February 1, 2022.   Winter Skid.

This past weekend’s storm carried me back. Back to 1982, and the Saturday night when a World Airways DC-10 skidded off the end of a runway in Boston.

It was January 23rd. The flight, with 212 people aboard, had originated in Oakland, California, with a stopover in Newark. At 7:36 p.m. the plane landed on Logan International Airport’s runway 15R — the airport’s longest stretch of pavement. The weather was neither stormy nor especially cold. In fact, it was 38 degrees with light rain. The runway, though, was covered in hard-packed snow from an earlier storm, which had turned the accumulating rainwater into a frozen glaze. The plane landed long and fast, missing the intended touchdown point. A braking report, some two hours old, rated the runway braking action as “fair to poor.” In truth it was “poor to nil.”

Unable to stop, the plane rolled past the end of the runway, veered to the right, then lumbered down an embankment into a shallow section of Boston Harbor. The forward-most section of the fuselage, including the cockpit, galley, and the first row of seats, broke off and fell forward, filling with icy water. There was no fire, however, and at first it was assumed that everyone had survived. It wasn’t until three days later that authorities realized two passengers were missing.

The missing people were Walter and Leo Metcalf, a father and son from Dedham, Massachusetts. They’d been sitting in the section that had snapped off and become submerged. The Metcalf’s bodies were never found, and to this day some believe they faked their deaths as part of an insurance scam. More likely, the two men, neither of whom could swim, were swept out to sea by the tide.

Two days after the crash, on Monday, I was at the airport, flying to La Guardia with my mother on the Eastern Shuttle. I was in tenth grade. I had a window seat, as always, and as our A300 taxied along the perimeter, I could see the red, white and gold DC-10, its nose section broken cleanly away, as if cut with a saw, still sitting there in the harbor. They had already covered over the “World Airways” titles with a tarp.

Forty years and millions of landings later, the Metcalfs are still the last airline passengers to die in an accident in Boston.

World Airways, founded in 1948, was predominantly a charter carrier, but had been trying to get a foothold in the scheduled services market. This didn’t last long, and the company went back to its roots, offering passenger, cargo, and military charters that spanned the globe. World went out of business in 2014.


Related story:


Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!