A Restaurant With a Plane Sticking Out of It Near a Fatal Crash Site... Not Great

The puzzling, ugly design would be fine—had an actual plane not crashed into an ice cream shop a block away, killing 22 people and injuring 28.
January 20, 2020, 12:00pm
plane crash fuselage
Photo: Getty Images

The design for a new restaurant that is scheduled to be built across from the Sacramento Executive Airport is almost laughably unattractive. The renderings that have been released show a boxy combination of glass and metal, complete with the pale blue fuselage of an 747 airplane jutting out of its facade.

It looks a little like what you'd see at an aviation-themed mini golf course, which would be fine—had an actual airplane not crashed into an ice cream shop a block away, killing 22 people and injuring 28 more, most of them children.

On September 24, 1972, a privately owned Korean War-era F-86 Sabre jet was scheduled to take off from Runway 30 at the Executive Airport, after participating in that weekend's Golden West Sport Aviation Show.

The jet was unable to get off the ground, and it ran off the end of the runway at more than 150 miles per hour. The plane crossed all four lanes of busy Freeport Boulevard before smashing into three parked cars, slamming into Farrell's Ice Cream parlor and bursting into flames.

The Sacramento 49ers youth football team was holding a party in the shop, and the manager said that every table was filled at the time of the crash. "It took one wall where the 17 kids were and just pushed it," a witness told the Associated Press.

Twenty of those killed—including one 8-year-old's parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousin—were inside the store, while two other victims had been sitting in one of the vehicles that were parked in front of it. (The 23rd victim was a 61-year-old woman who was hit and killed by a truck as she ran toward the fire, believing that her grandchildren were inside the shop. They were not.) The pilot, Richard Bingham, survived the impact, and witnesses told reporters that after being cut out of the cockpit, he wept as he repeated the words "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

The tragedy has not been forgotten: A memorial service was held on the 40th anniversary of the crash, and a memorial rose garden with a concrete marker placed "in loving memory" of the victims was dedicated on the site in 2003.

"It was a grisly scene, a lot of smoke and fire," one now-retired firefighter told the Sacramento Bee in 2012. "I’d never seen anything like it before, and nothing like it since."

That's why the plans for that airport restaurant—which, again, would be located just a few hundred yards from the scene of the Farrell's tragedy—haven't been universally well-received. "To have a restaurant with an airplane sticking out of it, I don’t think is a good idea at all," one Sacramento resident told KMAX.

A spokesperson for the developer said that he knew about the accident, but "but doesn’t associate the project’s architecture with that incident." Yeah, maybe it's worth talking to those who survived the accident, or the loved ones of those who didn't, to see what kind of associations they have.