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DaveTrojan

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 #1 

Lockheed P-3A Orion, BuNo 152172, construction number 185-5142, assigned to Patrol Squadron 19 (VP-19), Radio call sign Papa Echo Zero Five (PE-05), crashed 4 July 1966, seven miles Northeast Battle Creek, MI. The P-3A Orion was on the return leg of a cross country airways training flight from New York-Floyd Bennett Field, NJ to Naval Air Station Moffett Field, CA via Naval Air Station, Glenview, IL.

The plane was flying at 22,000 feet and made a normal routine radio call at 2035 (8:35pm), but by 2040 (8:40pm) the plane had crashed in a wooded area. The aircraft was observed by witnesses to have emerged from overcast clouds at about 3000 feet in a diving right turn. It then made a left turn and then back to the right before plummeting to the ground. It was estimated that the plane crashed at a speed of just over 500 miles per hour and at an angle of 60 degrees at the time of impact.   

  Four crewmembers were killed in the accident:

 Pilot, Lt. William E. Xiques, Staten Island, NY

Copilot, Lt. John P. Fitzmaurice, III, Waterbury, Conn
Flight Engineer, ADJ2 Charles J. Lurvey, Meriden, Conn
2nd Flight Engineer, ADJ3 Larry W. Battson, Santa Clara, CA

 The investigation determined that there was no in-flight fire and no major structural failure had occurred.   The plane was only about a year old at the time of the accident. The only clues were unintelligible voice transmissions at 2037 and again at 2039. The voice was masked by extreme high frequency background noise. Despite attempted computer analysis of the voice and an extended accident investigation, the cause was never determined. It was believed that some kind of catastrophic failure had occurred that incapacitated the crew.   

 It was also surmised that it was possible that the windshield failed in-flight under decompression forces causing sound comparable to high velocity air in the cockpit. Not enough of the windshield was recovered to perform an analysis and come to any conclusions about this possibility.

 Adding to the mystery was the fact that less than three months earlier on 9 April 1966, VP-19 had lost a P-3A in another unexplained tragic accident. P-3A Orion, PE-4, BuNo 152171 was lost off the coast of Baja, California while engaged in an ASW training flight. All 11 members of the flight crew were killed. This plane was just one serial number earlier than the one that crashed in Michigan.

The P-3A Orion weighed about 63,000 lbs and the Navy recovered approximately 53,000 pounds of wreckage from the crash site.   

 They left some pieces behind for me to find more than 47 years later! There was a lot of wreckage still at the site and much more buried there I'm sure. The pile of parts I found only took 15 minutes to collect. Getting one in before the snow flies! 

DaveT

 PS. I plan on investigating this accident further to determine if I can find out why it crashed. Yes, I'm in Michigan right now doing some investigating! 

 

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DaveTrojan

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 #2 
Selected artifacts from the site. found in a farmers field in danger of being plowed under. 
They include skin with lettering, Lockheed construction number, radome fragments, windshield frame, misc fragments.
DaveT 

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ChrisBaird

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 #3 
Pretty great find, Dave.   

You mustve been excited.  Was it hard to locate?

Didn't the Electras have a history of wing failures at higher speeds?   I'm surprised the Navy left it at undetermined...

Nice work!

--> Chris B.
DaveTrojan

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 #4 
It took a long time (about 3-4 years) to obtain a copy of the accident report, but with the info it provided gave me a good idea where to search. I was lucky the area is still undeveloped except for a farmers field encroaching upon the site.  

The Electras did have a history of failures, but this accident I believe had more to do with explosive decompression/failure of windshield. 

The NAVY extended the accident investigation time and did further testing to try and find the cause but they never found anything. I'm looking at all the available evidence and the History of P-3 accidents to see if I can find any similar incidents. Furthermore. I still have many friends  with Lockheed that I can consult with to get their expert opinions.  I was very surprised to find a couple of pieces of the window frames at the crash site. It may lead to clues about the accident.  
DaveT

DaveTrojan

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 #5 
I made another trip to the crash site of the P-3A Orion near Battle Creek MI. The current property resident had done some searching of the site during the past week and discovered a large amount of debris in the farmers field next to the impact point. The field is full of parts. I was able to examine the parts found and then made a visit to the site to return the parts that I had found the previous week and place some memorial flags at the site. The resident also plans to return all the parts they found to the site and build a better memorial to the lost crew. photos attached. A large rock very near the impact point is now the parts collection pile point. 
DaveT

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DaveTrojan

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 #6 
The resident found a couple of interesting pieces at the crash site. A Mod plate and spare lamp door.  1. Modification data plate is for part number 916234-159, serial number A-1C-31, and it does have "ASC" modification incorporated according to the stamped in letters. It will take some time, but I will determine exactly which part this is and what was ASC. It is interesting to me that a modification was done to a new (1year old) airplane. Also note that the 916234 is the part number prefex for Lockheed. 

2. Spare lamps panel. this panel was located in the cockpit, right hand side, above circuit breaker panel, next to the master data plate, photo attached shows this panel in the upper right corner of photo marked  "spare lamps".

Research continues
DaveT

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earlyZ

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 #7 
Dave,

would you have the full address for the 2nd Flight Engineer?

Thanks.
DaveTrojan

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 #8 

2nd Flight Engineer, ADJ3 Larry W. Battson, Santa Clara CA

location based on newspaper report. I have no further info.
However, the squadron was based at Moffett Field, very near Santa Clara CA. He most likely lived on base or was renting off base.
need to check "find a grave" to determine where his family had him buried. This location is most likely very near his home. The grave info/funeral notice/cert of death sometimes gives more info.  
why do you want to know?
DaveT

Brad

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 #9 
Dave,
Did a little checking and Larry is actually Laird Wayne Battson. He is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Francisco.
Brad
DaveTrojan

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 #10 
The Pilot, Lt. William E. Xiques, was from Staten Island, NY

The whole purpose of the trip was really for the pilot to visit his family, but was used to document more flight hours on the cross country flight.

This is a very mysterious crash that I will investigate further.
DaveT
earlyZ

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 #11 
Dave,

just curiosity as I live in Santa Clara and have for most of my life, as well as Sunnyvale.  Santa Clara was much smaller in 1966 and who knows how close we may have lived to one another? Or how close to the home I own now?
The P-3's were part of my growing up as they would constantly fly over my grade school in SC or my Dads office in downtown Sunnyvale
I have never forgotten seeing the wreckage on the golf course of the 1973 mid air involving a P-3. It was horrible.


Thanks Dave and Merry Christmas to all.
donwert

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 #12 
This is a highly interesting report to me. I was an "ear witness" to this accident. In 1966 I lived with my parents in a house on St. Mary's Lake about 5 miles north of Battle Creek. We had a swimming pool and I and my parents and sister were sitting around the pool that evening (it was still light that time of year).
We were just about ready to go inside because the mosquitos started to bite when we heard the sound of a prop plane with motors that sounded abnormal---as though they were "racing". There was a solid overcast and we couldn't see the plane. It passed over our house in an easterly direction. We were used to planes flying over or house as we were on the flight path to Kellogg Regional Airport, which was an Air National Guard Base, but those planes always flew toward the southwest. We listened as the plane flew on and the sound diminished. About 1-2 minutes later we heard a distant "voom" sound and wondered whether the plane had crashed. We called the township police, but they had no reports. About an hour later, however, one of the local radio stations reported the crash...about 3 miles east of our house.
DaveTrojan

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 #13 
Normal The P-3 Orion Airspeed: Maximum, 411 knots = 472 mph; cruise, 328 knots = 377 mph
The estimated speed of 500 mph at time of impact is high. 

The cause of the engines "racing" is unknown. 

According to your eye witness report, "
passed over our house in an easterly direction" 

This account would have been after the on-board emergency started and after they turned around.
I wonder if they were dropping altitude to try and make it into the  
Kellogg Regional Airport. But that would have required another turn around.  I believe procedures would have been to spiral down in altitude, so that is a possibility. 

Still unknown what caused the initial in flight emergency. I believe it was some kind of structural failure, (fault during manufacturing process) although official report tends to rule it out. I still need to investigate further.  

donwert, do you still live in the area?

DaveT

donwert

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 #14 
At the time we wondered why it was heading away from Kellogg Field. Had there been no overcast, they probably could have seen
the airport from 2000-3000 feet above our house. We speculated that the plane was either uncontrollable or the crew was incapacitated.
Clearly the engines were NOT making a normal sound. I moved to the Bay Area in 1979 and live in Los Altos Hills. The first several years after
moving out here, I lived in Mountain View and Sunnyvale. The Sunnyvale house was near the glide slope to Moffitt Field. Everyday one could
watch P-3 Orions passing over as there was a large anti-submarine squadron based at Moffitt.

It's interesting that the cause of the Michigan crash was never established. I assume the plane didn't have a CVR or CDR. But the routine
transmission at 22,000 feet followed just 5 minutes later by the crash with a couple of unintelligible transmissions in between sure sounds like catastrophic
decompression occurred.
Burrpink

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 #15 
I have some first hand information about this crash. We lived to the west of this crash site, at the junction of M-66 and M-78,
Burley Corners. The road has been changed a little since then. It was almost 50 years ago. It all happened on the Fourth of July.
As children, this holiday was always exciting because of the church picnic. This was also the season for baling hay and we worked in the field where the crash took place.

If it hadn't rained that day, my dad and I would have been in that field that day and would not have survived that day. Because of the rain, we got to go to the church picnic, which always included a softball game. During the game, there was a terrible explosion and those who were volunteer firemen were gone in a flash.

The area was closed off for quite awhile and when the investigation and collection of evidence was over, the field was bulldozed and reseeded. However, my father on longer worked in that field. We had cattle and the people who owned the field had horses. Cattle would have eaten anything baled with the hay, (Metal scraps,etc.) and horses are much more selective; horses would have left the foreign material alone and only eaten the hay. So we didn't bale the hay from that field anymore.

Before the crash, the field was very hilly and difficult to navigate with tractor, baler, and wagon. Now, do to the clean up, it is much more gently rolling as you see in the picture included. This was a very memorable experience and thinking back, it could have been a very dangerous day in our family (scary to think about.)
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