Airline Industry Update

>> Home > Aviation History Timeline

Aviation History Timeline - 1959

This is list of civil and military aviation-related events that happened across the globe in 1959. Aviation timeline - 1959


  • Northern Aircraft Inc. becomes the Downer Aircraft Company Inc.[2]
  • January 1 – The British government announces its decision to proceed with development of the BAC TSR.2 supersonic tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft.[3]
  • January 6 – While on approach to Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Bristol, Tennessee, Southeast Airlines Flight 308, a Douglas DC-3A, strays off course and crashes into Holston Mountain, killing all 10 people on board.
  • January 11 – Lufthansa Flight 502, a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation, crashes just short of the runway on approach to land at Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, killing 36 of the 39 people on board and leaving all three survivors injured.
  • January 18 – A United States Air Force F-100C Super Sabre parked at a secret base somewhere in the Pacific Ocean with a nuclear bomb on board catches fire after its external fuel tanks are dropped and explode during a practice alert. The fire is put out in seven minutes and no nuclear explosion takes place.[4]
  • January 25 – American Airlines begins its first jet service with a Boeing 707 flight between New York, New York, and Los Angeles, California.[5]
  • January 31 – The United States deactivates its Ground Observer Corps.


  • February 3
    • American Airlines Flight 320, a Lockheed L-188A Electra, crashes into the East River while on approach to New York City's LaGuardia Airport, killing 65 of the 73 people on board. It is the first fatal accident involving the Electra.
    • Rock music stars Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper die when the Beechcraft Bonanza they are traveling in crashes during a snow storm in Iowa.
  • February 4 – Flying a Cessna 172 Skyhawk (registration N9172B), Robert Timm and John Cook land at McCarran Airfield in Las Vegas, Nevada, after remaining airborne continuously for 64 days 22 hours 19 minutes 5 seconds. The flight sets a new world record for manned flight endurance. They had taken off from McCarran Airfield to begin the flight on December 4, 1958.[6]
  • February 17 – A chartered Turkish Airlines Vickers Viscount Type 793 carrying Prime Minister of Turkey Adnan Menderes to London to sign the London Agreement for the constitution of Cyprus strikes trees, loses its wings and engines, and crashes in Jordan's Wood in Newdigate, Surrey, England, while on approach to Gatwick Airport. Fourteen of the 24 people on board die, and nine of the 10 survivors are injured. Menderes survives with only minor scratches on his face and signs the agreement two days later in his hospital bed.
  • February 20 – The Canadian government cancels the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow and requires that all nine Arrows completed or under construction be destroyed. The cancellation results from the belief of Canadian politicians that missile technology had made manned interceptor aircraft unnecessary.[7]


  • March 15 – In the Soviet Union, a commercial jet aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-104 (registration CCCP-42419), takes off from Leningrad′s Shosseynaya Airport (the future Pulkovo Airport) for the first time. Construction work had been undertaken at the airport since the mid-1950s to lengthen its runways s that it could accommodate jet aircraft.
  • March 20 – Trans World Airlines initiates its first jet service between San Francisco, California, and New York City, using the Boeing 707-131.[8]
  • March 29 – Barthélemy Boganda, the prime minister of the Central African Republic autonomous territory (the future Central African Republic) dies when his plane explodes in mid-air over Boukpoyanga, killing all nine people on board.[9]
  • March 31 – BOAC commences its first scheduled round-the-world westbound service from London in the United Kingdom via New York City, San Francisco, and Honolulu to Tokyo, Japan, and onward to London.


  • Kuwait Airways takes over the assets of British International Airlines (BIA).
  • April 8 – The Italian World War I ace and famed seaplane racing pilot Mario de Bernardi is performing aerobatics in a light plane over a Rome airport when he begins to experience a heart attack. He lands the plane safely, but dies minutes later at the age of 65.
  • April 10 – Six rebels hijack a Compagnie Haitienne de Transports Aériens (COHATA) Douglas DC-3 with 32 people on board during a domestic flight in Haiti from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince, shoot and kill the pilot, and force the copilot to fly the airliner to Santiago de Cuba in Cuba.[10]
  • April 16 – Ten minutes after an Aerovías Cubanas Internacionales airliner (possibly a Curtiss C-46 Commando) with 22 people on board takes off from Havana, Cuba, for a domestic flight to Isla de la Juventud, four men draw guns and force plane to fly to Miami, Florida.[11]
  • April 23 – An Air Charter Limited Avro Super Trader IV carrying top-secret equipment from the United Kingdom to the rocket range at Australia's Woomera Airfield crashes on Mount Süphan in Turkey, killing all 12 men on board. The wreckage is not found until April 29.
  • April 25 – During the last leg of a Miami, Florida-to-Varadero, Cuba-to-Havana, Cuba, flight, two men and two women who had boarded at Varadero hijack a Cubana de Aviación Vickers Viscount with 12 people on board and force it to fly to Key West, Florida.[12]
  • April 29 – An Iberia Douglas C-47A-75-DL Skytrain (registration EC-ABC) crashes into the east slope of the Sierra de Valdemeca about 60 meters (197 feet) from the top of Telegraph Hill in Cuenca, Spain, during a flight from Barcelona to Madrid, killing all 28 people on board.[13] Spanish gymnastics champion Joaquín Blume and his pregnant wife are among the dead.[9]


  • May 1 – North Vietnam organizes No. 919 Transport Regiment as the first unit of the Vietnam People's Air Force.
  • May 5 – The United States Army's Doak VZ-4 Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) prototype aircraft transitions from vertical to horizontal flight and vice versa for the first time.[14]
  • May 12 – Capital Airlines Flight 75, a Vickers 745D Viscount, breaks apart in severe turbulence and crashes in a rural area near Chase, Maryland, killing all 31 people on board.


  • June 4 – Max Conrad flies a Piper Comanche from Casablanca to New York, setting a new light plane distance record of 7,683 miles (12,365 km).
  • June 8
    • The United States Navy submarine USS Barbero (SS-317) and the United States Post Office attempt the delivery of mail via Missile Mail.
    • Continental Airlines inaugurates Boeing 707 service with non-stop flights between Chicago and Los Angeles.
  • June 16 – North Korean Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s (NATO reporting name "Fresco") attack a United States Navy P4M-1Q Mercator off the coast of North Korea. The Mercator's crew returns the aircraft safely to Japan.[15]
  • June 30 – A U.S. Air Force North American F-100 Super Sabre fighter suffers an in-flight engine fire over Okinawa. The pilot ejects safely, but the F-100 crashes into Miyamori Elementary School and surrounding houses in Uruma, killing 11 students at the school and six other people in the neighborhood and injuring 210 others, including 156 students at the school.


  • July 1 – Belgian International Air Services (BIAS) is founded.
  • July 6 – A United States Air Force C-124 Globemaster II transporting two nuclear weapons without fissile cores crashes during take-off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana, and catches fire. The bombs′ high-explosive detonators do not explode and all seven people on board the plane survive, but the aircraft′s wreckage and the area surrounding it suffer limited radioactive contamination.[16]
  • July 8
    • A hijacker commandeers a JAT airliner with 27 people on board during a domestic flight in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from Tivat to Beograd and forces it to fly to Bari, Italy.[17]
    • Belgian International Air Services (BIAS) begins flight operations with a flight between Rotterdam and London.
    • The Argentine Navy commissions its first aircraft carrier, ARA Independencia (V-1). She is the first aircraft carrier to enter service in Latin America.
  • July 9 – A Royal Air Force Vickers Valiant makes the first non-stop flight from England to Cape Town, South Africa.
  • July 14 – Major V. Ilyushin of the Soviet Union sets a new altitude record of 28,852 m (94,659 ft) in the Sukhoi T-431.
  • July 29 – Qantas introduces the Boeing 707 on its Sydney-San Francisco route, the first transpacific service flown by jet.


  • August 3 – Flying at an altitude of 70,000 feet (21,336 meters) over Utah in a Lockheed U-2 on the seventh flight of his United States Air Force U-2 training program, Republic of China Air Force Major Hsichun "Mike" Hua experiences a surprise flameout due to fuel exhaustion. Unable to return to his base at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, he glides the U-2 to a deadstick night landing at Cortez Municipal Airport in Cortez, Colorado, ground-looping the U-2 but landing it intact. The U.S. Air Force awards him the Distinguished Flying Cross for the achievement.[18]
  • August 19 – A Transair Douglas Dakota chartered by the British National Union of Students and carrying 29 British students and a crew of three strays off course and crashes in the Montseny Range in Catalonia, Spain, killing all on board. It is Transair's first accident.
  • August 24 – Pan American World Airways inaugurates the first jetliner service between the continental United States and Hawaii, using Boeing 707s.[19]


  • September 4 – Soviet Air Forces test pilot Vladimir Ilyushin sets a world absolute altitude record in the Sukhoi T-431, reaching an altitude of 28,852 meters (94,658 feet).
  • September 17 – In the second North American X-15, 56-6671, Scott Crossfield makes the first powered X-15 flight, reaching Mach 2.11 at 52,341 feet (15,954 meters).[20]
  • September 23 – The United States Air Force officially cancels the North American Aviation XF-108 Rapier.
  • September 24 – The Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux (TAI) Douglas DC-7C F-BIAP flies into trees while departing Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport, in Mérignac, France, and crashes, killing 54 of the 65 people on board and leaving all 11 survivors injured.
  • September 25 – A United States Navy P5M Marlin antisubmarine plane carrying an unarmed nuclear depth charge ditches in Puget Sound near Whidbey Island, Washington. The depth charge is not recovered.[21]
  • September 29 – Braniff Flight 542, a Lockheed L-188 Electra, disintegrates in mid-air and crashes near Buffalo, Texas, killing all 34 people on board.


  • Scott Crossfield reaches Mach 2.15 in the second North American X-15, 56-6671.[20]
  • October 2 – Three hijackers commandeer a Cubana de Aviación Vickers Viscount with 40 people on board during a domestic flight in Cuba from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and force it to fly to Miami, Florida.[22]
  • October 15
    • A United States Air Force Convair B-58 Hustler flies 1,680 miles (2,705 km) in 80 minutes with one refueling, maintaining a speed of more than Mach 2 for more than an hour. The B-58 is the world′s first bomber capable of Mach 2 flight.[23]
    • Two U.S. Air Force aircraft – a B-52F-100-BO Stratofortress bomber with two nuclear bombs on board and a KC-135 Stratotanker – collide in mid-air at an altitude of 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) during an aerial refueling procedure near Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Both planes crash, killing two of the four crew members aboard the KC-135 and six members of the B-52′s crew. The crash of the B-52 damages one unarmed nuclear weapon, but no nuclear contamination results.[24][25]
  • October 30 – The Piedmont Airlines Douglas DC-3 Buckeye Pacemaker, operating as Flight 349, crashes on Bucks Elbow Mountain near Crozet, Virginia, killing 26 of the 27 people on board and seriously injuring the sole survivor, a passenger who is found near the wreckage still strapped into his seat.
  • October 31 – Colonel G. Mosolov of the Soviet Union sets a new airspeed record of 2,387 km/h (1,483 mph) in the Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-66


  • November 5 – After suffering an in-flight engine fire, the second North American X-15, 56-6671, piloted by Scott Crossfield, breaks its back making an emergency landing on Rosamond Dry Lake, California.[20]
  • November 16 – National Airlines Flight 967, a Douglas DC-7B, crashes in the Gulf of Mexico with the loss of all 42 people on board. An in-flight bombing is suspected but never proven.
  • November 21 – Two minutes after takeoff from Beirut, Lebanon, Ariana Afghan Airlines Flight 202, a Douglas DC-4, crashes into the side of a hill at Aramoun, killing 24 of the 27 people on board.


  • December 2 – During a revolt against President of Brazil Juscelino Kubitschek, Brazilian Air Force officers seize several of the air force′s planes and hijack a Panair do Brasil Lockheed L-049 Constellation (registration PP-PCR) with 44 people on board while it is making a domestic flight in Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Belém. When the revolt fails, they force the Constellation to fly them to Buenos Aires, Argentina.[26]
  • December 3 – The Italian airline Società Aerea Mediterranea (SAM), previously active from March 1928 to August 1934, is relaunched as a subsidiary of Alitalia.
  • December 6 – Flying a McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, U.S. Navy Commander Lawrence E. Flint sets a new world altitude record of 98,556 feet (30,040 meters)[27] in Operation Top Flight.
  • December 14 – A U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104C Starfighter sets a new world altitude record of 103,389 ft (31,513 m).[28]
  • December 15 – U.S. Air Force Major J. W. Roberts sets a new world airspeed record of 1,525.93 mph (2,455.74 km/h) in a Convair F-106 Delta Dart.[29]