Air France crash recalls '62 Orly tragedy

106 Atlanta arts patrons died in takeoff crash; Wednesday is 47th anniversary
A flag flew at half-staff in Atlanta after the 1962 crash.

A flag flew at half-staff in Atlanta after the 1962 crash.

The apparent crash of an Air France jetliner that disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean on Monday came just two days before the 47th anniversary of the worst previous crash in the airline's history — a crash that left an indelible mark on the history of Atlanta.

On June 3, 1962, an Air France charter flight from Paris to Atlanta crashed on takeoff from France's Orly Field.

The crash, at the time the worst in aviation history, killed 130 people, 106 of them Atlanta arts patrons returning home from a tour of European capitals. Two flight attendants sitting in the rear of the Boeing 707 survived.

Retired WSB radio news director Aubrey Morris was called out of church that Sunday morning and delivered the tragic news to Atlanta, broadcasting the names of victims as they came over the teletype at Air France's local office.

Among the names were artists Louise Taylor Turner and Helen Clark Seydel, and scores of Atlanta Art Association members, including Reuben Crimm and Betsy Bevington.

June 3, 1962 - Paris, France - The twisted remains of an Air France Boeing 707 jet are scattered over Orly Field near Paris. The tail section is the only recognizable part of the plane after it crashed on takeoff.

Credit: AP FILE

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Credit: AP FILE

"Everyone felt helpless," said Morris, now 87. "The impact of was absolutely devastating."

Morris said that after hearing the news of Monday's Air France incident, "I can feel how the people of Paris feel now."

After the 1962 crash, Morris accompanied Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen to Paris, where the mayor represented the families of the dozens of deceased Atlantans.

"It was Atlanta's version of Sept. 11 in that the impact on the city in 1962 was comparable to New York of Sept. 11," Ann Uhry Abrams, author of the book, "Explosion at Orly: The True Account of the Disaster that Transformed Atlanta," told the Journal-Constitution on the 40th anniversary of the Orly crash.

Investigators later determined that the Atlanta-bound charter developed trouble as the pilot began the takeoff roll.

The pilot unsuccessfully attempted to abort the takeoff by locking the wheels and reversing the engines. The plane crashed just yards off the runway.