Get Outta Town: Climb Sandia Peak to pay your respect to the TWA Flight 260 crash
It’s a little weird that people would climb a mountain to look at the site of a plane crash from 64 years ago, but we get it. Tragedy always seems to accompany morbid curiosity.
As history goes, on February 19, 1955, TWA Flight 260 was on its way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, but the 40-passenger plane and its occupants unfortunately never made it. After just 10 minutes in the air, the Martin 4-0-4 instead crashed into Sandia Peak in the Sandia Mountains, an area located just east of Albuquerque. All 13 of its passengers and three crew members were killed in the impact.
The victims were recovered by the New Mexico Mountain Club and New Mexico State Police. On a more positive note, this rescue led to the creation of the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council that still operates today.
The National Transportation Safety Board initially determined that the crash was due to pilot error as the pilot had deviated from the flight path. The pilots, Ivan Spong and James Creason, were initially blamed for intentionally crashing into the peak, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s first report. However, “unknown” was later slapped onto the cause, as other factors to the crash could not be ruled out.
And, with the third revised report on the crash, the Civil Aeronautics Board released this statement:
“The Board recognizes that the theory of the fluxgate compass error advanced by the Air Line Pilots Association can not be disproven. Such error may account for the initial directional error of the flight heading the aircraft toward the Sandia Mountains. However, it can not account for the continued flight long past time the crew should have noticed the error.”
So, there’s really no known cause of the crash, or even whether or not it was intentional. A little eerie, right?
If you want to see TWA Canyon for yourself and pay homage, you can do just that. You have two choices to view the wreckage.
The most convenient way to see TWA Canyon is by taking the Sandia Peak Tramway. The cable car goes over the site, so if you’re not in the mood, you don’t have to trek up the mountain.
If you are in the mood for a moderately difficult hike, you can climb a 3.5-mile trail through the Cibola National Forest. Be warned though: the trail can be difficult to follow, so be sure to have some solid directions prepared.
Once you reach the site, a sign with a list of the victims’ names and hometowns and the wreckage from the plane are all that’s left to remember the deadly crash.