1967 Master Index 1969

1968 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events

1968 Events

  • 1968 — In the 1968 White Paper on Defense, the British Labour government announces that the Royal Navy's aircraft carrier force will be phased out as soon as the United Kingdom has completed its withdrawal from Malaysia, Singapore, and the Persian Gulf, scheduled for the end of 1971. [1]

January 1968

  • January — North Vietnamese Antonov An-2 Colt utility biplanes conduct bombing raids into Laos and fly night missions against ships and craft of the South Vietnamese Navy. [1]

  • January — After the Soviet Union complains about damage to a Soviet merchant ship in Haiphong Harbor by American air attack, President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration promises to make every effort to avoid a recurrence of such damage. [1]

  • January 18-19 (overnight) — A U.S. Navy Kaman UH-2 Seasprite piloted by Lieutenant junior grade Clyde E. Lassen makes a daring rescue of downed fliers in North Vietnam. For his actions, Lassen will become the only U.S. Navy helicopter pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. [1]

  • January 19 — A Lockheed C-130 Hercules of U.S. Navy Air Transport Squadron 24 (VR-24) and U.S. Navy helicopters from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, deliver relief supplies to 40,000 people rendered homeless around Montevago by an earthquake in western Sicily. [1]

  • January 21 — A United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress carrying four nuclear weapons crashes in the sea near Thule Air Base in Greenland. [1]

February 1968

  • February 1 — The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy are disestablished as they merge with the Canadian Army to form the unified Canadian Armed Forces. [1]

March 1968

  • March — The U.S. Air Force conducts reconnaissance flights over South Vietnam and Laos using Lockheed U-2s and over North Vietnam using Lockheed SR-71 Blackbirds. [1]

  • March — The United States plans air strikes against North Korea in retaliation for the January 30 North Korean seizure of the United States Navy technical research ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2), but then cancels them. [1]

  • March 8 — The United States Army announces that Bell Helicopter's Model 206A has won the Light Observation Helicopter competition. It will go into production for the Army as the Bell OH-58 Kiowa. [1]

  • March 24 — Aer Lingus Flight 712, a Vickers Viscount 803, crashes into St. George's Channel off Tuskar Rock, County Wexford, Ireland, killing all 61 people on board. No cause for the crash is ever determined. [1]

  • March 27 — The first person to orbit the earth, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, is killed in the crash of a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot. [1]

April 1968

  • April 3 — President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration restricts American bombing of North Vietnam to targets south of the 19th Parallel. [1]

  • April 4 — In the Apollo Program, Apollo-Saturn mission 502 (Apollo 6) is launched as the second and last unmanned test flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle. [1]

  • April 5 — To protest the lack of an aerial display to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force four days earlier and to demonstrate against the government of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock of the RAF's No. 1(F) Squadron makes an unauthorized display flight in a Hawker Hunter during which he "beats up" (i.e., buzzes) several RAF airfields and flies low over London, where circles the Houses of Parliament, dips his wings to the Royal Air Force Memorial, and flies under the top span of Tower Bridge, becoming the first person to fly under the bridge's upper span in a jet aircraft. He is arrested upon his return to base. [1]

  • April 8 — An engine falls off the BOAC Boeing 707-465 (G-ARWE) operating as Flight 712, seconds after takeoff from London Heathrow Airport in England, setting the wing on fire. The aircraft makes a perfect emergency landing, but the fire then spreads, killing five and injuring 38 of the 127 people on board. Among the injured are Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union Katriel Katz and pop singer Mark Wynter. For her heroism in evacuating passengers before herself dying in the fire, flight attendant Barbara Jane Harrison posthumously receives the George Cross, while Chief Steward Nevile Davis-Gordon receives the British Empire Medal for Gallantry and air traffic controller John Davis is appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. [1]

  • April 14-19 — Over 100 U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress sorties, 200 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps tactical aircraft sorties, and numerous aerial rocket artillery missions strike enemy positions in South Vietnam's A Shau Valley. [1]

  • April 19 — The U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) begins Operation Delaware in the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam, a helicopter-borne assault on North Vietnamese Army forces there. Facing heavy antiaircraft fire, it loses 10 helicopters shot down and 13 more damaged on the first day of the operation. [1]

  • April 20 — South African Airways Flight 228, the Boeing 707-344C Pretoria, crashes just after takeoff from J. G. Strijdom International Airport in Windhoek, South-West Africa (now Namibia), killing 123 of the 128 people on board. It remains the deadliest aviation accident in the history of Namibia. [1]

  • April 25 — Apollo 6's SIV-B staqe re-enters the Earth's atmosphere and the Apollo 6 command module is recovered. [1]

  • April 29 — The Royal Netherlands Navy decommissions its last aircraft carrier, HNLMS Karel Doorman (R81). She will be sold to Argentina on October 15. [1]

May 1968

  • May — The United States begins to use the General Dynamics AGM-78 Standard Anti-radiation Missile (ARM) against North Vietnamese SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery sites. [1]

  • May — The United States deploys electronic intelligence aircraft to Southeast Asia. [1]

  • May 3 — Braniff Flight 352, a Lockheed L-188A Electra, breaks up in midair after flying into a severe thunderstorm and crashes near Dawson, Texas, killing all 85 people on board. Among the dead is Joseph E. Lockridge of the Texas House of Representatives. [1]

  • May 5 — A Grumman Gulfstream II becomes the first executive jet to cross the Atlantic Ocean. [1]

  • May 17 — Operation Delaware in South Vietnam's A Shau Valley comes to an end. The U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) has captured a large amount of North Vietnamese equipment and supplies but has faced the heaviest enemy anti-aircraft fire it has encountered thus far in the Vietnam War, losing 21 helicopters shot down during the operation. [1]

  • May 22 — Los Angeles Airways Flight 841, a Sikorsky S-61L, crashes in a dairy farm in Paramount, California, killing all 23 people on board. It is the worst helicopter accident in the history of the United States at the time. [1]

June 1968

  • June — The 101st Airborne Division is redesignated as the U.S. Army's second airmobile division and renamed the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Its conversion into an airmobile division will not be complete for a year. [1]

  • June 5 — North Vietnam demands an unconditional end to American bombing of its territory. [1]

July 1968

  • July 1 — Seaboard World Airlines Flight 253A, a chartered Douglas DC-8 Super 63CF carrying 214 American troops on their way to South Vietnam and a crew of 24, strays into Soviet airspace during a flight from Seattle, Washington, to Yokota Air Base in Japan. Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 Fresco fighters intercept the Douglas DC-8 and force it to land at Burevestnik airfield on Iturup Island in the Kurile Islands, where it spends two days before being allowed to proceed to Japan. [1]

  • July 3 — A BKS Air Transport Airspeed Ambassador carrying eight race horses belonging to businessman William Hill crashes while landing at London Heathrow Airport in England. The aircraft cartwheels into the incomplete London Heathrow Terminal 1, striking and damaging two parked and empty British European Airways Hawker Siddeley Trident 1 airliners along the way. Six of the eight people aboard the plane and all eight horses are killed. [1]

  • July 23 — Three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijack El Al Flight 426, a Boeing 707 with 48 other people on board, during a flight from London Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom to Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, and divert it to Algiers Airport in Dar El Beïda, Algeria, just outside Algiers. They release the 26 non-Israeli passengers the following day and 10 more women and children a few days after that. The 12 remaining hostages are released unharmed five weeks later. [1]

August 1968

  • August — The British government purchases Beagle Aircraft to ensure the continued development and production of light aircraft in the United Kingdom. [1]

  • August 13 — Swedish Count Gustav von Rosen defies Nigerian air defenses to fly in supplies to the Biafran rebels. [1]

  • August 14 — Los Angeles Airways Flight 417 crashes at Compton, California, resulting in the loss of 21 lives. The accident aircraft (N300Y, s/n 61031), was the prototype of the Sikorsky S-61L. [1]

  • August 28 — McDonnell Douglas completes the 3,000th McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. [1]

  • August 31 — The Rolls-Royce RB.211 is successfully ground-tested. [1]

September 1968

  • September — The United States introduces the Rockeye cluster bomb into service, employing it in the Vietnam War. [1]

  • September — The U.S. Navy introduces the Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior into service, employing it over Vietnam. It is configured to serve both as an aerial tanker and as an electronic countermeasures aircraft. [1]

  • September 11 — Air New Zealand flies T. H. Williams, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's navigator, to Sydney to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their first trans-Tasman flight. [1]

  • September 11 — Air France Flight 1611, a Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III, catches fire in mid-air and crashes into the Mediterranean Sea off Nice, France, killing all 95 people on board. Among the dead is the French Army Général de division René Cogny. [1]

  • September 19 — A U.S. Navy LTV F-8C Crusader fighter of Fighter Squadron 111 (VF-111) shoots down a North Vietnamese Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG fighter. It is believed to be the last American air-to-air victory in the Vietnam War until March 1970. [1]

  • September 30 — The first Boeing 747 is rolled out. [1]

October 1968

  • October 24 — National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pilot William "Bill" Dana pilots the 199th flight of the North American X-15. Although not planned as such, it will be the last North American X-15 flight. [1]

  • October 25 — Northeast Airlines Flight 946, a Fairchild Hiller FH-227, crashes on Moose Mountain near Etna, New Hampshire, while descending on approach to a refueling stop at Lebanon, New Hampshire. Thirty-two of the 42 people on board die, and all 10 survivors suffer injuries. [1]

November 1968

  • November 1 — President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration suspends all American bombing of North Vietnam; Operation Rolling Thunder is suspended. [1]

  • November 22 — Attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport in San Mateo County, California, a Douglas DC-8-62 operating as Japan Airlines Flight 2 unintentionally lands in San Francisco Bay 2½ miles (4 km) short of the runway. All 107 people on board survive the mishap, and the aircraft itself is recovered 55 hours later. [1]

  • November 24 — Four men hijack Pan American World Airways Flight 281 during a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and force it to fly them to Havana, Cuba. [1]

December 1968

  • December 2 — Wien Consolidated Airlines Flight 55, a Fairchild F-27B, suffers structural failure after encountering severe turbulence and crashes into Spotsy Lake at Pedro Bay, Alaska, killing all 39 people on board. [1]

  • December 12 — The Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-321B Clipper Malay, operating as Flight 217, crashes into the Caribbean Sea near Caracas, Venezuela, killing all 51 people on board. Among the dead is former Miss Venezuela Olga Antonetti. [1]

  • December 20 — At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American X-15 program personnel attempting a 200th flight of the North American X-15 find the base covered by snow. Deeming the highly unusual snowfall an omen, they decide against the flight and simply retire the aircraft instead. It is the end of the North American X-15 program. [1]

  • December 24 — Apollo 8 orbits the moon carrying Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. [1]

  • December 26 — Two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attack El Al Flight 253, a Boeing 707, with a submachine gun and hand grenades as it prepares to depart Athens, Greece, killing one passenger and seriously wounding a flight attendant before being arrested. [1]

  • December 27 — North Central Airlines Flight 458, a Convair CV-580, crashes into a hangar at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, while attempting a go around in poor weather at night, killing 27 of the 45 people on board and killing one and injuring six people on the ground. [1]

  • December 31 — MacRobertson Miller Airlines Flight 1750, a Vickers Viscount Type 720, loses more than half of its right wing near the end of a flight from Perth to Port Hedland, Australia, and crashes 28 nautical miles (32 miles; 51 km) south of Port Hedland, killing all 26 people on board. [1]

1968 Aircraft First Flights

  • 1968 — Bell 212. [1]

  • May 25 — Grumman EA-6B Prowler. [1]

  • June 30 — Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. [1]

  • July — Nord N 500 (tethered). [1]

  • August 2 — Aérospatiale SA 341 Gazelle. [1]

  • September 8 — SEPECAT Jaguar. [1]

  • November 4 — Aero L-39 Albatros. [1]

  • November 13 — Northrop HL-10. [1]

  • December 3 — Anahuac Tauro (XB-TAX). [1]

  • December 31 — Tupolev Tu-144 SST. [1]

1968 Aircraft Entering Service

  • February — Boeing 737 with Lufthansa. [1]

  • March 6 — Bell CH-118 (ex-CUH-1H) with Canadian Armed Forces Mobile Command. [1]

  • April 12 — Beagle Pup with Shoreham Flying School. [1]

  • May 2 — Beechcraft Model 99 with Commuter Airlines. [1]

1968 Aircraft Retirements

  • December 20 — North American X-15. [1]

Works Cited

  1. Timeline and History: Wikipedia. 1968 in Aviation. [1]

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