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Chicago Midway Airport has a long and storied history. Built in 1923 to handle the U.S. Post Office's burgeoning airmail enterprise, the airport was originally called Chicago Air Park until 1927 when it was rechristened Chicago Municipal Airport.
A passenger terminal was built in 1931 and "Chicago Muni" soon became the world's busiest airport (a title the airport would hold until the 1960s). Located in the nation’s midsection, the airport was a natural crossroads for the country’s growing air traffic, as fledgling airliners made the airport a regular stop for fuel and servicing on their transcontinental journeys.
Renamed Midway Airport in 1949 to commemorate the WWII ‘Battle of Midway’ in the Pacific theater of operation, Chicago's airport was a vital U.S. transportation link in the golden age of the propeller driven airliners.
With the onset of the jet-age in the early 1960s, Midway began to see a steady decline in traffic as the airlines bolted to O'Hare airport for the longer runways the Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s of the era required to operate. Midway remained essentially landlocked; a one square mile plot with no way to acquire the needed property for expansion of its runways.
The airport’s low-point came during the 1970s. Abandoned by the airlines, Midway essentially became a ghost town left to serve mostly small general aviation airplanes. The deserted and decaying facilities left behind by the airlines soon became a blight on the surrounding neighborhood.
The airport received a second lease on life when Midway Airlines in 1979 began commercial flights out of a few gates in the old passenger terminal. After deregulation of the airline industry by the federal government, Midway saw a steady increase in commercial air traffic throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Newer passenger jets could operate comfortably on Midway’s shorter runways and suddenly airlines rediscovered the hidden gem of an airport.
But with any bustling airport there comes the occasional mishap. Area residents were reminded of this unwelcome fact Tuesday when a small twin-engine airplane collided with a home in the 6500 block of South Knox Avenue. The pilot of the plane was killed on impact but luckily the homeowners escaped unharmed. Unfortunately that hasn't always been the case when an airplane has "dropped into" the neighborhood beyond the airport’s fenceline.
Midway saw its share of aircraft accidents, especially in the early days of propeller driven airplanes – when aircraft weren't nearly as reliable or sophisticated as today's jets.
As the encircling neighborhood grew dense, it became inevitable that some accidents would impact the surrounding community.
Fortunately, many of these accidents happened at a time when the area was less populated and still contained undeveloped tracts of land where some of these planes went down, thereby sparing innocent lives.
The worst airplane disaster near Midway involving ground fatalities happened in 1959 when a TWA Lockheed Constellation crashed near 63rd Place and Kilpatrick Avenue (just a few short blocks from Tuesday's accident) killing eight people on the ground and the three occupants of the airliner.
Three other crashes in the ensuing years have claimed victims on the ground;
- 1973 - A United 737 crashed on approach and impacted several houses killing two.
- 1976 - An Air Chicago Freight B-25 crashed on a training flight after an engine failure and subsequent fire. The airplane struck houses killing one woman. Two houses, two garages, three automobiles, and a boat were destroyed. One house was damaged substantially, while nine others were damaged slightly.
- 2005 - A Southwest airplane slid off an icy runway onto Central Avenue crushing a car and causing the death of a 6 year-old boy.
Below is a list of airplane accidents occurring around Midway Airport. This is by no means a comprehensive record – the databases and archives used to research these accidents tend to include commercial airline crashes and omit general aviation accidents.
Pins on the map represent the approximate location of neighborhood airplane crashes. An orange flag symbolizes a non-fatal crash, a red flag represents a fatal crash, and a red house shows the location of crashes where people on the ground were killed. Roll your cursor over the pins to view additional data. Use the information and links assembled below to learn more about these hapless accidents.
(except where noted)
Special thanks to:
Club President: Capt. Robert “Bob” Russo – UAL, ret.
Patrick “Pat” Bukiri – Historian; Curator of the Midway Historians Photo Gallery
Sunday 31 May 1936, 9:04 p.m.
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 15
Approximate Location: About three blocks east of Cicero at 47th Street.
Narrative: Crashed half a mile east of the airfield on approach to runway 27L during strong gusts with one engine out.
Wednesday 4 December 1940, 5:48 p.m.
Fatalities: 10 / Occupants: 16
Approximate Location: Northwest corner of 64th and Keating Ave.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "Upon the basis of the foregoing findings of fact and upon all the evidence available at this time, we find that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the pilot to exercise that degree of caution and skill required to avert a stall while approaching for a landing on the short northwest runway. A substantial contributing factor to the accident was the error in judgement of Captain Scott in choosing that short runway for his landing."
May 20, 1943, 11:44 a.m.
Consolidated B-24E Liberator
Fatalities: 12 / Occupants: 12
Approximate Location: Aircraft crashed into the side of a 20,000,000 cubic foot natural gas holding tank at 73rd St. and Central Park Ave.
Tuesday 2 July 1946, 9:10 a.m.
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 21
Approximate Location: Railroad tracks near Cicero Ave. and Archer Ave.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the complete loss of power in both engines due to fuel starvation necessitating an emergency landing in an unfavorable area. The cause for fuel starvation of the engines has not been determined."
Wednesday 10 March 1948, 10:58 p.m.
Fatalities: 12 / Occupants: 13
Approximate Location: Aircraft crashed after takeoff just beyond the airport's northeast boundary.
(*MRS. TRIPOLINO MEO, of suburban Oak Lawn, Ill., suffered severe burns. Both of her legs and both of her arms were broken.)
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the loss of longitudinal control of the airplane. The cause for the loss of control remains undetermined."
Sunday 18 December 1949, 8:17 a.m.
Lockheed L-049-46 Constellation
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 31
Approximate Location: 63rd St. and Cicero Ave. Aircraft went through a heavy wire fence, crossed a parking lot and struck a billboard and a large ornamental stone pillar before coming to rest.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the execution by the pilot of a final approach at an excessive air speed and a landing too far down the runway."
Thursday 4 January 1951, 2:28 a.m.
Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 48
Approximate Location: .2 miles west of Midway
PROBABLE CAUSE: "Loss of control of the aircraft due to faulty piloting technique and overloading of the aircraft."
Sunday 16 September 1951, 10:47 a.m.
Curtiss C-46D-10-CU Commando
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 53
Approximate Location: .5 miles northwest of Midway.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the poor technique used by the pilot in taking off at too low an air speed to maintain single engine flight, followed by a critical loss of power from the left engine, and subsequently a partial loss of power from the right engine, conditions which were aggravated by the effects of the overload."
Sunday 17 July 1955, 6:24 a.m.
Fatalities: 22 / Occupants: 43
Approximate Location: Aircraft collided with a commercial sign northwest of airport while on final approach.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "Momentary disorientation caused by the loss of visual reference during the final visual phase of the approach resulting in an increased rate of descent a an altitude too low to effect recovery."
Sunday 15 March 1959, 12:53 a.m.
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Approximate Location: Railroad yards near 70th and Cicero.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's descent below his allowable minimum altitude and his inattention to flight instruments while attempting to locate the runway visually."
Tuesday 24 November 1959, 5:35 a.m.
Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation
Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Ground casualties: Fatalities: 8
Approximate Location: .3 miles southeast of Midway near 63rd Pl. and Kilpatrick Ave.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The manoeuvring of the aircraft in a manner that caused it to develop an excessive rate of sink while in the turn to final approach."
Friday 1 September 1961, 2:05 a.m.
Lockheed L-049 Constellation
Fatalities: 78 / Occupants: 78
Approximate Location: 9.1 miles west of Midway in a field in Clarendon Hills, Illinois.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The loss of an AN-175-21 nickel steel bolt from the parallelogram linkage of the elevator boost system, resulting in loss of control of the aircraft."
Friday 8 December 1972, 2:28 p.m.
Fatalities: 43 / Occupants: 61
Ground casualties: Fatalities: 2
Approximate Location: The aircraft struck trees and then roofs along W. 71st Street before crashing into a house at 3722 W. 70th Place.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The captain's failure to exercise positive flight management during the execution of a non-precision approach, which culminated in a critical deterioration of airspeed into the stall regime where level flight could no longer be maintained."
Friday 6 August 1976, 3:25 p.m.
North American B-25 Mitchell
Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Ground casualties: Fatalities: 1
Approximate Location: Aircraft impacted homes located at 6158 S. Moody Ave. and 6159 S. Melvina Ave.
(* NTSB report states: "Two houses, two garages, three automobiles, and a boat were destroyed. A house was damaged substantially, and nine others were damaged slightly.")
PROBABLE CAUSE: The deterioration of the cockpit environment, due to smoke [from an engine failure and fire] to the extent that the crew could not function effectively in controlling the aircraft under emergency conditions.
Thursday 8 December 2005, 7:14 p.m.
Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 103
Ground casualties: Fatalities: 1
Approximate Location: Aircraft crashed through perimeter fence and came to rest on the corner of Central Ave. and 55th St.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The probable cause of this accident was the pilots’ failure to use available reverse thrust in a timely manner to safely slow or stop the airplane after landing, which resulted in a runway overrun. This failure occurred because the pilots’ first experience and lack of familiarity with the airplane’s autobrake system distracted them from thrust reverser usage during the challenging landing.