Crash of a Troubled Bird

After some close calls, a chartered plane goes down in Nevada

The Lockheed Electra, with its four jet engines driving propellers, was a hybrid designed to bridge two aviation ages. But its birth in the late 1950s was a painful one. Two of the early Electras lost wings, one over Texas in 1959, the other over Indiana in 1960. Ninety-seven people died. The 400-m.p.h. propjet plane was found to suffer from a "runaway flutter," in which vibration was transmitted from an engine to a propeller and then to a wing, which would sometimes shake loose. Lockheed spent $25 million to modify the design and strengthen the plane. Gradually, most pilots lost their...

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