16 Sep 1950
Enroute from Palmdale, CA to Long Beach, CA. The aircraft departed Long Beach Airport for a late evening flight to Palmdale & spent only a brief time there. The pilot was advised against making the return flight by the CAA, but he departed anyways at 0030. The pilot had filed a VFR fight plan with intentions of flying above the overcast over the San Gabriel Mountains. Nothing was heard from the pilot & the aircraft failed to arrive at Long Beach. It was originally believed that only 3 pax were on board, one of them a woman. The forecast was IFR conditions with low ceilings, fog, rainy conditions & obscured peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. The CAA issued an ALNOT when the failed to arrive at 0300 on 17 Sep. A ramp check was conducted of Southern CA airports by the CAA.
The search was initiated the next day that was coordinated by B Flt, 4th ARS at March AFB, CA. The search base was established at the Palmdale Airport. A route search was conducted on 17 Sep from Palmdale over the San Gabriel Mountains to Long Beach. On 18 Sep, 2 USAF SB-17s, a USAF helicopter, a USCG PBY & 20 CAP aircraft as well as the L.A. County Sheriff’s Aero Squadron, searched the San Gabriel Mountains centering their efforts on the area around Mount Wilson. An old crash site was spotted by a USAF SB-17 crashed on Mount Wilson that day, but poor wx prevented a closer look. A USAF ground team eventually found it to be an old, previously found crash site. 85 sorties were flown on 18 Sep covering 40% of the mountainous terrain between Palmdale & Los Angeles.
On 19 Sep, a maximum effort was made by 17 CAP aircraft searching an area that stretched from Mojave to Lake Elsinore. They were supported by 3 USAF aircraft from March AFB, a USCG PBY & 3 L.A. County Sheriff’s aircraft. An old crash site was spotted on Mount Baldy (San Antonio) on 18 Sep that was investigated by USAF ground team. Another metallic object spotted by a search plane on 19 Sep, crashed at the 5000 ft level in the San Gabriel Mountains, 11 SE of Palmdale. A 5 man USAF ground team from March AFB hiked to the crash site on 20 Sep & verified it as an older, previously found wreck of a USAAF BT-13 from 1947. This brought to 6 the total of old crash sites spotted & investigated.
Eventually, the search was extended out to sea on 20 Sep with the idea that the aircraft may have over flown Long Beach in the fog. An USAF helicopter from March AFB suffered engine failure & made a forced landing on 20 Sep near War Eagle, 6 N of Palmdale. There were no injuries to the crew or damage to the helicopter. On 23 Sep, the search was extended to areas around Santa Ana, Santa Paula & Oxnard in Orange & Ventura Counties. The Santa Monica Mountains, the Hollywood Hills & the coastal areas of L.A. County were also searched. The search was suspended 25 Sep after a total of 1200 flight hrs flown by over 110 USAF, USCG & CAP aircraft as well as the L.A. County Sheriff’s Aero Squadron. The L.A. County Aero Squadron alone flew over 400 flight hrs during this search. 22 leads were checked & the areas of high probability were searched several times.
A private search was continued by family & friends. In Nov 1950, a prospector reported seeing wreckage near Lucerne Valley. A 2 day hike into the desert by family members failed to turn up the crash site.
The scattered wreckage was found by 2 hunters crashed on a spur ridge above Squaw Canyon, 5 N of Chilao Flats, on the north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. This was 25 NE of Los Angeles. They noted the registration number on the wing & reported their find to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office. They reported finding no human remains. A 16 man L.A. County Sheriff’s ground team hiked to the crash site on 30 July. An additional 7 ground team members to include 2 CAA investigators joined the effort to locate remains on 31 July. The remains of all 4 men were found & recovered that day. They were identified by clothing & documents.
On 24 Sep 1950, the L.A. Times published their impressions of CAP operations at the Palmdale Airport. While full of praise for their handling of the search, the newspaper stated that complaints by the organization about being “misunderstood” by the media were their fault because of their “deplorable” PR. The paper stated the CAP members responsible for public affairs were “amateurish” in performing their duties.
Pilot Horace Roland Watson, 34, Robert Stanley Richards, 28, Jack Kenneth Green, 36 & Lonnie Fay Nichols, 32. Registered to Associated Aviation Inc of El Monte, CA. Cancelled 16 Feb 1951.
29 July 1951