This Day in Failure: December 29

2009: Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) send a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to halt the transfer of six Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen, apparently unaware that the transfer of Jamal Muhammad Alawi Mari, Farouq Ali Ahmed, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed Taher, Fayad Yahya Ahmed al Rami and Riyad Atiq Ali Abdu al Haf had already taken place.

2000: A passenger on a British Airways 747 en route from London to Nairobi, Kenya, strolls through the unlocked cockpit door [pilots are not required to lock the cockpit door on non-U.S. airlines] and grabs the controls, putting the plane into a dive. Flight crew and passengers subdue him moments before the aircraft reaches a point where it could not be controlled.

1972: Eastern Airlines Flight 401—a Lockheed L-1011 en route from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Miami to Miami International Airport—crashes in the Florida Everglades, resulting in 101 fatalities. The accident is labeled a “controlled flight into terrain” (CFIT), as the crash is attributed to the crew’s failure to monitor the flight instruments following a malfunction of the landing gear position indicator system (a burned-out light bulb).

1890: The U.S. 7th Cavalry massacres more than 400 men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota—the last major conflict between Indians and U.S. troops.

1876: An iron trestle railroad bridge in Ashtabula, Ohio, collapses during a snowstorm, causing a Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway train to plunge into the gorge below, killing 92 people and injuring dozens of others. Today the accident is known as the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster or Ashtabula Horror.