E Burnside Street, 1978

Oregon is home to many archives, most rich with collections documenting Oregon’s history. In order to highlight some of these collections containing Portland-area images, Vintage Portland has invited photo submissions from other archives within the region. Today’s photo and text is provided by the Multnomah County Archives.

This Sheriff’s Office photograph shows the remains of United Flight 173 which crashed across E Burnside on December 28th, 1978. The tail of the plane is at about 15809 E Burnside.


Remains of United Flight 173 which crashed across E Burnside, December 28th, 1978

Remains of United Flight 173 which crashed across E Burnside, December 28th, 1978


Access the Multnomah County Archives by clicking here.

11 thoughts on “E Burnside Street, 1978

  1. My mom told me once that she and my dad were supposed to have been on that flight when she was about six months pregnant with me (they’d been in Memphis for the holidays and it would have been their connecting flight from Denver), but they’d decided to stay in Memphis a few more days.

  2. I lived just a few doors away from the crash site on 157th that night. We were sitting in the living room and suddenly everything went very black and there were house fragments and insulation flying everywhere. We ran outside out to see what had happened.
    There was no major crashing sound, just a whoosh, snapping of trees and falling debris. When we got near the noise, we were staggered when we looked up and saw the giant United symbol on the tail sticking up above the dark, broken trees, realizing at that moment what had just happened.
    My roommate (ex-United steward Jeff) mentioned that we couldn’t smell kerosene so we knew that it had run out of fuel and the fire danger was minimized. Our life saving training kicked in and we approached the gaping hole where the cockpit had been, assisting people out of the plane to a safe curb a distance away. We could see the rows of seats, eerily quiet in the darkness.
    Most passengers were asking where the terminal was thinking that they were at the airport. We did what we could in the dark to calm passengers and crew, looking for injuries, and noting very few. Most of them didn’t remember the crash.
    After what seemed like forever, distant sirens from all directions began breaking the silence and we let the medical people take over. We were asked if we were victims, as we wandered back to our house and only then realized how closely we’d come to disaster too.
    Fortunately most survived. United hastily tarped the tail section the following day and it took awhile to remove the plane after investigations were complete.

    What started as an average evening became something we’d sure never forget.

  3. I was living in an Apartment on Stark Street, not far from the crash site. Never did hear any noise, but the movie we were watching on TV was interrupted with the news. Something about the plane not being able to land and circled the airport until it ran out of fuel. Just glad that there wasn’t more injuries than there was, and I believe there were no deaths, Very lucky incident for those involved.

  4. My mother had moved back in with her parents here in Portland just about a year and a half before this happened. I remember seeing a guy with a beard on TV talking with a reporter about being on the flight. My mother put my little sister and I in the car and drove out in that direction but we didn’t find anything. Even at the time I thought she was dumb for driving out there and getting in the way of the rescuers. It’s too bad she didn’t come back with us during the daylight hours to see the plane.

  5. My neighbors drove out there from the Hawthorne area and were there before most of the rescue teams all arrived. I told them they were nuts and they would only be in the way. They ended up helping some of the victims.

  6. A brilliant display of a dead-stick landing to bring it down behind those houses without loss of life on the ground. The fatalities were limited to flight crew and first class. Everyone else came throrugh

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