Portal:Airplane Accidents

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Airplane Accidents on the Channel Islands:

» Macha, Gary P. Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of California 1909-1996. (San Clemente: Info Net Publishing, 1997).

Airplane Accidents: Anacapa Island

• 1945: Grumman F4F Avenger crashed near Anacapa Island during World War II. The plane wreck lies north of the gap between East and Middle islands in about 120 feet of water. • October 20, 1983: Cessna 150M (N714PR). Pilot made a low pass over a fishing boat before entering the water near Anacapa Island. Pilot was killed. • January 5, 1989: Cessna 172M (N61587) crashed on West Anacapa Island killing pilot, John F. Thompson. The wreck was not located until January 24, after which it was removed from the island. • January 31, 2000 Alaska Air flight 261, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 (N963AS) enroute to San Francsico from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, crashed into the Pacific Ocean 2.7 miles north of Anacapa Island. Two pilots, 3 cabin crewmembers and 83 passengers were killed. Catastrophic mechanical failure was the cause of the crash.

Airplane accidents: San Clemente Island

• July 30, 1935 a Northrop fighter plane, constructed for the U.S. Army as one of the world’s fastest and most formidable pursuit planes, went missing near San Clemente Island. Lieutenant Arthur H. Skaer, Jr. was pilot. • June 6, 1941 two Navy planes attached to the cruiser U.S.S. Chester, collided midair off San Clemente Island. Three people were killed, and a fourth survived with severe burns. • April 22, 1943 Ensign John A. Titcomb, 23, U.S.N.R. of Nogales, Arizona, was killed when his plane crashed on San Clemente Island. • September 25, 1945 two Navy patrol bombers collided near San Clemente Island, one plane exploding 200 feet above a target range. Six occupants of the second plane survived when the plane made a water landing near Seal Rocks at the east end of Santa Catalina Island. • June 4, 1949 two planes of a squadron piloted by Naval Reserve fliers had a mid-air collision near San Clemente Island. One plane was able to make a landing at the Los Alamitos airstrip; the other fell to the ocean three miles south of San Clemente Island. • June 5, 1952 a Boeing 247-D owned by the Scott Flying Service of Long Beach, piloted by Robert A. Long, ran out of fuel after departing San Clemente Island. The plane landed in the water near shore and both occupants survived. • ADD 1955 crash into USS HOPEWELL! • November 18, 1966 four men were killed when their Navy helicopter crashed west of San Clemente Island. Three men were rescued. • June 15, 1978 pilot Lt. Comdr. Scott Stallings, 35, of Solana Beach, and Lt. (j.g.) Steven S. Dalley, 27, of San Diego were killed when their Miramar-based F-14 Tomcat jet crashed at sea Thursday near San Clemente Island.

August 3, 1935 [LAT]: “False lead marks lost plane hunt. Wreck that of another craft. Search for the Army’s missing mystery plane in which Lieutenant Arthur H. Skaer, Jr., disappeared last Tuesday caused some excitement yesterday when a mass of aircraft wreckage was sighted in a rugged arroyo on San Clemente Island, but the wreck proved to be that of another plane. The wreck, which was observed from the air by a U.S. Coast Guard plane, is that is a tin biplane that crashed there last November with three men. Identification of the wreck was established through investigation by The Times. It was a small blue and silver biplane powered with an OX-5 motor owned by Wilton Probert , 26 years of age, of Hollywood. With Probert, on a goat-hunting expedition, were Sparks E. Bonnett, 28 of 1648 Stearns Drive, and Vernon Morse, 29, of 336 North Alta Vista Avenue. All three men were injured when the ship crashed. They were rescued by Coast Guardsmen and later returned to the island, stripping the wrecked craft of its instruments…”

August 3, 1935 [LAT]: “False lead marks lost plane hunt. Wreck that of another craft… Charles Swedeborg, a fisherman at Mosquito Harbor, on San Clemente Island, also had advised the Coast Guard the wreck is an old one…”

January 31, 1948 [LAT]: “Two 25-year-old ensigns were killed when their Navy (SNJ) trainer crashed in the surf at San Clemente Island, it was announced by Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, where the reserevists took off on a temporary duty flight. They were identified as Arthur F. Berger, Jr., pilot, of San Diego, and Emery Papp of Imperial Beach. Berger leaves his mother, and Papp his widow and one son. The bodies of the men were recovered after the ship smashed into the water.”

June 6, 1952 [LAT]: “Two rescued from plane down in sea. Two Long Beach men were rescued from the ocean yesterday after their twin-engined amphibian plane was forced to land off Seal Beach due to a fuel line leak. The plane was being flown from San Clemente Island to Long Beach Municipal Airport by Robert A. Long of 5439 Ebell Street, with Robert E. Cook as his copilot, the Coast Guard reported. Before setting the craft down between Seal Beach and Surfside, Long radioed the field that they were out of gas. After landing in the water, Long and Cook crawled out on the wing and were spotted by the fishing boat Sunny. The plane was a Boeing 247-D owned by the Scott Flying Service of Long Beach, which has a government contract to operate between the mainland and San Clemente Island. The plane was swamped and soon sank in shallow water, but its owners believe it can be salvaged. Neither of the men was hurt.”

November 12, 1955 [LAT]: “San Diego, November 11. Five men were killed today when a naval attack bomber apparently on a simulated bombing run, dove into the destroyer USS Hopewell during joint United States-Canadian maneuvers. Five sailors were injured. The destroyer limped to port with the five bodies aboard after two other destroyers helped it put out fires started by the crash and explosion. The Navy identified the three men killed aboard the plane as Lt. Comdr. M.S. Essary, 40, pilot, of Coronado, Cal.; radarman R. S. Stewart, Punxsutawney, Pa., and B. M. Phillips, Jamaica, N. Y. Identity of the two destroyer crewmen killed was withheld pending notification of next of kin. Comdr. Mark M. Grandor, skipper of the Hopewell, said the plane struck the vessel between its two stacks on the starboard side. The plane’s engine came out on the port side. It disabled one of the ship’s engines. Pieces of the aircraft pierced down two decks…”

November 18, 1966 [LAT]: “The bodies of two men were recovered from the sea west of San Clemente Island after a Navy helicopter crashed. Two others were missing and three were rescued. One of those killed, the pilot, was identified as Comdr. William F. Todd, 37, of Chula Vista.”

June 18, 1978 [LAT]: “The Navy has recovered the body of a radar intercept officer whose Miramar-based F-14 Tomcat jet crashed at sea Thursday near San Clemente Island. The body of Lt. (j.g.) Steven S. Dalley, 27, of San Diego was found Friday evening east of San Clemente Island by Navy search and rescue crews. The search for pilot, Lt. Comdr. Scott Stallings, 35, of Solana Beach, is to resume this morning, a Navy spokeswoman said. The wreckage of the fighter plane was discovered Friday and a salvage attempt will be made, the spokeswoman said.”

September 14, 1981 [LAT]: “The body of a suspected marijuana smuggler was recovered Sunday from San Clemente Island where he had crashed his twin Beechcraft into a hillside, scattering 900 pounds of marijuana ‘all over the place,’ customs officials reported. Federal officials suspect that the plane crashed last February when the pilot, who was already known to law enforcement authorities, was returning from Mexico with a full cargo. ‘We can only suppose that he was off on his navigation and thought that he was still over water,’ said Pete Grootendorst, U.S. Customs air support branch chief. ‘He hit the mountain at about 200 fett elevation.’ The remains of the crash were discovered Friday by a Navy helicopter pilot who was flying over the section of San Clemente Island used by the Navy for target practice. The discovery of the crash has triggered investigations by a host of government agencies, including U.S. Customs, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Navy, which has a base on the island, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. Authorities wouldnot identify the victim, but Grootendorst said that both the man and his airplane had been suspected of smuggling marijuana across the border…”

Airplane Accidents: San Miguel Island

• July 5, 1943: Consolidated B-24E (#42-7180) U.S.A.A. F. crashed on Green Mountain. Twelve men died in the crash. The site was not located until March 19, 1944. The bomber had been dispatched to find a missing B-24 that was later found 10 miles inland from Santa Barbara. All personnel were members of the 2nd Air Force, 34th Bomb Group, 7th Bomb Squadron stationed at Salinas Army Air Base, Salinas, California. The remains of the crew were returned to their next of kin: Pilot Vernon C. Stevens; Command Pilot Douglas Thornburg; Copilot Floyd P. Hart; Bombardier Instructor Justin M. Marshall; Navigator Bose Gorman; Bombardier Noah H. Yost; Engineer Bernard Littman; Assistant Engineer Ralph S. Masterson; Radioman Lyle L. Frost; Gunner Walter O. Eisenbarth; Gunner Lee E. Salver; and Assistant Radioman Henry L. Blair.

October 3, 1954 [LAT]: “Plane crash 11 years ago linked to sea tragedy. Coast Guard cutter was en route to scene where 12 died when it collided with yacht. An 11-year-old plane crash on lonely San Miguel Island, which claimed 12 lives in 1943, yesterday contributed to a crash at sea which claimed two more. The Coast Guard cutter Morris, which collided with the yacht Aloha off Port Hueneme yesterday, was en route to San Miguel Island with a team of Air Force and civilian identification experts to search the scene where a B-24 Liberator bomber crashed with 12 crewman aboard on July 5, 1943. But two former Navy sailors yesterday told The Times that they knew of the bomber crash in 1944 and helped recover bodies at the scene then. Friday, officials at Norton Air Force Base had termed the new discovery of the wreckage by a fisherman the “’first word’ of the missing bomber since it disappeared in 1943…”

• February 5, 1958: A Boeing B-47E-45-LM Stratojet, 52-0388, of the 22d Bombardment Wing, March AFB, California, disappears 50 miles WSW of San Miguel Island, California, over the Pacific at night during a Hairclipper mission. It apparently blew up.

Airplane Accidents: San Nicolas Island

• February 14, 1945 [1]: “… 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 attempoting 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 Nicholas Island in the 1950's. http://www.aircraftwrecks.com/pic_archive/pic2.htm

Mercer Airlines: Golden State Airlines c.1950: Burbank CA. The 135.2 certificate 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 'em, 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.

DC2: N39165 Serial #1404 [1935] 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.

DC3: N31538 Serial #6317 [1940] registered to D. W. Mercer (1966-1976) —destroyed 8/4/1972 in fire/Burbank N18620 Serial #4886 registered to D. W. Mercer (1962-1976) N16096 DC4: N93267 DC6: [A DC6 owned by Mercer Enterpirsed crashed in Encino on a golf course in 1976.] N90444 N901MA

Airplane Accidents: Santa Barbara Island

• July 14, 1937 [REG]: “The bodies of two naval reserve fliers killed in a navy plane crash during gunnery exercises off Santa Barbara Island lay in a Long Beach mortuary today. Victims of the crash which occurred yesterday, were Edwin C. Higgins, aviation cadet of Spokane, Washington, and Julian Stogner, coxswain of Long Beach, California, formerly of Hamlet, N. C. Shortly after the plane was catapulted from the deck of the battleship Mississippi, it went into a nose dive and plunged fifteen hundred feet into the sea.” • January 22, 1955: Piper Cub crash landed because of ignition failure. Three aboard were unhurt.

Airplane Accidents: Santa Catalina Island

Wayne Kratzer photographed this propeller and hub assembly at the Isthmus of Catalina in July 0f 2007. I’m not sure what wreck this is associated with, but it may be from a Vought F4U-1D or a TBM-3 that crashed on the island in the 1940’s. ( All photos courtesy Wayne Kratzer ) http://www.aircraftwrecks.com/pic_archive/pic7.htm

4/30/1932 Lockheed P-38D Lightening Crash Landing at Santa Catalina Island. Second Lt. Walter F. Lichtenberger

8/4/1996 Cessna 421C crash 4 serious; 2 minor 1/30/1986 Learjet 6 fatalities in landing accident

Airplane Accidents: Santa Cruz Island

• 1920s: An overloaded rum running plane crashed at Christy Beach upon take-off during Prohibition. The wheels of the plane can still be found on the upper beach flats. • March 2, 1949: Vought F4U U.S.M.C. (#97448) crashed in bad weather killing the pilot, Captain Jess Thierry (1921-1949). Wreck found March 5 scattered west of Scorpion Ranch on a barren ridge. ?• Date unknown: North American F-51D U.S.A. F. hit 1808’ peak at the east end of the island killing the pilot. The crash occurred in cloudy weather. Scattered wreckage is still visible.?? see SRI ?• March 30, 1954: Grumman AF-2W Guardian, a single-engine propeller-driven plane operated by the U.S. Government was searching for a missing jet aircraft • Sept. 30, 1963: Cessna 150 (#N71159) crashed on the southwest side of the island. • March 8, 1966: Cessna 182B (#N7254E) crashed on the northwest side of the island, killing the pilot. Wreckage is Scattered 200 yards south of the bootleg plane on Christy Beach. • March 8, 1966: Piper Cherokee Six #N3296W crashed in bad weather killing all six persons aboard.

• June 9, 1972 Lockheed QT-33A USN based at Point Mugu crashed on Picacho Diablo, killing the pilot, Daniel W. Still: June 10, 1972 [SBNP]: “Point Mugu. The body of a Navy pilot was recovered from the wreckage of his jet aircraft in a desolate valley of Santa Cruz Island yesterday. The Navy and Coast Guard had been searching since Wednesday for Lt. Daniel W. Still, 29, of Camarillo. His QT-33 jet was seen going down during a routine training operation Wednesday afternoon. The cause of the crash, in a illy section of the island’s main valley, was unknown.”

• 1974: Cessna 150 (#N71159) crash landed at Pozo Beach. A student pilot was flying with his instructor when they buzzed several cowboys moving cattle in the area. The plane was caught by a large wave and pulled into the surf. Both occupants survived, and parts of the wreckage are buried in the sand. The insurance company paid a claim to the Santa Cruz Island Company for littering the privately owned beach. • fish spotter plane • January 18, 1984: Cessna 206 crashed on the east end of the island seriously injuring three persons, including the caretaker at Scorpion Ranch, William Peterson.

Airplane Accidents: Santa Rosa Island

• Stinson 105 Voyager (#N67100) lies wrecked upside down near a dry lakebed. One man died and three were injured in this accident. • 1950s: Piper Pacer (NC5582H) wrecked near Johnson's Lee. • 1950s: During the Cold War a fighter plane wrecked on top of the island, killing the pilot. • 1950s: North American F-51D USAF crashed NE of Carrington Point. • 1970s: Stinson L5 military surplus plane crashed next to San Agustin Canyon. Pieces of the wreck are still visible. [1 or 2 may be Army Engineer killed at Johnsons Lee]