continental flight 426

final remnants of continental flight 426 in a mojave desert airline graveyard taken almost ten years after the crash. photo credit: air nikon

in the summer of 1975 when i was five years old my dad was in a plane crash in denver, colorado. i only remember pieces of the story – something about wind shears and crashing soon after take-off and that my dad survived. i didn’t remember anything else. the most lasting impression is an image in my mind’s eye of a newspaper article with a photograph of my dad next to it. he’s wearing a white dress shirt, 70s era wide tie and suit jacket with a full head of lustrous blond hair.

with the amazing powers of the internet i found excerpts from the NTSB crash report that allowed me to fill in the details. it was august 7th, a hot humid day on the tarmac, when the plane took off at 4:10 in the afternoon. thunderstorms were passing over the northern section of the airport. the plane rose before encountering an unforgiving wind shear which caused the plane to descend at an unrecoverable rate.

according to the flightcrew, the aircraft climbed normally to 150 to 200 feet above the runway. the captain felt the aircraft sink before re-taking control and advancing the power to maximum levels. however, the aircraft continued to descend. at 4:11 the plane struck the ground on the right shoulder of runway 35L before sliding 2000 feet and resting on an airport road. 134 passengers were aboard the flight. fortunately only 15 were injured and no one was killed. my dad was one of the lucky few who had a few scrapes and bruises, but was generally unharmed.

though something like this could make me fearful of flying, i actually view it as a good omen. my dad was fortunate! blessings!

13 thoughts on “continental flight 426”

    1. I haven’t thought about this in some time. Tonight I started to Google the Flight 426 crash in hopes of finding any information about the pilot. We were friends in those days and I lost track of him more than 30 years ago.

      In fact, I had my bags packed on that day waiting his arrival so we could. leave on another fishing trip to Baja.
      I was actually afraid of flying; let alone on a single engine aircraft! However my confidence level was unusually high due to Bob’s experience and concsienceness. He took flying very serious.

      May I relate something to you? A week or so after he returned home to L.A., we had dinner together. Well by that time he was being lauded by Continental as a hero…a remarkable feat to land the airplane without casualties or more serious injuries. But as I recall him reluctant to talk of the “incident”. Bob did not consider himself to be heroic in any way. I remember him telling me he was scared shitless (I’m paraphrasing, of course). But what impressed me was, he had no time to be victim to fear. He only had a few seconds to try to pull up the plane or attempt a dangerous landing. Given so little margin for error, I think he drew on all his flying experience (he was a former Naval Aviator, too) and instincts…. and apparently made the right decision.

      So glad your father was safe!

      1. Hi Larry, thank you so much for sharing this with me! Your friend, the pilot, may not have viewed himself as a hero, but I absolutely do. To stay calm and use your instincts to land a plane in those circumstances is absolutely incredible.

  1. My sister and I were on that flight, we were traveling back home to Kansas after spending the summer with our dad in Oregon.

  2. I have memories of that day. I was a Continental DPS and had just landed in DEN on a flight from LAX on our DC-10. The agent told me things were busy because 426 had crashed. We were getting ready to continue the trip and a non-rev passenger in first class asked me to get his bag in the bin and recheck it. I told him we had an issue in DEN and things were busy and we could not retrieve his bag from the baggage hold to recheck it. He said he was on business and needed that bag. Turns out he was the father of a reservations agent with Continental. He was quite belligerent. Turns out, that was his last trip on pass since his privileges were removed. His daughter, the res agent, contacted me and berated me because of it. A few months later, I boarded a flight in ORD as a DPS and who should be the Captain, but Bob Pries. Good man…I felt very safe with him at the controls!

  3. I was surfing the web looking for information on this crash when I found this site.

    I was a kid of nine when my mother and two sisters and younger brother and myself had boarded that plane to go visit family. We had just barely left the runway (I remember looking at a building way down below at end of runway, thinking how small it looked), next thing I know, we were back on the ground, cabin full of dust, masks hanging down everywhere and people scrambling to get out. Cabin was full of dust because of the crash, and because the engines were all still running at full throttle. I think everyone was “lucky” because we were all still seat belted in, we were lucky enough to have come back down on flat ground, and luckily there was no fire.

    I doubt we were in the air for even a half minute when the plane came down. It happened do fast the poor folks trying to keep it in the air didn’t even have a chance. It was like someone swatted that plane out of the air like it was a fly!

    1. Wayne, your recollection matches the few details my father shared with me. I’m so glad to hear that you and your family survived as well. It’s amazing to me how this small post that was born out of my curiosity has touched so many who were affected by it. Thank you for sharing your recollections.

  4. Hi! I was a Flight Attendant for Continental Airlines at that time and had traded trips with another Flight Attendant. She witnessed landing gear coming up through the floor and impaling a passenger. The passenger did not die in that incident but I cannot imagine what she went through the next few years. The Flight Attendant that replaced me had to take a long leave of absence and, during our mandatory re-current training, we had to watch video of the cabin and cockpit.

      1. I always felt guilty about it because it should have been me on that flight.

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