On the 6th of August, 1961, the MALÉV HA-TSA plane crashed into the top floor of the house at Lumumba Street (Róna Street today) 224 during its sixth sightseeing flight of the day. According to 444.hu, the crew of the plane, all of the passengers and three people in the house died. But what happened exactly? And how was it possible to go sightseeing on a plane?
Flying over residential areas is strictly controlled today, it is almost unimaginable to see a passenger plane fly above city at a low altitude (except for air bridges and special shows), but this used to be a completely normal spectacle a century ago. However, due to several accidents, the rules became more and more strict, severe with time.
Shortly after WWII Hungarian aerial traffic was relaunched, which mainly meant inland flights, thanks to which, people could get to Pécs, Szombathely or Debrecen in no time for the price of a bus ticket. What’s astounding is that getting on the plane was just as simple as getting on a bus or train, there were only minimal safety measures carried out.
The HA-TSA was born in the USA in 1943 as an original C-47, which later served near Munich in the American air force. One time the pilots missed their route and ended up violating the Hungarian and Romanian air space. Therefore Hungarian authorities feed the crew and expelled them from the country, but kept the C-47 despite the remonstrance of Washington. The Americans emphasised that the pilots got lost, however, it couldn’t be excluded that the plane came to “look around” since cases like this were common during the Cold War.
So the plane stayed in Hungary and got Soviet engines, thus turning it into a TS-62, which became the property of MALÉV (formed from MASZOVLET in 1954) in the July of 1956. That was when it received the HA-TSA registration mark, which referred to its type, but its operators called the vehicle “Tasa”. The plane took part in the popular Budapest pleasure-flights, which were 12 minute routes that started from Ferihegy. It meant that there were several planes circling above the city at the same time.
The 6th of august, 1961 started out just like any day. Tasa and its crew were over five sightseeing flights, so they were probably quite tired and bored. The first period of the sixth flight went well, the issues arose above Zugló. Before the crash, the plane started doing sudden and sharp turns and wave flying, at the ascending period of which the pilots banked the plane in a prohibited angle, which led to a sliding loss of altitude. Things got out of control, everyone on the plane fell out of their seats because their seatbelts weren’t fastened, so basically no one could control the plane, which crashed into the building in a spiral dive.
The building the plane crashed into stood on the corner of the Erzsébet királyné Road and Lumumba Street. The vehicle fell into the roof and the second floor, only the first floor joist was able to stop it. Thirty people died in the tragedy.
People were shocked by the tragedy, everybody started guessing the cause and several theories were created. The authorities started investigating right away and they stated that all appliances of the plane were operable and the air traffic control crew worked well. However, there were more passengers on the plane than allowed, therefore some of them ended up in the pilot house.
The investigation took the fouls into consideration and also the possibility that one of the pilots wanted to amaze a female passenger, that’s why he did the risky manoeuvres. The overload of the plane played a key role after losing balance. Since the plane flew at a very low altitude, the pilots didn’t have much chance to interfere in case of arising problems.
All in all, the investigation concluded that the death of the thirty people were caused by the pilots, who did forbidden manoeuvres and lost control of the plane. The tragedy also caused a damage worth 4 million forints (~EUR 13 thousand) and the prestige loss of MALÉV. Consequently, pleasure-flights above the city were banned for a long time.