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SaxMan

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 #16 
Any recommendations for a good metal detector?
DaveTrojan

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 #17 
see previous posts http://pacaeropress.websitetoolbox.com/post/Metal-Detectors-for-Wreckchasing-4920000?highlight=metal+detector
huron1988

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 #18 
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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.



What Sixbyfire said. This exactly how use mine in "no dig" situations.

A little story about duff: I large forest fire just ripped through up north where my cabin is. The experts estimated that the duff layer was a foot thick. I believe them because since the fire, I have been finding large pieces of "garbage" that I never knew existed. Looks like an old logging camp (from 1918s based on the beer bottles we're finding). Looks like I'll be digging more up there.

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Jeff Benya
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russfarris

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 #19 
I'm following the thread closely for two reasons.

First, I've been to the DC-4 (actually Pennslyvania Central Airlines, changed the next year to Capital) crash near Lookout Rock, WV back in 1995. Wrote an article that appeared in Airliners magazine, thanks to our webmaster Nick Veronico who was Airliners editor.  I remember the crankcase half that was eventually recovered. I revisted the site in 2000; a house had been built only about 100 feet from one of the largest pieces left, a main landing gear.

Second, I'm just finishing an R/C model of a DC-3...in Capital Airlines colors!
Capital was the fifth largest U.S. airline in the 1950s, now almost forgotten today. They merged with United in 1961. In 1959 they had the unfortunate distinction of two fatal crashes in one day - a Constellation ran off the runway in Charleston, WV and a Viscount came apart in a thunderstorm over Maryland.

They had quite a few fatal accidents, even by 1950s standards.

http://aviation-safety.net/database/operator/airline.php?var=5034

Here's a picture of N88835 before the accident.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50866030@N06/4844864263/in/photostream/lightbox/

Russ Farris



SaxMan

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 #20 
Hi Russ,

I was told you were "the man" to talk to about Capital Airlines.  Thank you for the image on N88835.  Would you be able to send a copy of the image to my e-mail at onyxsax@aol.com?   

I actually spoke with one of the guys from the Capital Airlines Association who went up to the Lookout Rock site in the early 2000s last evening.   He didn't have much info on my current crash, other than the fact that he flew with the instructor pilot, Carl Burke, the previous day before the accident (and described him as a "helluva good guy"), but did point me in the direction of another person who could shed some more light on the crew.

Capital seemed to be on the receiving end of some very tough breaks, which eventually did them in.   In some ways, the current troubles at American Airlines seems reminiscent of Capital in its final throes, but thankfully without the fatal accidents (knocking on wood)

Coincidentally, N88835 in Army service was 42-100983 (I'm not at home, so I'm pulling this from recall), and was assigned to the 437th TCG, participating in D-Day operations, towing a CG-4 for the 82nd.  I'd love to find images of her in her AAF livery.
SaxMan

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 #21 
One aspect that I am looking for some input on is being able to reconcile the witness accounts with how the plane ended up:    The two closest witnesses, the man who lived in the house that is pictured and a 14 year old girl at the next door property seemed to indicate that the plane was circling on its way down.   The man at the property said he was "running in crazy circles trying to get out of the way", the 14 year old ran back into her house and said "Mother, the plane is chasing after me". 

To me, that doesn't seem indicative of a plane coming down in a nose-down attitude, which was eventually how it impacted.   The CAB report which said that the pilots had arrested the spin as there was no evidence of rotation within the wreckage.   The CAB report also indicates that a DC-3 in an inadvertent spin/stall can take up to 3,000 feet to recover.   The CAB estimated that the plane was at 2,500 feet and the area around Clarksburg is generally around 500 feet.   That would give them 2,000 of the 3,000 feet to recover.   While it still was not enough, I would think the plane should have impacted at a lesser angle.

My theory is that the pilots knew they were running out of room.  They also could clearly see they were headed for houses if they tried to recover.   Not wanting to hurt any bystanders, the pilots made the snap decision to push down the nose to avoid striking the house.   The plane missed the home by 15 feet.   Inside the house was the man's wife and four children.   Had the pilots attempted to continue recovery, they may have struck the ground at a potentially more survivable angle, but they would have likely killed the occupants of the house in the process. 

I'd love to try this scenario out on Flight Simulator to see if it is feasible, or perhaps hear from someone with DC-3 experience to see if this makes sense.
SaxMan

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 #22 
After talking to some pilots, they all agreed that my scenario, while quite noble, would have been highly unlikely.  It would have nice to be able to rewrite history, as self-sacrifice is more noble than human error, but the CAB got it right. 
SaxMan

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 #23 
10/16/12 Update.   I spoke with a former fire chief of the Hyattstown, Maryland fire department, which was the first unit on the scene.   He was only 17 at the time of the crash and not a fully flegded volunteer, but the department brought him out for this call.   He indicated when the plane went in, it burrowed 5 or 6 feet into the ground.  They were kept overnight at the scene.   The local houses had their water supplies fouled by the aviation fuel which leaked into the soil.  He couldn't tell me how the wreck was dismantled or if there was anything left behind.   However, he did give me one very significant piece of information:   The contact information for one of the sons who was inside the house on June 22, 1957 when the plane crashed.

I'm completely fascinated by the various turns this journey has been taking and the people that I've had a chance to talk to along the way.     
SaxMan

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 #24 
The site survey proved to be uneventful.    The most significant aspect was the outbuilding that was erected literally over the point of impact.   I won't know whether that was by coincidence or by design until I talk to the resident of the house.   I spent a fair amount of time walking through the final trajectory area as well as a larger area to see if anything was just hauled off and dumped in the woods.    There was lots of evidence of human activity in this part of the woods (i.e. dumping), and items that looked like they might be plane parts from 20 yards away ended up being junk...garage tracks, window frames.    I was able to reasonably reconstruct the photos that were taken though:

1957:

Plane_crash_1 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Today: 

DSC_0001a by onyxsax, on Flickr

You can see how the garage structure now dominates the impact area:

1957:

Plane_crash_2 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Today:

DSC_0012 by onyxsax, on Flickr

 
colsonj8

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 #25 
So close, yet so very far! Unfortunate though that you weren't able to find anything, you're think there was something left. Sometimes sites like this need more than 1 dedicated and thorough search to find anything. I would suggest you go back and try again at least one more time. Also talk to the peoyple you mentioned, they may know what became of some pieces. Good job matching up the photos anyway, that was cool to see!

Good luck!
SixbyFire

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 #26 
Good job lining up the photos. I'm always amazed seeing sites how they are now and the difference in how they looked back when the crash happened. Even with all the differences, you can usually find many things the same. Anyway I would talk to the resident, maybe they've got some pieces of the plane they've found and gathered up, or try the metal detector idea if you can get permission.

Jeff
SaxMan

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 #27 
I did find one potentially interesting aspect.   Closer to the road, there was a tree which apparently had some lansdcaping done (note the bricks) and something nailed to the trunk.   Given the proximity to the crash site and this being the sole evergreen in the vicinity, I'm wondering if this was not once a memorial that has long been neglected.   This was the only tree in the vicinity that had anything like this.  I do have an upcoming interview with a Capital Airlines employee that could potentially shed light on this.   It may just have been routine landscaping, too.  The patch of green to the left of the picture had a house situated on it.   This was the home of the 14 year old girl who told her mother "The plane is chasing me" just before impact.


DSC_0010 by onyxsax, on Flickr

I do agree that once I do some more interviews, I should return to the site again, perhaps with a metal detector this time.   Given the evidence of a high incidence of human activity, especially prior to this area becoming a park in 1985, I am disinclined to think anything is left in the crash area above ground.   It is possible that the wreckage may have been hauled and dumped in a different location, too.  The area around Clarksburg still has more than a fair amount of "off the beaten path" locations where wreckage could have been dumped.

Even if nothing is recovered, this is certainly a worthy story in the park's history and should be documented.   I'm going to continue to pursue the story until I run out of leads.
SaxMan

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 #28 
The one thing that really can't be conveyed in the pictures is the extemely close quarters between the houses, the road, the woods and the impact zone.   A slight change in the aircraft's final trajectory could have turned an already tragic situation into a disastrous one.
colsonj8

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 #29 
Wow, very good sleuthing Saxman. I would not be surprised if what you found was a memorial long forgotten. Perhaps if it is you can restore it.

I wouldn't think that such a large plane wouldn't leave anything behind, however you bring up a good point about the high level of human activity. I would still say talk to the residents, see I'd they picked anything up or know where stuff was dumped, and a metal detector is still a good idea I would say.

As for the 14 year old girl, did she survive the crash? If so, you should try to talk to her, see if you can get her story, that would be interesting. The fact that she said the plane is following her, that is quite haunting.
SaxMan

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 #30 
I know the 14 year old did survive.  The newpaper reports were that she was in hysterics for a number of hours.   I guess between the terror of "being chased" and the reality of knowing that three men were just killed in close proximity to your home was too much to bear.   I do not know of her current whereabouts.   However, every time I talk to someone or find another tidbit, it seems to leave me a key to another door.   I do have the phone number for one of the family members who was inside the house the day of the crash.  I'm hoping he can answer a number of the questions.   I believe if there is anything still in the ground, it is likely underneath the garage structure's concrete footer, so excavation / digging is a no no.   It is possible at some point down the road that this house will be demolished (as were the homes on either side of the property), in which case, a dig may become a feasible option.  

Most witness accounts describe the plane as "falling out of the sky".   There was no explosion to send parts flying, and it sounds like the CAB was fairly thorough in their investigation.  The question is who dismantled the craft and where did the parts go?    If Capital Airlines dismantled it, I imagine the parts were taken back to National Airport for disposal.  If we was handled by a local contractor, that may still leave open the possibility that parts of the plane exist in the vicinity.
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