Crash Pan Am Flight 816
Flight PA 816 was an international flight from Auckland, New Zealand, to San Francisco, United States, via Tahiti, French Polynesia and Los Angeles, United States. It was operated by a Pan Am Boeing 707-321B bearing the registration N417PA and named Clipper Winged Racer. 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.
When the aircraft had reached an altitude of 300 ft (91 m), it began to descend, banking to the left. The increasingly excessive bank caused the 707 to crash into the sea and sink off Papeete. Because the turn was made towards the sea at night, no visual references were available. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are believed to have sunk to a depth of about 2,300 ft (700 m), and were never recovered. Although no official cause was determined, it is believed that an instrument failure during a turn may have contributed to the accident.
Pan Am Clipper 816, an international scheduled flight to San Francisco originating in Auckland, via Papeete and Los Angeles, was en route non-stop to Los Angeles from Papeete at the time of the accident. Neil Campbell, the lone survivor, 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. Speculation at the time at Pan Am on the cause of the accident also considered a catastrophic windshield failure, as well as gyro horizon instrument failure. No conclusive cause was ever determined.
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