Air Liner and Bomber Crash; 12 Killed Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, October 25, 1942, p. 16:

Air Liner and Bomber Crash; 12 Killed

LOS ANGELES — (INS) — Although withholding details, the western defense command in San Francisco yesterday confirmed the American Airlines announcement that the air liner which carried 12 persons to death near Palm Springs Friday night collided in midair with an Army plane.

The Army did not describe the type of warplane involved in the crash, not give any indication of the fate of its pilot or crew.

The defense command announcement said “an official board is investigating and the details will be available later.”

The air line announced the collision shortly after the crash.

Charles A. Rheinstrom, vice president in charge of traffic for American Airlines, reviewed the evidence in New York and wired to his Los Angeles office:

American Airlines flight 28, eastbound from Los Angeles to New York, was in collision with Army bomber and crashed one-half mile west of Palm Springs at 5:15 p.m. (PWT) Friday, Oct. 23. All nine passengers and crew of three were killed.”

R. M. Martin, an airplane spotter on duty at a station three miles from the crash scene, said he saw two planes at 8,000 feet, a mile and a half apart.

“Both were twin engine ships,” he reported. “The one in the rear veered away into a cloud and I thought it had changed course. Then it came back and slid in so close to the other plane I couldn’t distinguish between them. Bits of metal began flying from the planes.”

Among those who died in the airliner was Ralph Rainger, Hollywood songwriter, who authored such hits as “Love in Bloom,” “It’s June in January,” and “Moanin’ Love.”

Others killed were:

Capt. Charles F. Pedley, pilot, Irving, Texas.

L. F. Reppert, first officer, Fort Worth, Texas.

Estelle Regan, stewardess, Dallas, Texas.

Lt. Joseph R. Rosser, Santa Ana, Cal., Army air base.

Frank Bird, Lockheed aircraft employe. [sic]

M. C. Henderson, state industrial commission, Phoenix, Ariz.

C. Baker, Phoenix accompanying Henderson.

B. R. Vest Jr., of Allison Engineering corporation.

E. H. Wallace, Las Vegas, Nev.

L. A. Hege, Winston-Salem, N. C.


Planned Aerial Rendezvous Blamed for Fatal Air Crash Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

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.

Lost Bolt May Have Caused Crash Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

Transcribed from The Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA, June 13, 1962, p. 8:

Lost Bolt May Have Caused Crash


WASHINGTON (AP) — A mechanic’s oversight, a tiny cotter pin and a bolt less than an inch long could have been the ingredients of disaster in the New York crash of a jet airliner, the Federal Aviation Agency says.

Ninety-five people were killed when the American Airlines Boeing 707 plunged into Jamaica Bay on March 1, seconds after taking off from Idlewild Airport.

The FAA said the bolt, part of a complex rudder mechanism, may have slipped out of place when a nut securing it fell off– for lack of the little cotter pin.

The agency wired airlines and other organizations that fly 707 jets Tuesday, warning them of the potential danger spot. One such warning went to the Military Air Transport Service, which operates the Boeing jets used by President Kennedy and other government leaders.

George C. Prill, director of the FAA flight standards service, said the New York crash “could have been the result of an installation mistake by one man on one aircraft.”

“We do not see this as a possible explanation for any other 707 crash about which we have any information,” he said. “But it would not be the first time that an airplane crashed because a mechanic left a cotter pin out of a bolt.

“You cannot say this is it–we can never prove it happened even though it could have happened!”

Prill said the Civil Aeronautics Board still is investigating the New York crash and will make the final decision on the probably cause.

CAB Blames Jet Crash on Short Circuit Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

Transcribed from Eugene Register-Guard, Eugene, OR, January 15, 1963, p. 1:

CAB Blames Jet Crash on Short Circuit


WASHINGTON (AP) — A short circuit–caused by the improper use of tweezers in binding up wires–was the most likely abnormality that sent a jet and 95 persons to their doom last March, the Civil Aeronautics Board said Tuesday.

The American Airlines plane plunged into Jamaica Bay shortly after take-off from New York’s Idlewild International Airport.

The CAB report said the wires, part of the automatic pilot system, lead to the rudder boost control mechanism–called the rudder servo.

Federal Aviation Agency inspectors, the CAB said, determined that the damage was the result of improper use of tweezers in tying wire bundles and backed up the conclusion by finding similarly damaged units in the manufacturer’s production line.

The board said that after the difficulty was discovered, the FAA issued an order for inspection of generator motors for damaged wire bundles.

The Bendix Corp., a division of which in Teterboro, N.J., makes the servo control unit, issued a denial that the unit was defective.

The CAB conceded that an FAA theory made public last June — that a small bolt may have dropped out of the automatic control system — was one of several things that could have happened.

CAB Blames Tweezers for 95-Death Crash Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

Transcribed from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA, January 16, 1963, p. 2:

CAB Blames Tweezers for 95-Death Crash

Finds Improper Use on Control Wires Caused Dec. Jet Plunge in Jamaica Bay


WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (AP) — The Civil Aeronautics Board blames a short circuit caused by improper use of tweezers in tying up control wires for the crash of an American Airlines jet in Jamaica Bay, N.Y., last march.

In a report released today the CAB cited this as the “most likely abnormality” that sent the 707 jet on a plunge that killed 95 persons shortly after takeoff from Idlewild International Airport.

The wires involved are part of the automatic pilot system leading to the rudder boost control mechanism called the rudder Servo.


Inspectors of the Federal aviation agency traced the cause to the use of the tweezers in binding the wires, the CAB said, and backed up this conclusion by finding similarly damaged units in the manufacturer’s production line.

The Bendix Corporation denied the unit was defective, Nile F. McCammon, general manager of Bendix’ Eclipse-Pioneer Division which makes the unit at Teterboro, N. J., said the Servo involved passed 61 different inspections at the factory, more during installation, and was overhauled and inspected regularly.

He said:

“Both the sleeving, as it is called, and the wiring must be inspected, and if they are damaged in any way they must be replaced . . . it is certain that the cut . . . had it then existed, would have been noticed and corrected . . .”


McCammon also said American Airlines had inspected and overhauled the Servo unit on the plane involved three times prior to the crash.

The FAA ordered inspection of all generator motors on Eclipse-Pioneer Model TR-20D automatic flight control systems after the difficulty was discovered.

Despite the CAB conclusion, the report conceded that an FAA theory made public last June–that a small bolt may have dropped out of the automatic control system–could have caused the crash.

Flight Recorder of Ill-Fated Plane Found Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

Transcribed from Ocala Star-Banner, Ocala, FL, March 9, 1962, p. 7:

Flight Recorder of Ill-Fated Plane Found


NEW YORK (AP)–The flight recorder of the American Airlines jetliner that crashed March 1 has been dredged from the water of Jamaica Bay and sent to Washington. Investigators hope it may provide clues to the cause of the crash that cost the lives of all 95 aboard.

The flight recorder–an orange-painted sphere about the size of a basketball–was designed to record automatically the speed, altitude, compass heading and other details of a flight.

Civil Aeronautics Board investigators said the device was relatively undamaged and may give some indication of why the jetliner plunged into the bay only three miles from Idlewild Airport. It had just taken off for a nonstop flight to Los Angeles.

CAB staff member Edward E. Slattery Jr. has cautioned that the recorder may be able to tell what happened but not why it happened.

Noted Men Lose Lives in Crash Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

Noted Men Lose Lives in Crash

Transcribed from The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA, March 2, 1962, p. 1:

Ike’s Friend is Included


NEW YORK (AP)–A prominent oilman on his way to join former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on a fishing trip . . . a producer of the motion picture “Guns of Navarone” . . . a fishing champion . . . a college president . . . the head of a luxury hotel chain.

These were among the 95 persons killed Thursday in the crash of an American Airlines jetliner that had just taken off for Los Angeles.

The oilman was W. Alton Jones, 71, former president of Cities Service Co. He played a major role in construction of the Big and Little Inch pipelines in World War II.

A frequent companion of ex-President Eisenhower, he was on his way to Palm Desert, Calif., to join Eisenhower on a fishing trip in Mexican waters.


The two often golfed and hunted quail together and Eisenhower visited Jones’ Blue Springs plantation near Albany, Ga., on many occasions.

Jones, a resident of New York City, was chairman of the executive committee of Cities Service and board chairmen of Richfield Oil Co. at his death.

The film producer was Irving Rubine, 51, who was en route to Hollywood to discuss Academy Award campaigning for “Guns of Navarone.”

The film was turned out by Highroad Productions, an independent film company of which he was vice president. Rubine was a New York newspaperman before turning to film publicity and then going into producing.


John Dieckman, 35, international professional casting champion, also met his death on the plane.

Dieckman, of Costa Mesa, Calif., was national professional fresh water fishing champion and held numerous national and international casting and fishing records.

He was returning home to his wife, Rickey, also a casting champion, and was to report back to the Garcia Corp., where he worked as a fishing tackle designer and tester.

The college president was Adm. Richard Lansing Conolly, USN (Ret.), 69, who had planned to retire in October as head of Long Island University.

He and his wife were flying west for a vacation at their home in La Jolla, Calif.


Conolly served twice as deputy chief of naval operations and was a U.S. representative at the 1946 Paris peace conference.

Since becoming president of the university in 1953, he had guided it through its greatest period of expansion.

Arnold S. Kirkeby, 61, was a prominent realtor, developer and financier of Bel-Air, Calif., and New York.

He owned extensive property in the Los Angeles area and was head of the former Kirkeby hotel chain that operated some of the most exclusive hotels in the country.

He also was president of the Kirkeby-Natus Corp., which makes short-term loans to a variety of businesses.


Other victims included:

George T. Felbeck, a former manager of operations at Oak Ridge, Tenn., for Union Carbide Nuclear Co., and his wife. The two were believed to have been on the first leg of a round-the-world trip.

Felbeck recently retired as vice president of Union Carbide Olefins Co.

David L. Corbin, a partner in the admiralty and aviation law firm of Haight, Gardner, Poor & Havens, in New York City. Corbin lived in Greenwich, Conn.

His father, Arthur Linton Corbin, is professor emeritus of the Yale Law School. Miss Luella Reckmeyer, 50, of New York City, a consultant on programs for the American Heart Association. She was a native of Arlington, Neb., and was going to California on business for the heart association.

Tides Hampering Hunt for Victims Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Transcribed from The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA, March 2, 1962, p. 1:

Tides Hampering Hunt for Victims

Jetliner Toll 95 as Plane Falls in Bay


NEW YORK (AP)–Searchers battled the cold and darkness of Jamaica Bay Thursday night trying to recover the bodies of 95 persons who died when a coast-to-coast jet air liner faltered on take-off from Idlewild Airport and dived in the water. It was the nation’s worst single-aircraft disaster.

More than 1 hours after the American Airlines jetliner plunged nose first into the bay and disintegrated in explosion and flames, only 49 bodies had been recovered. There were no survivors.

By late Thursday night, the tide from the Atlantic Ocean had come in and gone out again, and prospects were that policemen–some in hipboots, some in boats–would have to pursue their mean task all night. Artificial lights cast an eerie pall over the watery crash site about three miles from Idlewild.


The plane was American’s flight No. 1, which took off from Idlewild at 10:07 a.m. for Los Angeles, and crashed three minutes later. It was a late model Boeing 707 Astro-Jet, expressly designed for speedier take-offs from air ports surrounded by residential areas.

Curiously, apparently no one on the ground saw the actual crash in a remote area of shallow water and reedy marsh, although a number of persons saw the plane going down and heard it explode. But another airliner that took off moments later afforded its passengers and crew a ghastly birds-eye view of the disaster.

A rescue force of 300 to 400 police and firemen was mobilized on the remote crash scene within half an hour, in a remarkable display of rescue alertness.

But in the words of patrolman Arthur Ruddick, one of the first on the scene: “There was no one to rescue.”

Rescue then gave way to recovery, with searchers carrying ashore pitiful scraps of human possessions, sodden from the brackish waters of the plane’s grave. Few of the bodies recovered were intact.

The scene of the crash was about three miles across an arm of Jamaica Bay from Idlewild Airport, which is on the south shore of Long Island within the city limits of New York.

The plane cleared a train trestle and a parkway in its take-off, then came down about a mile away from the roadway in the shallow waters of another inlet. It was so shattered in the crash that the largest piece of the $5.5-million plane visible was no bigger than a small, compact automobile.

So primitive was the area of the crash scene that it serves as a wild life sanctuary.


Clearly visible from the scene, however, were the skyscraper towers of lower Manhattan, glittering in a bright winter’s sun.

Beneath these very towers about noon–less than two hours after the crash–millions of New Yorkers roared acclaim for astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., back from outer space and the hero of a ticker-tape parade.

But on the crash scene, as searchers poked through the shallow waters, the broken bits of the jetliner rose from the inlet in grim reminder that man may conquer space but never circumstance.

95 Are Believed Dead in Crash of Jet Airliner Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Transcribed from The Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA, March 1, 1962, p. 1,3:

95 Are Believed Dead in Crash of Jet Airliner

Craft Goes Down in Marsh Off Shore of Long Island


NEW YORK (AP) — An American Airlines jet liner bound for Los Angeles crashed and burned in a marsh off Long Island’s south shore today with apparent loss of all 95 persons aboard.

The airline listed one of the passengers as W. Alton Jones, board chairman of the Cities Service Co., and a golfing and quail shooting companion of former President Eisenhower.

Ironically, the $5.5 million plane crashed in sparkling clear weather, the first fair day after almost a week of rain and fog that had delayed or canceled hundreds of flights.

Coast Guardsmen said they found no trace of survivors.

The tragedy came just as the city was about to give a joyful welcome to Marine Lt. Col. John H. Glenn Jr., the astronaut who orbited the earth.


The plane, with 87 passengers and 8 crew members aboard, had taken off from Idlewild Airport for Los Angeles at 10:07 a.m. Glenn was due here at nearby LaGuardia Airport at 11:15 a.m.

The aircraft, a modernized Boeing 707 known as an Astrojet, crashed in a swampy area known as Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay off Far Rockaway in Queens. The area is just off the southern shore of Long Island.

The plane was half in the water and half on the marsh.

Huge clouds of smoke rose from the wreckage.

Witnesses said the plane climbed to about 700 feet from Idlewild, then turn left and plunged at a steep angle.

Some witnesses said they saw flames coming from the plane before the crash. Others did not, but the plane was in flames immediately after the impact.

The plane was known as “Flight No. 1.”

By 11 a.m., the report from Coast Guardsmen at the scene was: “There is now only floating, smoking debris in the water.”

Police at Idlewild said at the same time:

“Apparently there were no survivors.”

The crash scene was about three miles from the Idlewild control tower.


The crew of a Mohawk Airlines plane that had taken off immediately after the Astrojet witnessed the crash and radioed an alarm back to the airport.

William Martin, a member of the Broad Channel volunteer fire department, said: “There was an awfully loud explosion that actually shook the fire house building a half mile from the scene. Then a few minutes later we could see heavy black smoke–a very thick column of it. It went about 150 feet into the air.”

The Broad Channel and other fire companies sent ambulances and fire apparatus.

Coast Guard helicopters and a city fireboat converged on the scene.


Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy sent a large detachment of police, including 55 who had been assigned to Manhattan for the Glenn parade.

Also assigned to the crash were 125 detectives who had been attending a session on narcotics at the Police Academy.

The Civil Aeronautics Board office at Idlewild dispatched its agents.

Three alarms were sounded for the fire erupting from the plane.

The fire was reported under control at 10:50 a.m.–but by that time only wreckage remained.

All eight crew members in the crash were Californians. A spokesman for the line said the crew had arrived in New York from Boston this morning to make the West Coast flight.


Martin gave this account on the basis of reports from the scene by two-way radio:

“The rescue workers are walking out into the marshes about a block or block and a half to try and find survivors and pick up bodies. They tell me they sink into the water about up to their boot tops and sometimes to their knees. Since it is low tide that is a break, because otherwise they would sink much deeper.

“The fire is out and a third alarm was sounded about 11:15 a.m. as a call for more men to help in rescue operations. We understand the plane blew up when it hit the marshes and blew into many small pieces. However some reports say large sections of the plane are still intact.”

Lottie Lennon, Broad Channel, said her house shook “like an explosion.”

“I never heard anything like it,” said said. [sic] “I though it was the house next door.

“I was afraid to open the door. I went upstairs and looked out the window. The sky was filled with heavy black smoke. I woke up my son, Desmond, who works nights for United Air Lines at Idlewild. Desmond was in the Air Force. He knows all about planes. He got dressed right away and went out into the bay to try to help.”

Mrs. Lennon said the smoke rose from a spot in the swampland about a mile from her home at the corner of Fourth Rd. and Cross Bay Blvd.

Pilot’s Error is Blamed for Plane’s Crash Thursday, Oct 22 2009 

Transcribed from The Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, TX, January 11, 1945, p. 8:

Pilot’s Error is Blamed for Plane’s Crash


BURBANK, Calif., Jan 10 (INS) — A mistake based on the human element today was regarded as behind Wednesday’s American airliner crash in which 24 persons perished.

Turned Wrong Way

A Civil Aeronautics inspector said the pilot, given permission to proceed to a desert emergency field at Palmdale when he found the Lockheed air terminal fogbound, turned to the left instead of making the usual swing to the right.

A turn to the right would have carried the airliner out over the San Fernando valley and given it space in which to gain altitude to clear the mountains to the north.

The turn to the left headed it towards destruction in the Verdugo range. Approximately two minutes after the big plane passed over the air terminal field it crashed and was torn to bits on a mountainside five miles away, about 300 feet from the crest.

Names Are Withheld

The ship struck with throttle open and at this high speed all aboard were killed instantly. Victims of the tragedy were 17 Army men, four Navy men, and the crew of three. Names of the Army and Navy personnel are being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.