Air France Flight 007
An Air France Boeing 707-328 similar to the one involved
|Date||3 June 1962|
|Summary||Rejected takeoff due to mechanical failure|
|Site||Orly Airport, Paris, France|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 707-328|
|Aircraft name||Chateau de Sully|
|Flight origin||Paris-Orly Airport|
|1st stopover||Idlewild Airport|
|2nd stopover||Atlanta Municipal Airport|
|Destination||Houston Municipal Airport|
Air France Flight 007 crashed on 3 June 1962 while on take-off from Orly Airport. Air France had just opened its new office in downtown Atlanta, and this was the inaugural flight. Air France was doing its best to publicize the flight, and, hence, it was filled with Atlanta's elite. The only survivors of the disaster were two flight attendants, Françoise Authie and Jacqueline Gille, seated in the back of the aircraft; the rest of the flight crew, and all 122 passengers on board the Boeing 707, were killed. The crash was at the time the worst single-aircraft disaster, the first single civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths, and the second-deadliest aviation disaster in history.
According to witnesses, during the takeoff roll on runway 8, the nose of Flight 007 lifted off the runway, but the main landing gear remained on the ground. Even though the aircraft had already exceeded the maximum speed at which the takeoff could be safely aborted within the remaining runway length, the flight crew had no other choice and attempted to abort the take off.
With less than 3,000 feet (910 m) of runway remaining, the pilots used wheel brakes and reverse thrust to attempt to stop the 707. They braked so hard they destroyed the main landing gear tires and wheels, but the aircraft ran off the end of the runway. They plowed into the town of Villeneuve-le-Roi. The left undercarriage failed and a fire broke out from fuselage. Three flight attendants initially survived the disaster. Two attendants seated in the back of the cabin survived, but the third died in the hospital. At the time, it was the world's worst air disaster involving one aircraft.
Later investigation found indications that a motor driving the elevator trim may have failed, leaving pilot Captain Roland Hoche and First Officer Jacques Pitoiset unable to complete rotation and liftoff.
Impact on Atlanta, Georgia
The Atlanta Art Association had sponsored a month-long tour of the art treasures of Europe and 106 of the passengers were art patrons heading home to Atlanta on this charter flight. The tour group included many of Atlanta's cultural and civic leaders. Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr. went to Orly to inspect the crash site where so many Atlantans perished.
During their visit to Paris, the Atlanta arts patrons had seen Whistler's Mother at the Louvre. In late 1962, the Louvre, as a gesture of good will to the people of Atlanta, sent Whistler's Mother to Atlanta to be exhibited at the Atlanta Art Association museum on Peachtree Street.
The Woodruff Arts Center, originally called the Memorial Arts Center and one of the United States' largest, was founded in 1968 in memory of those who died in the crash. The loss to the city was a catalyst for the arts in Atlanta, helped create this memorial to the victims, and led to the creation of the Atlanta Arts Alliance. The French government donated a Rodin sculpture, The Shade, to the High Museum of Art in memory of the victims of the crash. Ann Uhry Abrams, the author of Explosion at Orly: The True Account of the Disaster that Transformed Atlanta, described the incident as "Atlanta's version of September 11 in that the impact on the city in 1962 was comparable to New York of September 11."
The crash occurred during the civil rights movement in the United States. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte announced cancellation of a sit-in in downtown Atlanta (a protest of the city's racial segregation) as a conciliatory gesture to the grieving city. However, Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, speaking in Los Angeles, expressed joy over the deaths of the all-white group from Atlanta, saying "I would like to announce a very beautiful thing that has happened...I got a wire from God today...well, all right, somebody came and told me that he really had answered our prayers over in France. He dropped an airplane out of the sky with over 120 white people on it because the Muslims believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But thanks to God, or Jehovah, or Allah, we will continue to pray, and we hope that every day another plane falls out of the sky." These remarks led Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty to denounce him as a "fiend" and Dr. King to voice disagreement with his statement. Malcolm later remarked that "The Messenger should have done more." This incident was the first in which Malcolm X gained widespread national attention. Malcolm later explained what he meant: "When that plane crashed in France with a 130 white people on it and we learned that 120 of them were from the state of Georgia, the state where my own grand-father was a slave in, well to me it couldn't have been anything but an act of God, a blessing from God (...)"
In art and popular culture
Andy Warhol painted his first "disaster painting", 129 Die in Jet!, based on the 4 June 1962 cover of New York Daily Mirror, the day after the crash. At that time, the death count was 129. There are two known paintings, one in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, and one in private collection. Elizabeth Musser wrote The Swan House which highlighted this tragic time in Atlanta. In 2018, Hannah Pittard published Visible Empire, a work of historical fiction that deals with the effects of the crash on the city of Atlanta.
Air France continues to use the flight number 7 today. However, the flight number is used on the trip back to France, and the flight now only runs from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport, using an Airbus A380-800. The forward trip is now Flight 6, terminating in New York.
- article on the crash at PilotFriend.com
- Morris, Mike. "Air France crash recalls '62 Orly tragedy." Atlanta Journal Constitution. 2 June 2009. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.
- "Atlanta arts patrons die in 1962 Paris plane crash". ajc.com. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Airplane crash at Orly Field by Randy Golden in About North Georgia
- Frank Zollner, John F. Kennedy and Leonardo's Mona Lisa: Art as the Continuation of Politics
- Bentley, Rosalind. "Sadness, legacy of Orly crash remembered." Atlanta Journal Constitution. 10 May 2012. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.>
- Gupton Jr., Guy W. "Pat" (Spring 2000). "First Person". Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Retrieved 2006-11-07.
- Taylor Branch (1999). Pillar of fire: America in the King years, 1963-65. America in the King Years. 2 of 3. New York City: Simon & Schuster. p. 14. ISBN 0-684-84809-0. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- 129 Die in Jet! by Andy Warhol, New York Mirror Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- Jonathan Crane: "Sadism and Seriality: The Disaster Paintings", The Critical Response to Andy Warhol (ed. Pratt), 1997, p. 260.
- "Air France (AF) #7 ✈ FlightAware". FlightAware. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- The Day Atlanta Stood Still, 2001 Georgia Public TV documentary about the Orly Accident from the city of Atlanta's perspective.
- The Day Atlanta Died, from About North Georgia
- Orly Air Crash of 1962, from the New Georgia Encyclopedia
- 1962: 130 die in Paris air crash, On This Day, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Article on the crash at PilotFriend.com
- (in French) Official report by the enquiry board of French ministry in charge of transportation (Archive)
- Newsreel footage concerning the incident (silent) (1962) from British Pathé (Record No:68928) at YouTube