Early on Aug. 24, 1990, Michael Spear, the president of the Rouse Co., which had redeveloped what is now Faneuil Hall Marketplace, his wife and daughter got into their Piper Cheyenne turboprop plane for a quick flight to Boston from Chatham.
They never made Logan, though: Around 6:30 a.m., after an air-traffic controller told him to climb to a higher altitude, he radioed he couldn’t and that smoke was coming out of one of the engines. Moments later, the plane crashed into a driveway off Lorna Road in Mattapan.
The Spears died on impact. Residents of one house were able to escape the fire the crash caused. The other house was vacant at the time.
The crash came a little more than three years after another plane crashed in the middle of Lonsdale Street in Dorchester, killing the pilot and causing a nine-alarm fire that sent several residents to the hospital with burns. The pilot was also trying for Logan, in a Piper Seneca transporting financial documents. Video.
Other fatal Boston plane crashes involved much larger planes:
Jan. 23, 1982. World Airways DC-10, Logan Airport: A flight from Oakland, with a stop at Newark, landed on an icy Runway 15R. The pilot veered to avoid a pier at the end of the runway and the plane skidded down an embankment into Boston Harbor, which caused the front section of the plane to detach and threw two passengers into the water. Their bodies were never found. The remaining 210 people onboard were able to evacuate – 40 with injuries. Investigators blamed both Logan for failing to maintain a safe runway and the pilot for coming in too fast and touching down too far down the runway. Court case.
March 7, 1974. Delta Airlines DC-9, Logan Airport: The plane, coming in from Burlington, VT and Manchester, NH, hit a seawall about 3,000 feet before the start of the runway as fog was coming in, killing 82 of 83 passengers and all 5 crew members. The one passenger who survived died five months later. Investigators concluded the flight crew failed to “monitor altitude and to recognize precision approach conducted in rapidly changing meteorological conditions,” which was compounded by “questionable information” from the plane’s instrumentation and “nonstandard air traffic control services.”
Nov. 3, 1973. Pan Am 707, Logan Airport: The three crew members on board this cargo flight died when their plane crashed just short of Runway 33 during an emergency landing. The plane had taken off from JFK, bound for Germany, but was given permission to land at Logan about an hour into the flight when thick smoke filled the cabin, impairing “the flightcrew’s vision and ability to function effectively during the emergency.” The smoke seems to have come from an improperly packed and stowed shipment of nitric acid, which leaked and reacted with the sawdust that shouldn’t have been used to cushion the acid containers. Witnesses saw one of the cockpit windows open and thick smoke come out; the plane “was nearly vertical at impact.”
March 10, 1964. Slick Airways, Douglas C-54B, Castle Island: Cargo flight from JFK to Logan via Hartford, crashed at Castle Island while on approach to runway 4R, killing the three crew members aboard. A controller at Logan, just across Boston Harbor, spotted the “large ball of flame” from the crash. Investigators blamed a large buildup of ice on the tail during the plane’s descent that pitched the plane’s nose downward further than the pilot could recover from during the final approach.
Oct. 14, 1960. Eastern Airline Lockheed Electra: Some 62 people, including 3 of 5 crew members, died when the plane, just seven seconds after takeoff and 150 feet above the water, flew through a large flock of starlings, which were sucked into three of the plane’s four engines, causing them to shut down and making the plane roll into a spin and crash into Winthrop Harbor, “striking the water almost vertically.” Ten people survived. The flight had been bound for Atlanta, with several stops along the way.
Investigators found the remains of at least 75 starlings along Runway 9, from which the plane was departing. In the recovered engines, they found the remains of starlings, including feathers, as well as one seagull feather. To test the theory that the bird strike was responsible for the crash, the engines’ manufacturer started up engines and fed starling bodies into them. Additional tests by Lockheed showed it took at least six starlings in an engine to cause a shutdown of the type seen on the crashed plane. Also see this account, which profiles some of the passengers.