for the crew in terms of their ability to keep the aircraft aloft and they were also hampered by poor visibility in foggy winter conditions. These factors combined led to the plane colliding with the 97-meter-tall St. Paul’s Church in Munich’s Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt district.

This caused the C-131D to fall to the ground and eventually the downed aircraft collided with a tram on Martin Greif Strasse near the intersection with Baerstrasse. This collision quickly escalated into a fiery one after its impact ruptured a gas line, killing all 20 passengers on the plane and 32 people on the tram.

At the time, this crash was the deadliest air crash in Germany. Photo: Getty Images

Consequences and consequences

In addition to the 52 people who died in the plane and the tram, 20 more people on the ground were injured as a result of the disaster. Hermann-Lingg-Straße was also affected when part of the plane’s wing crashed into a building, but there was no damage. The disaster ultimately led to the decision to build a new hub further away from Munich rather than expand Riem Airport.

But what exactly caused the engine failure that brought down the plane so spectacularly? Investigators eventually discovered that the fuel boost pump was contaminated by water that had frozen in winter conditions. This blocked the pump inlets and deprived the engine of fuel causing it to lose power and shut down.

Sources: ATDB.aera, Aviation Security Network, Information about the plane crash

https://simpleflying.com/usaf-convair-samaritan-munich-tram-collision/ How a USAF Convair C-131D Samaritan collided with a Munich tram in 1960

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