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SaxMan

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 #1 

I posted this thread on the Warbird Information Exchange Forum and someone suggested that I post here:

On June 22, 1957,  DC-3 (also referred to as a DC-47A) N88835 (cn 19448, formerly 42-100985), crashed just outside of Clarksburg, Maryland on what was supposed to be a routine training mission.  The CAB reported that there were two pilots and instructor, and this was part of their training to upgrade them to the left seat.  They were at the point in their program where they were practicing the "canyon apporach", a simulated approach to an airport through a narrow corridor.   The landing would then be aborted and the pilot would have to climb out, often on one engine.   Something went terribly wrong as the plane stalled, rolled over, went into a spin and ended up in a nose down position on impact.   Here is the grim result:


Plane_crash_1 by onyxsax, on Flickr


Plane_crash_2 by onyxsax, on Flickr
Photos courtesy of Steve Gobeil, whose mother took these pictures on the following day.   This was the biggest event to happen in this part of Montgomery County since Jubal Early came through in 1864 after the Battle of Monocacy on his abortive attempt to attack Washington DC.

All three crewmembers were killed:  Carl Burke, the instructor,  Robert Thomas, one of the pilots and Hank Podgurski, the other pilot.   I haven't found much on Burke or Thomas yet, but Podgurski flew with the 93rd BG as a copilot on the Ploesti mission, and later flew Pathfinder B-24s in the ETO.   He also was apparently involved in a stateside training crash that I don't have much info on.  To think that Podgurski survived one of the deadliest missions of World War II, only to lose his life on a routine training mission.   What hit home for me was that he was married and left behind two daughters, ages 11 and 9 at the time, as I, too, am the father of a 9 year old.

SaxMan

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 #2 

The CAB went over the wreckage with a fine tooth comb, and parts were simply discarded once the investigation was done with.   I don't know what happened with the rest of the wreckage yet, but I am still slated to interview to a few more eyewitnesses who may be able to shed some more light on this.

During the mid-90s the Capital Airlines Association found the site, and documented these pieces still in the woods.   There is no reason to believe that these items still are not out there, as they are in a remote section of park, and the only way to access them easily is through private property, which would likely deter most souveneir hunters.   Unfortunately, the men who took these images have all passed on.  (Photos courtesy of Gary Baesel - http://www.baesel.net/cap1.htm)


N88835-4 by onyxsax, on Flickr


N88835-3 by onyxsax, on Flickr


N88835-2 by onyxsax, on Flickr


N88835-1 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan

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 #3 

During the visit in the 1990s, the Capital Airlines people took an engine crankcase and restored it.   With the individuals who recovered and restored this piece having passed on, trying to find this piece has been difficult, to put it mildly.

N88835-5 by onyxsax, on Flickr

I managed to discover that the wreckage was on park property owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, of which I volunteer with their police department.   Coincidentally, the Communications Supervisor knew about this crash and was instrumental in helping me nail down the exact location.  I was able to take this to the park historians, who were unaware of this crash, or that it was on park land.

They have decided that any recovery needs to be led by a professional archaeologist, of which I am not, and any plans would need to be submitted as a written proposal and approved.   I did, however, obtain permission to survey the site, as I argued, it would make no sense to go through the whole rigamarole if there was nothing to recover.   The historians agreed and we are slated to survey the site in the next couple of weeks.

Having experience with wooded searches, I was going to to a grid search and set up a skirmish line with other volunteers.  My plan is to get GPS coordinates for each artifact we find, and take pictures with a tape measure in frame to give idea of size.  

Seeing that this is my first attempt at doing something like this, are their any other WIXers that can offer any additional advice?   For those who in the local MD / DC / VA area and would like to join in on the site survey, please feel free to drop me a PM.

SaxMan

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 #4 
And, just as quickly as I posted it, I discovered these pictures are not from the Clarksburg, Maryland site...rather they are pieces for DC-4 wreckage from a Capital Airlines crash in June 1947.  

I still plan on surveying the site as the locals have told me there are some parts of the plane still back there.
XHunter

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 #5 
Hello and Welcome to the board! I've been looking over the photos posted and I was wondering if you are sure the two top crash site photos are of the same aircraft. There is more of the tail remaining on the upper photo and I can't see the open cargo door sticking up on the other side of the fuselage. The paint and tail markings don't seem to be the same either. Good luck with the survey, well done on remembering the crew. Once you get started with wreckchasing and make a find, it's a challenge not to start looking for the next one...and the one after that
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SixbyFire

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 #6 
Looking at both photos, yea, it does look like a different scene, then I found this video, looks to be an 8mm/16mm without sound converted to video/digital taken at the scene of the Capital Airlines crash.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=727757853618023144

The video shows the aircraft from both sides, and you can match up the houses and trees along with the tail section and cargo door to the photos in this tread. Its weird, looking at the photos it does look like it could be two different crashes, but the video nails it as one.

Jeff
XHunter

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 #7 
Jeff,

 Nice find! That's definitely the same aircraft in both photos. Must be more of the left side remaining and the color brings out a lot more detail. I wonder what structure that is that the aircraft seems to have hit?

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XHunter

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 #8 
I just looked at the video again and spotted the top of the cargo door from the right side
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SaxMan

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 #9 
It is interesting that I got the same comment on the WIX board...that the photos were of two different planes.   I obtained the photos from an individual who was taken to the site the day after the crash by his mother, and his mother snapped these shots.  

I also have viewed the short film snippet frame by frame when I was looking for clues to the actual location.   Thanks to some cooperation with the park managers at Little Bennett Regional Park and witness interviews, I have the exact location pinpointed.  There is now an outbuilding that was erected right over the point of impact some years later.  

The site is literally on the woods edge, so I am postulating that there still may be some components back in the woods.  I still have a few more interviews to do, including one of the first responders to this incident.  I'm hoping he can shed some light on how the plane was dismantled and the odds of still finding anything on site.  
colsonj8

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 #10 
Nice work pinpointing the location! Now all you have to do is find it.
I think it would be unlikely that there wouldn't be anything left, especially because a DC-3 is a pretty good sized aircraft, and it looks like it came in pretty hard. My advice would be to search the woods with a metal detector. It might take a few trips before you find something, but your persistence will be rewarded in the end. And who knows? the pieces from the 90's might still be there too. Good luck!
SaxMan

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 #11 
Unfortunately, the pieces from 90s were the ones in the photo that were mislabeled.   They were part of the 1947 crash of a Capital Airlines DC-4 at Lookout Rock, WV.   Some of the "old timers" said there are still parts out there.   We'll definitely see what we can sniff out.
colsonj8

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 #12 
Oh, oops, sorry didn't see that. But I would definitely still go have a look around, there has got to be something left...
DaveTrojan

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 #13 
I recommend Once you find a site, not only treat it with respect, but be sure to document it properly. Help is available from AAIR’s database project on documenting all historic crash sites. Print out a copy of the Historic Aircraft Crash Site Report Form. The form can be used as a beginners guide to documenting the site.
I also recommend that you may need a metal detector. Some people use them while others never "dig" a site.  
either way, there is always something left behind and I hope you are able to locate it.
DaveT
SaxMan

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 #14 

Thank you DaveTrojan, that is the kind of advice I was looking for.

Our first visit is going to be a walk-around.   I don't think the park historians will allow us to do any kind of digging unless we are under the supervision of a professional archaelogist. 

I don't think we're going to find much in the ground as the impact speed was fairly slow:  In spite of striking the ground in a near nose-down altitude and still having fuel and oil aboard, there was no fire.  The plane also landed directly atop a car.   Further complicating the matter is that an outbuilding was erected right on top of the impact point somewhere between 8 to 10 years after the crash.  Unless it has a natural surface floor, which I won't know until I get on site, digging through the floorboards (or worse, a concrete pad) is going to be highly unlikely.

SixbyFire

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 #15 

+1 for the metal detector. My son and I found a micro site using one. We were in a state park so digging was not allowed. We found enough on the surface of the dirt, under the grass, to confirm the site. We also got tons of hits that we couldn't dig up so there is more there. I've since used the metal detector on other sites and when there is grass/duff, using one makes searching a lot easier. If you can't "dig", but can move grass/duff out of the way, then I think using a metal detector is a good idea given that smaller pieces might be on the surface, but are covered by grass/duff.

I would add that a little practice helps in using the metal detector, know what aluminum sounds like or registers on your detector. Also, know how to adjust the sensitivity depending on where you're searching and for what. I can tune mine pretty well so that it only goes off for stuff on or close to the surface, since if you can't dig, it usually doesn't matter whats under the ground anyway... 

Jeff

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