Four TBM crewman were killed in the collision of two TBM-3E Avengers killed on August 28, 1951 on Santa Catalina Island.
In the News~
August 28, 1951]: “The U.S. Navy decided to relocate aircraft from Naval Air Station Los Alamitos in Orange County to Moffat Field, some four hundred miles north in the San Francisco Bay area. On August 28, 1951, a flight of six Grumman TBM-3E Avengers departed Los Alamitos NAS at 5:58 p.m., with the leading edge of the storm front already producing rain showers and reducing visibility to one and a half miles. All pilots were briefed to fly to the northern tip of Santa Catalina Island, turn northwest toward Santa Cruz Island and continue on top of the overcast to NAS Moffett Field. Five of the six Avengers had a radar operator on board, but only two units were turned on and one of those was not working properly as the flight headed out to sea. About fifteen minutes after takeoff the flight entered a heavy rain squall and was forced to descend to 200 feet. One radar operator reported that the island was dead ahead at two miles, and his pilot started an immediate climb through the overcast, as did three other members of the flight, but there was no response from one pilot, who may not have heard the radio transmission. At 6:13 p.m., two TBM-3E's crashed into Catalina Island, one crashing in a canyon at 1,050 feet MSL and the other near the top of the ridge at 1,300 feet MSL. The two TBM sites are located between the Isthmus and 1,804-foot Silver Peak. Even though both pilots had started a desperate climb to avoid theisland, they were not on the assigned heading and could not avoid a collision with the island rising sharply out of the gloom. Four surviving TBM-3E's continued on to NAS Moffett Field, their crews shaken, distressed and mourning the loss of four crewmen who were once a vital part of their V871 squadron. The big storm that threatened Southern California and caused the flight to be made failed to materialize. Fog, rain showers and winds gusting to sixteen miles per hour were all the weakened front produced. Seldom seen by island visitor, the wreckage sites of the TBM-3Es are scattered in the rough and beautiful country near the west end of Catalina Island. One set of propeller hubs, with blades still attached, is located at the Isthmus, and the other set can be found at Parsons Landing. These propellers are memorials to four navy pilots and air crewmen who lost their lives on August 28, 1951. At the time of this writing, memorial markers are planned for the TBM crewmen.” [G. Pat Macha. Historic Aircraft Wrecks of Los Angeles County (2014)]