For an island state heavily dependent on air transportation, Hawai‘i has had surprisingly few major air crashes. But there have been several big ones.
The greatest death toll in any Island air accident was sixty-six, caused by the crash of a MATS R6-D into the Wai‘anae Mountains near Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot on March 22, 1955. The plane had left Hickam for Travis Air Force Base the previous evening, but had turned back 3-1/2 hours out because of radio trouble. Everyone aboard, including fifty-five members of the armed forces, two military dependents, and a nine-member Navy crew, died in the 2:16 a.m. crash.
The second highest death toll resulted from the explosion of a Transocean Airlines DC-6B in mid-air during a flight from Wake Island to Honolulu on July 11, 1953. All fifty-eight persons aboard perished.
On November 8, 1957, a Boeing Stratocruiser operated by Pan American, while on a flight to California, plunged into the sea 1,034 miles northeast of O‘ahu. All forty-four passengers and crew members died.
The first fatal crash of a commercial airliner on Island soil occurred July 22, 1962. A Canadian Pacific jet-prop Britannia that had just taken off from Honolulu International Airport bound for Fiji turned back with one engine out, missed the runway, and crashed. Out of forty persons aboard, twenty-seven died.
By Robert C. Schmitt