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TWA Flight 260 was the Trans World Airlines (TWA) designation for a flight from Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker to Santa Fe, New Mexicomarker in the 1950s. On February 19, 1955, the 40 passenger, Martin 4-0-4 prop plane used by TWA for that route crashed into the Sandia Mountains. Initially believed to be the result of pilot error, the cause was revised to imply that the crash was the result of instrument failure.

History

On February 19, 1955 at 7:03 am, TWA flight 260 en route from Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker to Santa Fe, New Mexicomarker received an IFR clearance from the Albuquerque tower ("ATC clears TWA 260 for approach at the Santa Fe Airport via Victor 19 climb northbound on the back course of the ILS localizer"). There were no further communications after the aircraft took off at 7:05. It was last seen in a high speed shallow climb toward the cloud-shrouded Sandia Ridge at an estimated altitude of 3,000 feet. At 7:13 the flight crashed into the Sandia Mountains killing all 13 passengers and three crew members on board. Due to the complex mountainous terrain, a day after the crash several members of the New Mexico Mountain Club, along with other volunteers assisted the New Mexico State Police in the recovery efforts leading to the formation of the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council, a voluntary organization still active today. Wreckage from the craft still remains, and is still visible — on brightly lit days — to riders on the Sandia Tram, a popular tourist attraction active since 1965. Originally the cause was believed to be the pilots “intentionally flying the plane into the mountain” but five years later the probable cause was changed to “deviation from course for reasons unknown” with speculation that the fluxgate compass may have malfunctioned.

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