Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Murder-suicide - Bomb
explosion inside a plane - For insurance money
Number of victims: 33
Date of murder: January 6, 1960
Date of birth: February 2, 1927
5 crews and 28 passengers
Method of murders: Bomb (dynamite)
County, North Carolina,
Died in the explosion
National Airlines Flight 2511, registration
N8225H, was a Douglas DC-6B aircraft which exploded over Bolivia,
North Carolina en route from New York International (Idlewild) Airport,
New York City, New York, to Miami, Florida on January 6, 1960. All 34
on board were killed in the accident.
The aircraft had been called into service on short
notice when the normal aircraft used for the evening flight to Miami,
a Boeing 707 jet identified as Flight 601, was grounded due to a
cracked window. Most of the passengers who were to have flown on
Flight 601 boarded a Lockheed Electra, registration N5003K; those who
could not be accommodated on the Electra were boarded on Flight 2511.
Flight 2511 departed Idlewild over two hours late,
at 11:34 PM. The flight was routine until shortly after passing
Wilmington, North Carolina. At 2:31 AM Eastern Standard Time, one of
the pilots on the flight contacted National Airlines company radio
station at Wilmington to pass on a routine progress report. At 2:38
AM, the aircraft suddenly entered a wide descending right turn and
crashed 1-1/2 miles north-west of Bolivia.
The airline was informed of the location of Flight
2511 at around 7:00 AM, when Richard Randolph telephoned its dispatch
office in Wilmington to advise that there was airplane wreckage in the
field near his house. This wreckage was later identified as that of
During the recovery, it was discovered that the
remains of one passenger, Julian A. Frank, a lawyer from New York City,
were missing from the accident site. His body was eventually found
sixteen miles away at a place called Snow's Marsh west of the Cape
Fear River. While autopsies of the crew and remaining passengers
showed that all had died due to crash forces, Frank's autopsy showed
that he had been fatally injured by a dynamite explosion originating
either in his lap or (more likely) immediately under his seat. A
number of wires and metal fragments identified as parts of a bomb were
found to have embedded themselves in his body, mainly in the arms and
legs. Extensive searches of the aircraft fuselage revealed bone and
bomb fragments surrounding the seat which had been assigned to Frank
Investigators suspected that Frank had taken the
bomb aboard the aircraft willingly, and that the bombing was therefore
a murder-suicide.The points that led them to believe that Frank was
The bomb exploded at 2:38 AM, hours after the
original Flight 601 was scheduled to land at Miami. Had the bomb
been placed on Flight 2511 by a party not on the aircraft at the
time, it should have been set to detonate at a time when Flight
601 would have been in the air.
The aircraft had not been in use for some time
before it was called into service to replace the Boeing 707 that
had been grounded, and it was therefore unlikely that the bomb was
on the aircraft before boarding.
Frank had been under investigation for fraud
and embezzlement at the time of his death, and had also taken out
large amounts of life insurance shortly before boarding the
The explosion was in immediate proximity to
Frank, either in his lap or immediately under his seat.
There was, however, other evidence that made it
less than certain that Frank was culpable. These include:
On November 16, 1959, less than two months
before the crash of Flight 2511, National Airlines Flight 967
disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico. Although the aircraft was
lost at sea and the Civil Aeronautics Board could not determine a
probable cause for the accident, it was believed that the aircraft
had been destroyed by a dynamite bomb. Investigators discovered
that a small-time crook named William Taylor had boarded the
aircraft on a ticket belonging to Richard Spears, a convicted
felon who had befriended Taylor in prison and who had taken out
over $100,000.00 worth of life insurance on himself. They
hypothesized that Taylor had boarded the aircraft with luggage
packed by Spears and, unbeknownst to Taylor, containing a bomb.
Frank's purchase of life insurance before
boarding a flight was not at all unusual in 1960. Airports even
had vending machines that issued insurance policies good for the
duration of the flight.
Frank was a commercial lawyer and was not
thought to have the knowledge necessary to build an explosive
No charges were laid in the bombing. The
investigation officially remains open.
Had the bomb detonated on Flight 601, the Boeing
707 originally scheduled to fly the route, 105 passengers and an
unknown number of crew would have been killed. It would also have been
the first crash of a Boeing jet in passenger service. (Two accidents
had occurred on training flights in 1959).
AVIATION: Bombs in the Air
January 25, 1960
With the explosive growth of air travel in the
1950s, the air industry has worked ceaselessly and effectively to make
flying safer. But despite every safety precaution, despite every
improvement in equipment and procedure, there remains one peril that
is a nightmare to all airline men: the possibility of someone, acting
out of dementia, desperation or despair, planting a bomb aboard an
airplane. In the past decade at least eight planes around the world
have been so sabotaged —and at least 99 people died as a result. Last
week U.S. authorities were deep in investigations of two more possible
"The Richest Woman."
Piecing together the fragments of a National
Airlines DC-6B that crashed last fortnight, killing 34, in North
Carolina (TIME, Jan. 18), Civil Aeronautics Board investigators found
strong evidence indicating a bomb explosion inside the plane. The
wreckage showed that an 8-ft. section near a forward washroom had been
blasted outward, as if by an explosion within the plane. A small blue
handbag, its bottom blown out, was found near the crash scene.
Searching through the passenger list for a possible suspect, the
probers turned up the name of one Julian Andrew Frank, 32.
The reason for the investigators' interest in Frank
was the discovery that within two months before the crash he had taken
out some $900,000 in life and accident insurance, naming his ex-model
wife as beneficiary. And as they looked deeper into Frank's affairs,
they found that he might well have reason for wanting to die: he was a
young man in trouble.
Handsome, wavy-haired Julian Frank was a lawyer. He
lived with his beautiful wife and two small children in exurbanite
Westport, Conn., commuted to his small office in Manhattan. Fellow
commuters recall that he was a first-rate bridge player but a loud,
boastful sort of fellow (says one acquaintance: "He gave me the
impression of being a young man in a hurry—ambitious, driving, smart").
Others remember that he often talked of dreaming that he would some
day die in a plane crash.
Up to last year, Julian Frank had earned about
$10,000 a year. Then he seemed to have struck it rich: he bragged of
making $14,000 a month, moved out of his $20,000 home into a $45,000
house, talked almost casually of having "dropped $600,000 in the stock
market." He also began taking out his huge insurance policies. "If I
die," he told friends, "my wife will be the richest woman in the world."
"Several Thousand Dollars."
But Julian Frank had serious problems—and they were
closing in on him even as he boarded the Miami-bound National plane
that took him to his death. He was being harassed by a bevy of
businessmen who claimed he had swindled them. Among the claims: 1)
that Frank had operated behind a phony company named J. & P. Factors
Inc., whose only address was a mail drop; 2) that he had pocketed
$8,025 in fees from a Phoenix firm, then reneged on his promise to
raise mortgage money; 3) that he had bilked associates in real-estate
deals out of some $40,000; 4) that he had gypped "several thousand
dollars" out of businessmen who had retained him to help raise money
for some Missouri hospitals. At the time he died, Frank was under
investigation by the FBI and the New York District Attorney, and the
New York Bar Association was considering disbarment procedures against
Lawyer Frank took aboard the National Airlines
plane a small blue bag of the sort later found near the crash. His
body, washed ashore from the Atlantic at a point about 16 miles from
the actual crash scene, was missing a leg and a foot and had been
pierced by pieces of metal which, investigators said, did not seem to
have been part of the plane itself. Insane as it seemed, if Julian
Frank did commit suicide by blowing up himself and his fellow
passengers, he had at least a sort of reason: only by making it appear
that he had died in an accident and not by suicide could he have hoped
that his widow would ever get her insurance money.
In the second case under investigation last week,
Federal Bureau of Investigation officials, while revealing few details,
said they were working on a theory about the crash of a National
Airlines DC-7B that went down with 42 aboard in the Gulf of Mexico
last November. The theory: that a Dallas naturopath named Robert
Spears, 64, possessor of a long police record that included forgery,
fraud, armed robbery and a penitentiary term, may have been involved
in the crash. Most interesting fact about Spears, whose name appeared
on the flight's passenger manifest: the FBI reported that he had once
said "that for $500 he would blow up a hospital."
National Airlines Flight 2511 went down in Brunswick County on January
6, 1960, killing all 34 people on board.
Wreckage of National Airlines Flight 2511, which exploded and crashed
January 6, 1960 in Bolivia, NC.
Reassembling the wreckage of National Airlines Flight 2511, which
exploded and crashed January 6, 1960 in Bolivia, NC.