AIRPLANE ACCIDENTS: SAN NICOLAS ISLAND
AIRPLANE ACCIDENTS — SAN NICOLAS ISLAND:
- February 14, 1945: “… At 1820 (6:20 P.M.) vectored planes to San Nicolas Island, which was 120 miles distant and which reported contact weather with 1500 ft. ceiling. Planes proceeded to vicinity of San Nicolas Island, receiving some assistance in vectors from U.S.S. Ranger which was operating nearby. Weather had closed in at San Nicolas Island upon their arrival there after dark… While attempting to land on San Nicolas Island one TBM crashed outside the field and the crew of three was killed. Two F4U also crashed outside the landing field area while attempting to land on San Nicolas Island, and the pilots were killed.”
On 14 Feb 1945: the planes from CVE 106 were to conduct strikes with live ammunition against a bombing area on San Clemente. Dobbin led the morning flight but found the weather unsatisfactory and returned to the ship. One plane crashed due to engine failure but the pilot was rescued. That afternoon six Avengers, three Corsairs, and two Hellcats were launched to continue training. A severe storm approached rapidly so Block Island recalled all aircraft. One Avenger successfully landed but the others were unable to land so they were vectored to San Nicolas about 120 miles away. The weather prevented landing and as a result eight aircrew and seven planes were lost. Although given vectors by Ranger (CV-4) operating nearby, the escort carrier's planes found that the weather had closed in San Nicolas, too. One "Hellcat" pilot reached the Marine Corps air station at Santa Barbara, but an "Avenger" pilot who attempted to reach San Nicolas failed. He and his two-man crew perished when the plane crashed just outside the field. Two "Corsairs" also crashed just outside the field, taking their pilots to their deaths. Maj. Vaupell tried to penetrate the overcast first at San Nicolas and then at Santa Barbara, before trying to make Bakersfield. Twenty miles short of the field, his "Avenger" crashed, and all on board died. Three others ditched successfully near San Nicolas and Santa Catalina, and the Coast Guard rescued two crews, uninjured, almost immediately while a third was picked up 12 hours later suffering from shock and exposure. All other planes landed at San Nicolas. Block Island and Childs spent the rest of that day and the next morning searching the waters off San Nicolas before returning to San Diego.
- Grumman F6F-5K #79063 one of four that crashed on San Nicolas Island in the 1950s.
- Drone 41, P4Y-2K BuNo 59847, crashed at North Point, San Nicolas Island, 1977.
Mercer Airlines: Golden State Airlines
c.1950: Burbank CA. The 135.2 certificate was held by Ruby Morgan Mercer, wife of Dewight Westlay "Poddy" Mercer (1906-1986)[SS#503-09-1686], who operated Mercer Airlines. Charter operations and Navy contracts for San Clemente and San Nicolas Islands. One DC-3 [N33644] and one BE-18 Tradewind [N7805C]. Ended ops c.1979. (Data: Chuck Ross 4/11/01)
- The DC-3 has a right hand door, so it must have been DC-3-G202A N16096, former American Airlines Flagship Tucson. The ex-Capitol airplane was DC-3-G102 N18620 (and can be seen at the very end of the movie-theater movie M*A*S*H).
- The DC-4 was N93267, identifiable because it has black squares painted around the cabin windows. DC-4s have round windows. When other airlines were buying DC-6s, PSA couldn't afford them, so they painted black squares around the windows to fool the passengers.
During 1967 and 1968 N.A.S C-54s made the trip with cargo and pax on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the DC-4 had a mechanical, Mercer would occasionally run their DC-6 (the prototype) and when that wasn't available, the Admiral would lend his C-121. When all else failed, the Sikorsky S-55 would carry a few.
- N39165 Serial #1404 
former Eastern Airlines relic designed to carry 14; Poddy crammed in 21 seats. Registered as since 1945 he sold it in the late '60s to Colgate Darden.
- N31538 Serial #6317  registered to D. W. Mercer (1966-1976) — destroyed 8/4/1972 in fire/Burbank
- N18620 Serial #4886 registered to D. W. Mercer (1962-1976)
- DC6: [A DC6 owned by Mercer Enterprise crashed in Encino on a golf course in 1976.]
In the News~
April 23, 1999 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island. Mechanic Hurt as Jet Rolls Down Slope. A civilian mechanic working on a Navy jet on San Nicolas Island was injured Thursday when the million-dollar aircraft rolled off the runway and down a steep embankment, federal authorities said. Edwin Valadish was being treated at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard for fractured leg bones, said Doris Lance, a base spokeswoman. Lance was airlifted from the island, which is owned by the Navy and sits about 60 miles off the coast, after the 12:30 p.m. incident, officials said. He was in fair condition Thursday night and expected to undergo surgery. Naval Cmdr. Alex Hnarakis said Valadish had taxied a $1.2-million F-4 Phantom onto a runway and was sitting in the cockpit during a routine maintenance procedure. He is authorized to move the plane, Hnarakis said. The plane had burned a large amount of oil during testing Wednesday. Valadish was directed to check the problem by putting more oil in the plane, setting the brake and running the engine at a high rate of speed. During the test, the plane rolled off the runway and 50 feet down a steep embankment. The commander refused to say what position the plane came to rest in or the extent of damage. It was unclear how Valadish was injured. An accident investigation team from Point Mugu Naval Air Station was sent to the scene. Results from the investigation will be available in about three weeks, Lance said. Valadish has worked at the Point Mugu station for 11 years.”