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AAIR

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 #1 

On Jan 26, 1950 C-54D 42-72469 took off from Elmendorf AFB enroute to Great Falls AFB. The last position report was given over Snag and nothing was heard or (to my knowledge) seen of this airplane since.

 

I seem to recall someone on this group mentioning researching this crash to eventually go look for it. Also I wanted to check with John, our guru on missing planes, and see if he or anyone else has heard of this plane being found.

 

I recently had this report ordered by a family member who mention this web site, http://www.ruudleeuw.com/search116.htm (scroll 1/2 way down) says that the plane has been found. Reading the web site I think the only reason they think the plane in the picture is C-54D 42-72469 is that it is near Snag and that was the last position report of C-54D 42-72469. (I am e-mailing the site to double check) Looking at the plane in the picture I have a hard time believing that it was not found (within a year or so) after the crash-- there is a document in the report indicating it was still missing as of Feb 1951. While I have seen accident reports that were not updated from missing once the plane was found, these are mainly WWII accidentd or the planes were found many, many, years after the crash. Also the plane looks like it was a survivable crash, though the crew could have succumbed to the elements, but they still could have gotten a message out. Lastly the pilot calls it a DC-3 (I can’t tell from the picture) and I would think *most* Alaskan bush pilots know a DC-3 from a DC-4. And not to mention the family of one of the passengers has not been informed of the plane ever being found.

 

Just curious if anyone can help confirm or deny the plane in the picture.


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Craig AAIR, Aviation Archaeological Investigation and Research http://www.aviationarchaeology.com
JR

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 #2 
The aircraft was still missing as of 1990.  A Coast Guard aircraft missing since 1943 was found on Kodiak Island that summer and it was in the national newspapers.  This prompted the widow of the missing C-54's crewchief to ask the military if there was still an on-going effort to find her husband.  An interview with her appeared in the Alaska Daily News at that time.  However, the newspaper stated that the plane went missing in 1947.  As far as I know, the C-54 is still missing.

My theory, for what its worth, is that the plane made a crash landing on one of the many lakes in the Yukon or British Columbia.  There were survivors.  They attempted to use the aircraft's radios or the emergency transmitters that were part of the survival equipment to contact search personnel.  These distress signals were picked up by numerous military aircraft flying in Canada and the northern US as reported by the newspapers covering the search.  However, rescue forces could not find the aircraft and the survivors perished in the extreme cold.  During the spring thaw, ice on the lake melted and the aircraft sank into the lake.

There have been numerous instances where missing aircraft in Canada were found years later sunken in a lake.  One story that comes to mind was the discovery of a Super Cub missing since Sep 1956 that was found in August, 1972 in a lake in the Yukon.  When a beaver dam collapsed in the summer of 1972, the water level in the lake dropped four feet allowing a passing helicopter to spot the wing and pontoon of the plane.  The pilot of the helicopter was a friend of the missing pilot and had participated in the original search.  He never gave up looking for his buddy and always kept an eye out over the years. 

One other point about the missing C-54.  The aircraft went missing just as the Canadian and U.S. Army were about to start a large winter exercise involving over 20,000 soldiers.  This exercise was cancelled and the troops put to work searching for the missing plane.  Search aircraft, mostly C-47s were brought up from bases in Texas, California and Washington to particpate in the search.  The typical C-47 search team was the crew of 5 (including a second navigator) and 6-8 Canadian or American soldiers seated in the back of the plane acting as scanners.  Two of the search planes were lost, but all crews were rescued alive.

It was also a very harsh winter with lots of snow and temperatures dropping to between -40 and -70 degrees.  It would have been very difficult if not impossible to have found the plane in those conditions.  The two crashed search planes were found quickly because survivors walked out looking for help and got lucky.
AAIR

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 #3 
Thanks John!

Now anyone have an idea on what plane that IS in the picture?

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 #4 
I and a friend are still looking for AF2469 and we are pretty sure she was seen near the southern Canadian border by numerous individuals. We think that because this missing plane drew a lot of attention and folks all around Canada and the world were reporting sightings, radio signals and even dreams that they had about it, these reports from the Cranbrook are are credible but were overlooked. The search was mostly done from Ft Nelson northwestward.

Two C-47s went down during the search, one is a winter snowmobile tour destination. I have the crash report- it is 2oo+ pages long. This was the biggest search in US aviation history until Crag Button's A-10 went missing. The end of the search came about at the same time that a B-36 with a hydrogen bomb on board went missing. I guess the US govt. shifted focus and Af 2469 was moved to a back burner.

A search is being tentatively planned in the Cranbrook area next month if my and Wayne's health allow. Any inquiries or info on this matter would be appreciated. We also believe that she may well have put down on a lake as our search area has a fair amouint of logging in the area.

Matt
JasonC

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 #5 
Does anyone have any info on what the emergency radio call outs said from the several signals that were heard?, where they were heard, when were they heard, and whats the range of the (Gibson girl?) radio to triangulate it. And if there were sighting in southern Canada was the time right for the fight to be there at that time, and if a smoking engine was seen, was it the right one. Cause from the report that i read from Elmondorf was that they were in the Yukon at about 23:09(snag). also at 10,000 feet and going into a cloud bank above Snag 50 knot winds from the NE at 23:09 it would be pretty tuff to land on anything without seeing. I'm not completely up to speed on navigation of the 50s.

just a few random ?
Jason

 

DaveTrojan

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 #6 
The range of a Gibson Girl radio was quoted as 200 miles to aircraft flying at 2000 ft. RF output was given as 5 watts. 
DaveT
JR

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 #7 
According to news accounts at that time, numerous military and civil aircraft picked up the distress signals that were presumed to be from the missing C-54.  It was never revealed what sort of signals were heard, but aircraft flying over the northern United States between Idaho and the Dakotas heard them for a period of several days after the C-54 vanished. 

The signals appeared to originate somewhere from the north within Canada.  To my knowledge, they were not heard by search aircraft in the area of the search and no mention was made of any attempts to triangulate the source.
JasonC

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 #8 
Hmmm. if the Gibson Girl had a 200mile range and calls were heard from the Dakotas to Idaho that sounds odd. Montana is 570 miles across at its W to E points. And if it were down from say the Sweet Grass boarder crossing E someone would of seen it by now(flat as a board) and the constant USAF traffic in the area. I lived in Great Falls. Would it be common practice that if a plane lost its radio to continue the flight in the 50s? Does anyone know what the protocol was for that situation.

Is it possible for me to get a copy of the incident report I'm having a little trouble finding a legible copy.
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 #9 
This is probably unrelated, but when I was a kid, I used to religiously read Outdoor Life magazine, a periodical focused on hunting and fishing.  At that time, circa 1967, the magazine ran a monthly one-page, cartoon-type story about strange or unusual outdoor events, supposedly all true.  I distinctly remember one article about a missing USAF aircraft, either a C-47 or a C-54, carrying a load of passengers that had belly-landed in the Alaskan bush.  All aboard either perished in the crash or eventually succumbed to the elements.  Snow eventually covered the broken fuselage and its deceased passengers, and the aircraft was lost to time.  That is, until a trapper stumbled upon the scene during the late Spring thaw.  He was attracted to the site by the large number of Grizzly Bear tracks in the area and followed them into a tunnel the bear had dug into a huge snow bank.  He shot the bear when it emerged from the tunnel and, upon investigation, discovered the snow-covered aircraft and the remains of the passengers.  According to the story, the Grizzly had burrowed into the broken aircraft and had been feasting on the remains of the crew and passengers.

OK, my intent is not to sensationalize the incident or focus on the more gristly aspects of remote crash sites, but to simply point out my memory of a late 60s story about a missing USAF cargo aircraft in Alaska.  Anyone have any knowlege of the craft I've mentioned or know if it's related to 42-72469 in any way? 
JasonC

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 #10 
Wow...interesting.  If anyone knows any of the family members still surviving today that can help or I can help please contact me with ANY information on the missing USAF  C-54D 42-72469.
Photos of the crew,the plane, etc, I have a web site planned in the future.

Thank You
Jason Cooke
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 #11 
     I just found some articles on the two C-47's that went down during the search- both articles were datelined Whitehorse, Y.T.  The first says that the first crash was on 1/30/50 and that  the pilot, Lt. Charles R. Harden, with his face "broken and bloody", had hiked 5 miles through waist deep snow to get to the Alaskan Highway to seek help.  Rescuers got to the site, located at the base of Caribou mountain, to find three injured and two "all right" survivors.

     The second, dated 2/07/50 was sighted on a mountain 12 miles north of Pon (?) lake, 88 miles NW of Whitehorse.  The plane did not appear to be badly damaged and a radio was parachuted down for communications.  The aircraft had disappeared while searching near Aishihik, and was found between the 5 and 7,000 foot level on a mountain slope.

     Re: the radio messages heard over such a wide area- could the weather conditions have been good enough for "skip" to occur?  I knew a guy who would park on the bluffs above Half Moon Bay airport when there was heavy, low cloud cover and could talk to people in Hawaii on his CB radio . .

     Chris
    

DaveTrojan

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 #12 
If the plane had landed somewhere and not been too badly damaged (like on a frozen lake), they could have used the aircraft's' radios (UHF and HF) using battery power until the batteries died. That would explain the radio transmissions that lasted for several days and also why the plane sank to the bottom of the lake and disappeared. There are hundreds of possible lakes. The question I have, is why they did not try and use direction finding and triangulation to locate the plane? Maybe the official accident report has more info on their attempts. How many people were on that plane? Does anyone have any idea how many planes are still missing in Canada?
DaveT
JR

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 #13 
Just like here in the U.S., I doubt if anyone can answer the question of how many aircraft are still missing in Canada with any accuracy.  I do know that there are no more missing in Ontario.  However, B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and NW Territories still have missing planes.  A few that have been found in the past 10 years include some that were missing since 1956, 1964, 1968, 1969 and 1970.

I am working up a data base for planes missing in Canada for more than two  months.  I have quite a few cases that I have to organize into a format and summarize.  So this is going to take awhile.

There were 44 personnel on board - 36 passengers and 8 crewmen.
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 #14 
The C-47 75 miles out of Whitehorse is the main attraction for snowmobile safaris. There was yet another C-47 that went down just a few miles from Snag the last day of active searching. Seven AF planes went down in a three week period. Bad month for flying I guess.
Check this out: AF 2469 aborted the first takeoff due to a malfunctioning feathering motor. The fix for this if it re occurred during the flight is to shut off both generators and both batteries; then use one batt or gen to bump the prop to full feather. Then you shut that batt or gen down. If you repower the electrical system the feathering motor engages again and you have trouble( big time drag, engine overspeeding, windmilling).

The accident report states that AF 2469 "reported over Snag at 2309 Z at 10,000 ETa Aishihik 2337Z. Snag read latter report at 2314Z." Read? Normal SOP was I believe voice radio checkins. So if this report they read, it must have come across the teletype and they missed it at first because nobody did that normally. The teletype probably chattered constantly anyway. My expert on geezer aviation, my dad, says that it wouldn't be SOP to use a Morse key to check in because fighter a/c used the Amber corridor routinely and the pilots had no Morse training and more importantly, no Morse key in the cockpit with them. But there is one on the Gibson Girl radio included in the 800 lbs of survival gear...so they trailed the antenna out of a cockpit window and checked in blind.

Now think back on that feathering motor malfunction and the only fix available en route-shutting down all electrical power. I need to do more systems research but if heat was mechanically controlled rather than electrically, they could have decided to go for it without radios as they pretty much followed the Alaska Highway. As it was minus 25 across most of the flight path I can't see them doing it without heat.

Several reports came in about radio signals received transmitting a broken up position report that sounded like Watson Lake, near Whitehorse. There is a park called Waterton Lakes right on the border and just east and a little south of where I think this plane is. A broken up Morse signal might have been misinterpreted as Watson Lake. Add to that a report by a ham radio operator of a signal he thought was coming from the Idaho/Montana/Canada area. I think that the survivors wore out that Gibson Girl trying to signal planes that were concentrating on an area a thousand miles away. If you add in all the reports from this area(especially those that came in before the plane was even reported overdue) it really outweighs all of the single person, after the fact reports from further north. The AF didn't really get any DF gear in place until the end of the search.

Whether or not they flew the route without radios, I think that they turned into Crowsnest Pass thinking it was the pass to Kalispell, 50 or so miles further southeast. They were seen headed west coming out of the pass and trailing smoke, then fire from the left wing as they turned south on the west side of what was then the Kootenay River and went out of sight in the Cranbrook Forest district. Maybe they tried the electrical to use the radios when they didn't see Kalispell in the valley. With still 4 hours of fuel and 44 souls on board now she's heavy, over the Purcells and running out of altitude, unable to maintain altitude or turn right effectively. So they went in on a gentle upslope starting at 6000 ft that burned in the '30's, leaving it relatively big tree free(as of 1952 aerial photos). It ends below a 7300 ft peak in a small lake. I have money that says they are in the lake or very near it. The peak lines up triangulationwise with the position of the flares witnesses saw. The flare were seen roughly three hours after the plane; in order for the flares 300 or so foot height to be seen in Jaffray they had to be high up when they were launched. It would take far more than three hours to get up these mountain slopes in the winter. So I think they crashed up high. That narrows it down a bit.

At least 5 people saw the plane; at least that many saw flares in the same place that night. I have talked to one of them and Wayne Williams spoke to two others. A dozen or so on both sides of the border saw signal fire in the mountains on the night after the plane went missing. They couldn't get more than a token effort out of searchers who were sure the plane was down way up north, not 80 miles west of the airway and on the southern Canadian border. Smoke signals were seen by an airline pilot a week later; the AF's search plane got weathered out. Mention was made of a minor search effort the next spring but there aren't any details about it that I could find.

This plane is a legend among outdoorsmen and loggers in this area. I am going back down to look in that lake this spring. Wish me luck.
JasonC

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 #15 
So....has anyone done any research on that downed plane? Seems odd that if its that popular locally someone would of followed up on it?

If your willing where is that site. Do you have a ruff coordinate.
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