Boston, MA. – January 17, 1956

Boston, Massachusetts – January 17, 1956   

Vintage Post Card View Of
Northeast Airlines Convair N91237

     Shortly before 5 p.m. on the evening of January 17, 1956, Northeast Airline flight 109, with a crew of three, and 24 passengers aboard, took off from Boston’s Logan Airport bound for New York’s LaGuardia Airport.  At the time of departure it was snowing, with a low cloud ceiling and 3/4 mile visibility. 

     The pilot was Captain Robert Francis; the first officer was Louis Balestra, and the flight attendant was Barbara Crowley.   

     The aircraft was a twin-engine Convair CV-240. 

     Just after take off the on-board electrical generators failed causing a complete electrical malfunction throughout the plane which also affected instruments and the radios.  With no radio contact, the pilot attempted to return to Logan Airport but found he was unable due to poor visibility and low cloud cover.  In doing so there was risk of colliding with other aircraft in the area, or tall structures and buildings on the ground, so he opted to head to New York where it had been reported prior to take off that the snow was abating.  

     What followed was a long and treacherous flight to New York as the pilot and first officer fought to control the plane under trying conditions, using only a flashlight to illuminate the compass which still worked.  The electrical windshield deicers were inoperable, and a coating of ice formed on the windshield.  Meanwhile the passengers sat in the darkened cabin and prayed.  None panicked.  

     Miraculously the plane landed safely in New York at 8:12 p.m., two hours and twenty-two minutes late and with less than one hour of fuel left.     

     To read a more detailed account of this incident click on the link below.


     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), January 18, 1956, pg. A-36

    Book, “Adventures of a Yellowbird” by Robert M. Mudge, Chapter XIII, “The Moments of Terror”.  Branden Press, Copyright 1969. 

     Thank you to Captain Robert M. Francis, son of Captain Francis, who brought this incident to the attention of New England Aviation History.  

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