Crash involving the California Polytechnic State University football team

Exactly 62 years ago today, on October 29, 1960, a plane carrying the California Polytechnic State University football team crashed near Toledo, Ohio, killing 22 of the 48 passengers and crew.


Earlier in the day, the Mustangs played nearby Bowling Green State University. Sixteen players on the football team, a student manager, a member of the gym, two crew members, and several passengers were killed in the crash. Of the other 22 people on board the plane who survived, some were seriously injured. Rescue efforts were hampered by dense fog, which slowed ambulances from Toledo on their way to the airport, which was located twenty miles east of the city.

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The plane was a World War II Curtiss C-46 Commando

The aircraft involved in the accident was a 15-year-old ex-World War II Curtiss C-46F-1-CU Commando with registration N1244N. The C-46 was chartered to fly California State Polytechnic College Mustangs from Santa Maria, California to Toledo, Ohio and back.

The aircraft was chartered from Arctic Pacific and flew from Toledo-Express Airport (TOL) in Ohio to San Luis Obispo, California with stops at Kansas City Downtown Municipal Airport (MKC) in Missouri and Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ) in New Mexico. for refueling.

Image: GCmaps.

On the day of the accident, the weather at the Toledo airport continued to deteriorate, and by 7:00 p.m. visibility was reduced to just 3/4 of a mile. It was 1/16th of a mile at 8:37 p.m., and zero at the time of the crash at 10:02 p.m.

Accident investigation

In investigating the accident, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAB) concluded that the Curtiss C-46 Commando was overloaded by 2,000 pounds over its maximum certified take-off weight of 47,100 pounds and that there was a partial loss of power in the left engine before the crash.

After the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a notice in the Airman’s Guide prohibiting commercial aircraft from taking off when visibility was less than 1/4 mile or when runway visibility was less than 2,000 feet. In its published final report, the CAB said the accident was the result of a premature take-off and the pilot’s loss of control of the aircraft. The following three factors contributed to the accident:

  1. An overweight plane.
  2. Weather conditions at the time of the accident.
  3. Partial loss of power in the left engine.

Consequences of the crash

A pilot who chose to fly despite the weather was flying on a revoked certificate but could continue to fly until further notice. After the accident, the charter company Arctic Pacific lost its charter aircraft license and ceased operations.

Among the survivors of the crash was quarterback Ted Tollner, who later became the head coach at the University of Southern California (USC) and San Diego State. At the time of the crash, Bowling Green was the easternmost school against which Cal Poly played.

After the crash, Cal Poly’s remaining three games were canceled and the school refrained from playing any games outside of California until 1969. Gradually, the distance the team was willing to travel increased, with the team playing its first game east of the Rockies. in 1978. Unfortunately for Cal Poly, they lost an NCAA Division II playoff game to Winston-Salem State in North Carolina 17-0.

NFL football announcer John Madden, who played for the Mustangs in the 1957 and 1958 seasons, was well known for his fear of flying. At the time of the crash, Madden was training at nearby Allan Hancock Junior College and knew many of the passengers on board the plane. While Madden’s fear of flying was thought to stem from the crash, he told People that he doesn’t like flying because he’s claustrophobic.

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