Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, October 29, 1942, p. 3:

Planned Aerial Rendezvous Blamed for Fatal Air Crash

 

LOS ANGELES. –(U.P.)– Rep. Jack Nichols, Oklahoma Democrat, head of a congressional investigating committee, said last night that the collision of an Army bomber and an American Airlines transport last Friday, in which 12 persons were killed, was the result of a planned aerial rendezvous of the pilot of the bomber and the co-pilot of the transport.

Representative Nichols issued the statement with the approval of an Army investigating board which announced that Lt. W. N. Wilson of Los Angeles, pilot of the bomber, would be held for court-martial on manslaughter charges.

The congressman’s statement, made at a congressional hearing into the cause of the crash, said that Lieutenant Wilson and the transport’s co-pilot L. F. Reppert of Dallas, had met at a Long Beach, Cal., cafe the night before the accident and agreed to exchange salutes over Palm Springs the following day.

The agreement was that Lieutenant Wilson would take off from the ferry command base at Long Beach late in the afternoon and would fly to Palm Springs in time to meet the American airliner as it crossed over the desert resort on its way to Phoenix, Ariz.

The officer delayed his flight en route so he would not arrive at the rendezvous too early, flying around an air school to kill time, Representative Nichols said.

In the vicinity of San Gorgonio pass, the Army officer said the airliner approached and pulled up to the level of the bomber.

Lt. Wilson then wig-wagged his wings, the agreed singla, as he passed the airliner and crossed in front to fit. The bomber then made a left turn to see if his crossing was completed.

Nichols said that Lt. Wilson sighted the airliner again and turned towards it a second time, overhauling it in a few seconds.

The Army flier saw that he was too close to the big transport as he drew up on it from below and made a violent effort to avoid colliding with it but the propellor [sic] of the bomber struck the tail of the transport, which crashed near Palm Springs, killing all aboard.

Nichols said that Wilson had repeated the facts he had told to an Army investigating board which the congressman congratulated for its “free and open” investigation of the crash.

The civil aeronautics board also began a hearing on the crash yesterday. The congressional investigation was behind closed doors, but CAB officials said their hearing would be public “so far as we are permitted.”

Rep. Carl Hinshaw, California Republican, said the congressional committee had been preparing legislation to provide “allotments of air space, the same as we now control navigable waters,” such a system, he said, has become a “necessity” to reduce airplane collisions.

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