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csanta

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 #1 
There is another tread on this site regarding the loss of this aircraft.  What I am looking for is someone familiar with the flight characteristics from a pilot standpoint in an emergency icing situation so as to better located the potential location of this aircraft. 

The aircraft as been missing for 48 years now, having gone down in 1971.  Not much remains from the historic record of the crash investigation or any tower logs 

From what I have been able to piece together over the years is that aircraft took off from BVT at 7:53pm the night of Jan 27, 1971 with a Pilot (41, 8k hours 700 in type, but from Atlanta GA so may not have had a ton of icing experience) a co pilot, who was soon to join a major carrier and 3 passengers.  Passengers on board were related to a Real Estate Group,  Cousins Real Estate from Atlanta GA.  One passenger worked for that company and the others for sub contractors.  The weather conditions at take off were -3F,  snow and 15 mph wind from the NW.  Flight was headed from Burlington VT to Providence RI,  208 Miles.  Flight departed NW and proceeded to make a left turn to intersect the SE flight path to the destination.  Flight path took the plane over Lake Champlain beginning the turn at Burlington VT.  Last known flight communications was tower acknowledging that they were seeing the left turn and Radar blip put the plane at FL50 in an area roughly at or near Juniper Island  

This is a fairly populated area so an inflight explosion is unlikely and as the lake was partly frozen at this time and no debris field was discovered in the week-long search what is most likely is an icing event.  

After the last radar blip,  the next sweep no longer showed the aircraft.  

There was no further communication with the aircraft thought the tower log at the time indicated that the Planes mike seemed to be keyed for about 30 seconds without any broadcast.  

My question is ??  what was the most likely reaction to this emergency from a pilot who may not have ever before encountered severe icing,  how long might the aircraft remained in the air and what is the most likely entry vector into the water.  

Only a very limited amount of debris was found,  NONE at the time of the crash and an O2 bottle from the nose section and spare main gear tire which was believed to be carried in the rear.  Neither example exists today but there are pics available of both.  These items were washed up on shore of near Shelburne Point after ice out in April of 1971

Ice records for the Lake indicate that "ice closure" was on 2/03/1971 or 6 days following the loss.  Ice Closure for this lake is measured from Burlington VT to Port Kent NY,  the widest part of the lake at 11 miles.  As you move South the lake narrows rapidly so full ice would have been likely within a few miles south of the last known position.  Again,  no debris was sited on the ice making it likely that the plane when down in open water or crashed on land somewhere on the NY side which is rural and very densely wooded.   

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.  

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Christopher Santa
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 #2 
Hello Christopher,
 
 Your question has many possible answers but one thing stands out. If the only things that were found were capable of floating and had been washed up, it probably went in the water. If they showed up after the ice melted, it was probably under the ice.

Perhaps in a stall, it rolled off on one wing and entered the lake almost straight down through thin ice, trapping the wreckage.

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csanta

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 #3 
XHunter,   

I have pretty much ruled out a crash on land.  From my research,  debris recovered that spring were identified as from the type of aircraft including part of a cockpit window frame along with an o2 tank which was of the type located in the nose of the craft.  Since none of the debris is still available for examination I have to rely upon historic accounts of what was found and where.  

The lack of volume of the debris from that spring might lead me to believe that the pilot felt the stall and may have been able to recover enough to try to set the aircraft down on the ice being unable to make a return to the airport.  If the landing was partly successful but the nose gear broke though and nose dived the plane through very thin ice or if a landing become a ditching because they encountered open water after touchdown, this would explain the only debris found from being a damaged nose. Water temps in the lake would have given them only minutes to exit a quickly filling and sinking craft.  I don't see they would have had that amount of time.  Hypothermia likely got them and the plane sank to the bottom largely intact. 

That is my working theory based upon the facts I know now.  

My action plan is to place several GPSed marker buoys on the ice this winter and track them into the spring to see if the possible location of the aircraft can be better pin pointed.  

I am then hoping to secure funding to get a UAV on site to do a either a photographic search or an Hi Res SSS 

Based on the Historic Data,  the Ice Formation Patterns of the Lake,  the ice break up data and what the drift patterns tell me,  I hope to confine the possible area to under 30 sq miles.  If that is possible and I can get funding for the effort I think if can find this plane in the summer/fall of 2020

Any thoughts you have on this would be fantastic.  Warm Regards,  Chris 


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Christopher Santa
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 #4 
Chris,

 If some of the recovered wreckage was a spare main wheel, it probably came out of the rear baggage compartment where it would have been secured. Something had to have gotten that wheel out of the aircraft to have it end up near Shelburne Point.

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XHunter

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 #5 
Also, I was wondering if multiple pieces of wreckage, from different places on the aircraft, were recovered in one general area around Shelburne Point, did the search teams backtrack the current(s) that flow in that area?
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csanta

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 #6 
XHunter,  

I am trying to see if the Burlington Free Press as additional pics of the wheel package that was recovered along with more accurate information about the exact location of the find.  Shelburne point was used but I have found that the actually location of the find might have been between shore and Queneska island.  Recovery of this or the tank (or both) was by Ice Boat.   From what I can see in the grainy photos from the paper,  I can't really tell if it is a spare or not.  There seems to be enough damage to the rim portion to question this,  though damage could have been caused by the flat if it was due to failure during a landing.   Do you know if this is a proven fact or just speculation that is the spare?   I have read accounts that a spare was on board from prior flat that is all I can find on the topic.   I am attempting to see if Cousin's Properties has any maint. records from this period or if their home airport did the work.    It would be helpful to hammer down this fact.  

Chris

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Christopher Santa
csanta

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 #7 
XHunter,  


There was a underwater SSS search in the summer of 2014.  I am trying to contact the people who conducted that search to see what analysis they did to determine their search location.  

I agree completely that the debris, type and location should be able to aid greatly in understanding both the circumstances of the loss, the expected condition of the remaining wreckage and the possible location.

Part of this is my intention to place 12 beacons on the ice this winter to determine drift patterns and distances.  

Chris

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Christopher Santa
csanta

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 #8 
XHunter,  one thing you might be able to assist with due to your USAF connection is what (if any) aerial photos would either the Green Mountain Air Wing or the then PAFB have taken as part of their missions in 1971?   The PAFB was a refueling wing with KC135's and also hosting a wing of FB111's at the time. The runway for the Plattsburg base was generally N-S and the mission flight paths would have fairly routinely brought those aircrafts over close to the location of this crash. 

Last,  did we survail our own facilities during this period?   I know our KeyHole 9 sats had pretty good resolution but as far as I know they tracked over the USSR.  Did the USSR have something that was as good as ours?

An aerial pic of the lake from that day the next would be extremely helpful.  

Chris 

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Christopher Santa
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 #9 
It is fairly common that if the aircraft went into the lake in a dive, very little wreckage/debris would have been found.A sudden flight control issue possibly due to icing could have easliy prevented the crew from making any radio calls. the aircraft making a landing on the lake is a very remote possibly. most likely it crashed into the lake. THe only way to find it now would be a detailed sonor survey of the lake bottom over a wide area. 
csanta

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 #10 
Hi Dave,  

That is a great observation, I am assuming from experience.  I am sure you have a ton more knowledge than I do in a search of this type.  This is my first search of a lost aircraft.  I have searched for and found many other types of things though so procedures  the are the similar I suspect.

As far as the causation of the incident, I can only conjecture from what I was taught in General Aviation icing training.  In my part of the world (far upstate NY) anyone who expects to fly in the spring, fall and winter is very, very sensitive to icing issues, recovery strategies and a list of "outs"  My flight training was done 20 miles from this crash site and I grew up almost directly across the lake from it.  

Can you point me to other crashes you have looked at where a plane enters a lake which is substantially iced over and leave zero debris at the time and a very, very small debris field discovered in the spring. 

That would be hugely helpful.  The more similar situations I can study the more likely it will be that i can better understand what happened here and thus the likely location of the aircraft. 

Warm Regards,  Chris 


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Christopher Santa
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 #11 
There are several in Lake Michigan that I know of that are similar
csanta

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 #12 
Thanks Dave, 

Everything I have been able to find so far where crashes have been on partly or fully frozen lakes, which has photos, includes wreckage on the ice (from a lot to a little).   In this case there was zero.  The days following the crash  were cold but decent weather wise.  The search included ground and air assets. No debris was found and no slicks either.  Based upon what is known about drift patterns of Lake Champlain,  the crash site is almost certainly south of the limited wreckage which was found in the spring thaw. (This lake flows North)  This part of the lake would have been iced,  since the main part of the lake (to the north) was iced in just days later.  

My working theory at this time has to be that this was a controlled crash on the ice and subsequent sinking.  I just don't see anything else which fits the facts.  

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Christopher Santa
Craig59

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 #13 
Hi Chris,

My intent is not to make light of your theory as ANYTHING is possible but, I find the odds of a “controlled crash” on the ice to be extremely thin.

I have, I don’t know, something between 19,000 and 20,000 hours in everything from a Cessna 150 to my current ride, the Boeing 777; I quit counting a long time ago. I also instruct and evaluate in both the 777 and the simulator and one of the subjects I teach is Extended Envelope Training (EET).

First, the “startle factor” is real (ask Sully) and that is why it is such a large part of Threat Error Management and EET training in today’s airline world. Depending upon the severity of the conditions at the time of the accident you’re investigating, an icing induced stall could have happened very quickly with no warning, especially if it was exacerbated by an induced turn.

You state that the aircraft disappeared in one radar sweep. Now, I don’t know how many seconds that is today let alone how long it would have been in 1971 but, that is one area you may want to investigate. To me though, it points to a rapid loss of controlled flight.

Unlike a swept wing aircraft, normally when a straight-wing aircraft stalls there is an associated drop in the nose and the aircraft might also drop off on one wing which could then result in a spin. With a buildup of ice on the leading edge of the wings, even if the pilot performed a flawless stall recovery, it may not have had the altitude to recover. Or, it did recover and possibly entered a secondary stall when the pilot did not recover to a higher airspeed now required to compensate for the ice.

In closing, whether the aircraft went into the lake straight in, or nearly so, or spun in flat, I would not be surprised that so little wreckage was recovered.

I hope this helps and I wish you all the best in your search. 
 

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csanta

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 #14 

Hello Craig,

All advice and experience anyone can offer is certainly welcome; thank you for taking the time to help.  I value and appreciate the time anyone takes to assist me with this search. My experience as PIC in general aviation is in the 100's of hours and zero in an aircraft of this type, so this is a weak spot in my search for this craft.  What I am relying on is the opinions of Pilots who have experience in and out of BTV and conditions they have encountered on take off, particularly this time of year and what they tell me that their emergency outs would be.  Icing is possible certainly, even likely,  but it is far from confirmed this was the direct cause or even contributed to the loss. After 48 years,  I would say it is unlikely the exact cause and conditions will ever be known if this there isn't an FDR or it is too degraded after this amount of time to be of use.  Best I hope for is to locate the aircraft, photograph the current condition and assist, in anyway, in the recovery of any remains of the 5 persons lost.  I try to keep it on the top of the list that 5 persons lost their lives in this crash and that giving the family members some closure would be reward in itself.  I would think recovery of the aircraft is out of the question unless I find it in very shallow water and mostly intact. 

To some degree the nature of the entry into the lake will be much easier to evaluate when I find this wreckage.  The reason the aircraft hasn't been found is fairly straight forward.....no one has really, really looked.  There was a few day limited effort in 2014 spurred by the search for Malaysia 370. A few days worth of SSS was done but mostly to no avail. Some targets were identified, but no follow up was ever done.    There is another amature Chuck Brooks who I plan to work with to see if we can find this craft. Chuck believes that he has his own private scans which reveal a very promising location. Chuck has had some health issues preventing his follow up.    This summer I will start there with the help of an UAV.    The search area, at its max is 30 square miles in water no deeper than 300 feet,  most in under 100 feet so success if highly probable with enough time. 

As far as the events of that night and following morning in 1971, it wasn't that the debris field was "small" but rather, the following days, in clear weather,  NO evidence of a crash was found.  As far as the reports of the time, the plane simply vanished.  The lake was frozen or at least partly so almost eliminating a flat spin entry as something would likely have been remained on the ice.   Air Assets,  both fixed and rotor, searched being at dawn the day following this loss. Burlington VT. has a National Guard Air Wing along with a US Coast Guard Station. Both assisted the search in the following days.  The search was called off about 10 days later.   

There is no doubt that a vertical or near vertical entry is possible with little or no wreckage left on thin ice.  With temps that night well below zero and 2.8 inches of new snow the entry point could very well have been masked.  What I would find odd is the limited debris which was found in the spring and in the 48 years since.  One would think over the years,  some identifiable wreckage would have floated to the surface and been found.  This part of the lake is very well traveled and the shoreline fairly populated.  But like you said,  anything is possible. 

I think now I am resigned to the fact that I have gone as far as I can go with the flight data.  I know the aircraft executed an uneventful 180 planned left turn to the STAR for Providence. Pilot/Tower communications acknowledge the turn. No communications were received after this.   Last known altitude was 5000. I don't know if the pilot was flying or if Autopilot was engaged.  That's pretty much it.  From the debris found in the Spring,  we know some catastrophic event occurred which put the aircraft in the lake a few miles downrange.   

Now,  I put together the assets to look.   

 

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Christopher Santa
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 #15 

I'd just like to say, I too am interested in this disappearance, and have been trying to compile information about it.

While we're trying to eliminate possible areas this aircraft this could be in, we should look at where shipwrecks are in Lake Champlain. That way, we can slowly pick away at/section off areas of the lake this could be in. I've been trying to compile coordinates of wrecks listed on the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum website, but only ones listed as open to the public (marked with a asterisk) seem to have coordinates listed.

 

I'm putting them on a Google Doc, and then on Google Earth to see where they are. If anyone wants this information, seek out the website or PM me your email to share the doc.

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