Brakes Didn’t Take Hold At All, Pilot Says Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, pages 1,4:

Brakes Didn’t Take Hold At All, Pilot Says

SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– Failure of hydraulic brakes to “take the slightest hold” after a normal landing caused the eight-death crash of a four-engined Alaska Airlines plane at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, Pilot James E. Farris, 37, of Seattle declared today.

Over and over again, as he sat on a hotel room bed, Farris, a veteran of 12 years of airline flying repeated:

“I can’t understand why those brakes didn’t take hold; not even the air-bottle emergency.”

Farris could think of only one possible reason for the failure; the 48-hours the big DC-4 stood in the rain at Yakutat, Alaska, while 42 spark plugs were changed.

“Maybe water got into the hydraulic lines and froze. But there was enough pressure to let the flaps down when we came in for a landing.”

Farris said the plane, landing at a speed of approximately 100 miles an hour, “rolled like it was on a bed of ball-bearings” until it leaped a 60-foot embankment at the end of the runway and crashed into an automobile on the highway below, killing a woman passenger in the car.

Farris said he had about 1,800 feet of the 5,610-foot runway left when “he knew for certain” that his brakes were gone.

“Dick (Co-pilot Richard F. Whiting, 29, of Anchorage) and I both had the foot brakes down tot he deck without a reaction. Then I yanked the emergency with both hands. Nothing happened. Just before we hit the car, I reached up with both hands and yanked all the ignition loose.

“When we hit and the right wing cracked, I saw the flash of fire reflected in my window. A tree was jammed up against the right window and Dick and I both got out the left window.

“Someone yelled, ‘there’s a woman in that car.’ The car was jammed right in front of the butt o the wing where it joins the fuselage. I saw the blind woman (Mrs. Stella Pearl Jones, Seattle) trying to open the right front door. I dived into the auto through a rear door and reached for her.

“I yelled at her but she kept crawling under the wing and straight into the flames. Then the whole car blossomed in a blaze and I had to get out.

“The weather had absolutely nothing to do with the crackup. There was no overshooting or undershooting of the field. I Just had no brakes.”

Farris said he had checked the hydraulic system at the last stop, Annette Island, near Ketchikan.

“The hydraulic system and brakes are always the last items on the check list. They were O.K. at Annette.”


Eight Dead in Seattle Crash; Blame Brakes Saturday, Nov 23 2013 

Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, pages 1, 4:

Eight Dead in Seattle Crash; Blame Brakes

Twenty-One Escape from Flaming Wreckage of Alaska Plane; Blind Woman Dies In Car Hit By Ship

SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– The pilot of a four-engined Alaska Airlines transport plane which crashed and burned at the Seattle-Tacoma airport blamed the crash today on failure of the hydraulic brakes to “take the slightest hold.” Eight persons died and two others were in critical condition as a result of the accident late yesterday.

The pilot, Capt. James E. Farris, 37, of Seattle, told the Seattle Times that the DC-4 plane landed at a speed of approximately 100 miles an hour, “rolled like it was on a bed of ball-bearings” until it leaped a 60-foot embankment at the end of the airport runway. It crashed into an automobile on the highway below, killing a blind woman in the car. The plane was flying from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle.

It had 28 persons aboard, 25 passengers and a crew of three.

The list of dead rose to eight with the death in the New Renton hospital of 44-year-old Jonas E. Johnson of Palmer, Alaska. His 21-month-old son, Gordon, died yesterday in the plane’s wreckage. Mrs. Johnson had been treated for burns and released from the hospital.

Two Still Critical

Two passengers were reported in critical condition at the New Renton hospital and two were listed as unsatisfactory at Harborview County hospital.

The others had been released after treatment or were recovering from minor burns and bruises in the hospital.

Twenty-six of the 28 aboard the big plane scrambled from door and emergency exits or were pulled from the flames by rescuers. All, however, were seared by the gasoline-fed flames that flashed through the fuselage. Four of the rescued died later.

The latest casualties were Johnson and the plane’s stewardess, Miss Reba Monk of Santa Monica, Calif., who was credited by survivors with having led many of the passengers to safety.

The other dead are:

Fred Smith, Tacoma, Wash., who died eight hours after the crash.

Leslie Howe, 33, Seattle and Spokane, Wash., a carpenter, died in the hospital.

Ole Ring, Anchorage, Alaska, died of burns and injuries.

Mrs. Virginia Stitsworth, 33, Tacoma, entertainer known professionally as Virginia Grafton.

Gordon Johnson, 21-month-old son of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Johnson, Palmer, Alaska.

Mrs. Pearl Stella Jones, 43, Seattle, blind woman trapped in the car which the big transport smashed as it careened off the field into the intersection of the Des Moines, Wash., highway and 188th St.

Bodies of two of the dead were not recovered until nearly four hours after the crash because of the intense heat emitting from the wreckage.

The plane, a DC-4, crashed only a few minutes after it had been turned back from an attempted landing at Seattle’s Boeing Field by fog. Two airport employees in the control tower at the Seattle-Tacoma field said the ceiling radioed to Pilot James Evan Farris, Seattle, as the plane settled through the overcast was “600 feet with one and one-quarter miles visibility.” Three minutes after the crash, a special reading showed the ceiling at “400 feet with three-quarters of a mile visibility.”

Harold K. Philips, chief of the non-scheduled maintenance division for the Civil Aeronautics Administration, sped to the scene for official inquiry and said:

“Apparently the pilot ground-looped when he saw he was going off the runway.”

Appeared Down Safely

Mrs. Jones, a widow and mother of a 9-year-old boy, was riding with a neighbor, Ira Van Volkenburg when the plane came plunging down a steep bank and swept the car across the road. Van Volkenburg said he escaped by kicking out a window and then groped in the smashed car without finding Mrs. Jones. He was driven away seconds later as the plane burst into flames and then was wracked by an explosion.

Eye-witnesses said the plane had made an apparent safe landing when it suddenly turned and went broadside over the bank at the end of the runway.

An outboard engine struck the bank as the plane sagged and watchers at the control tower said it “popped into flames.” Then it flared again as it flattened Von Volkenburg’s automobile and finally was sheathed in flame as the fuel tanks exploded.

The liner had been dogged by bad weather since it took off from Anchorage, Alaska, last Thursday. During its flight from Alaska it was delayed at Yakutat and Annette Island, near Ketchikan. It had taken off from Annette at 9:30 a. m. yesterday.

Alaska Airlines spokesman said it was the company’s first fatal crash in 10 years operation.

Leon D. Cuddeback, safety investigator for the Civil Aeronautics Board, said the airline is a regularly scheduled operator in Alaska but is non-scheduled on flights to the states.

He said an intensive check into the tragedy would be opened today.

48 Reported Dead In Crash Friday, Nov 22 2013 

Transcribed from the Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN, January 6, 1947, pages 1, 16:

48 Reported Dead In Crash

China Grounds All Commercial Planes

Shanghai, Jan. 5 (AP) — A Chinese airliner piloted by an American crashed near Tsingtao today and unconfirmed reports said all 43 persons aboard were killed.

The Chinese Ministry of Communications immediately ordered all Chinese commercial planes grounded for one week pending investigation of the crash and of the three which killed 71 persons near Shanghai Christmas night.

Chinese National Aviation Corporation, operators of the C-46 which was wrecked today, declined any information but other sources said passengers included two American Catholic nuns, Sister Elizabeth Lucille of the Order of Providence, native of Indianapolis, Ind., and Sister Jerilla of the Franciscan Mission to Egypt.

The pilot was identified as Charles J. Sharkey, Lawrence, Mass.

Search planes spotted the wreckage a few hours later in a horseshoe-shaped plain in Communist-controlled territory amid the Shantung Mountains west of Tsingtao. They were unable to determine whether there were any survivors. United States Navy planes based at Tsingtao participated in the search.

The plane, bound from Shanghai to Peiping via Tsingtao, was reported within 40 minutes of its Tsingtao landing when the crash occurred.

Dispatches from Tsingtao said rescue operations were hampered by inability to enter Communist territory.

Besides the American pilot and nuns, late reports said there were 36 Chinese passengers and four Chinese crew members aboard.

Four of the passengers were described as delegates en route home from the recent constitutional convention in Nanking.

Cause of the crash had not been determined.

Sharkey, veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, had been a pilot for the Chinese airline for several years.

A communications ministry spokesman in Nanking said, “The ministry takes a serious view of these accidents. In order to fix responsibility and permit overhaul of all equipment, a one-week suspension of all flights is ordered.”

This halts operations of Chinese National Aviation Corporation and Central Air Transport Corporation, both government-controlled companies whose transports have been the only links between the national capital and many areas otherwise isolated totally by the civil war.

TWA Passenger Plane Crashes; 22 Known Dead Wednesday, Nov 20 2013 

Transcribed from the St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Florida, November 5, 1944, page 1:

TWA Passenger Plane Crashes; 22 Known Dead

HANFORD, Cal. — (U.P.) — A Transcontinental & Western Air Lines transport flying from San Francisco to Burbank, Cal., crashed and burned in a field northeast of here last night, killing 22 and possibly 24 persons.

Searching parties, painstakingly covering the rain-soaked fields with the aid of flashlights, had found 17 bodies, including those of two women.

TWA officials in San Francisco announced that flight 8, en route to Burbank, was overdue and that 24 persons were aboard.

J. S. Bartels, regional operations manager at Burbank, reported that TWA officials were en route to the scene to investigate. The plane was identified by TWA as a Douglas DC-3 twin-engined transport, carrying 21 passengers and a crew of three.

Witnesses aiding in the search for bodies reported that the body of the stewardess, clad in a uniform bearing the TWA insignia, was found near the plane, which was also marked as a TWA craft.

They reported that there were both civilians and service men included in the group.

Of the bodies discovered, four were women. In addition to the stewardess, one was in the uniform of a SPAR, one was a navy nurse, and one a civilian.

Of the male passengers whose bodies had been taken into Hanford there were two soldiers, one marine, four navy men and four civilians.

Harold Anderson, Hanford, Cal., who was driving toward the city, reported the crash.

“The plane seemed to disintegrate in the air,” Anderson said. “I was driving along when pieces of the plane fell around my car. A mail sack and motor parts dropped right in front of me. I looked up to see the fuselage of the plane plummet into the field and burst into flames.”

Most of the bodies discovered around the plane — some of them lying 200 to 600 feet from the flaming wreckage — were taken to funeral parlors in Hanford.

The wreckage was still burning an hour after the crash and sheriff’s officers did not know how long it would be before the fuselage could be searched for additional bodies.

TWA officials in San Francisco said the passenger list would be released from their Kansas City, Mo., offices. Names of military personnel would not be released pending army approval, they said.

24 Perish In Plane Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 

Transcribed from the Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania, November 5, 1944, page 1:

24 Perish In Plane

California Sheriff Reports Army, Navy Men Are Victims

Hanford, Cal., Nov. 4 (AP) — Twenty-four persons died when an airplane crashed here tonight, Sheriff Orvie H. Clyde, of Kings County, reported. Clyde said that the plane appeared to be a commercial airliner, and that the persons killed were army and navy personnel.

The bodies were scattered over an area of a mile. There was no indication that any of the passengers had attempted to bail out.

The plane was burning when discovered by Harold Anderson, a farmer, the sheriff said.

Anderson said parts of an airplane fell about him. Then he saw the plane burning about a half mile away.

Transcontinental & Western Air officials at San Francisco reported that one of their regular passenger planes, last heard from near Hanford, was overdue at Burbank, Cal., air field.

They said the plane was a regular Flight No. 8. The captain was A. T. Bethel; first officer, G. E. Smith, and hostess, Miss Ruth Miller, all of Burbank, TWA officials said.

The plane was en route from San Francisco to Burbank.

The bodies were scattered from 100 to 200 feet apart, most of the clothes ripped from them, Sheriff Clyde said.

Ambulances were rushed to the scene from Hanford, and from the Lemoore Airbase, 20 miles west.

Sheriff Clyde said that there was no indication of the cause of the accident. It was raining at the time, he reported.

Party is Stuck in Heavy Snow Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 

Transcribed from The Spokane Daily Chronicle, Spokane, WA, November 6, 1947, p. 1:

Party is Stuck in Heavy Snow

KETCHIKAN, Alaska, Nov. 6. (UP) — A party carrying the bodies of 18 persons killed in the crash of a Pan American Airways DC-4 was bogged down today in deep snow on Annette island’s towering Mount Tamgus.

The party of coast guardsmen and CAA employees said it was bucking snow five feet deep. It radioed a call for assisstance after progressing only 1000 feet down the mountain from the crash site in four days.

The crew must descend another 2000 feet down the mountainside before the bodies can be transferred to a coast guard amphibious plane on Lake Tambus.

A coast guard plane dropped food and supplies to the weary group and additional men were being sent to relieve crews on the mountain.

Three Planes Are Missing Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 

Transcribed from the Calgary Herald, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, November 5, 1948, page 1:

Three Planes Are Missing

NEW YORK (AP). Three planes, one of them an airliner, with a total of 30 or more persons aboard are missing today in the North Pacific area.

The planes are:

A Pacific Alaska air express non-scheduled airliner which vanished Thursday on a flight from Anchorage to Seattle. Figures on the number aboard ranged from 11 to 13.

A United States Navy long-range Neptune bomber with a crew of 9 reported missing off the Washington-British Columbia coast Thursday during American war manoeuvres.

A United States Navy patrol plane with 12 aboard which disappeared in the Aleutians area Wednesday night.

All available aircraft in the three areas were pressed into a search for the planes.

The U.S. Neptune bomber may have crashed near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, 140 miles north of here. A plane circled Tofino around noon Thursday and later in the afternoon workers at a logging camp eight miles east of Tofino inlet reported hearing a “crash.”

The non-scheduled Pacific Alaska DC-3 disappeared during a flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle. At the time, it was making one leg of the hop from Yakutat to Annette Island.

It was last heard from over Cape Spencer Thursday morning. It failed to make its regular report over Sitka.

Passenger lists of all three planes were withheld by the military and the airline firm. Officials of the last could not be reached after confirming reports the plane was missing.

Air Crash Kills Six in Family Monday, Nov 18 2013 

Transcribed from The Spokane Daily Chronicle, Spokane, WA, October 31, 1947, p. 1:

Air Crash Kills Six in Family

Alaska Clipper Wreck Found

18 Apparently Killed Instantly as Plane Hit Mountain


KETCHIKAN, Alaska, Oct. 31. (AP) — Wreckage of the Pan American World Airways clipper that crashed Sunday with 18 persons aboard was sighted today on an Annette Island mountainside.

Wesley Monsen, son of Pilot Alf M. Monsen of the crashed airliner, said he flew over the wreckage and “apparently all had been killed instantly.”

He said there was no question about the wrecked plane’s identification. The plane was partially burned.

The wreckage was first sighted by a coast guard flyer. Monsen was one of several pilots who flew over the wreck scene later.

The crash was against 3600-foot high Tanigas mountain, highest point onf the island off the rugged and irregular southeastern Alaskan coast.

Six Miles From Field

It is six miles east of the Annette island airfield. THe crash was on the north side of the mountain.

It was over the Annette field that Pilot Monsen, a veteran of northern flying, made his last report by radio Sunday. He said then that extreme turbulence turned him back from a schedule landing on the field.

Two search parties were en route to the scene.

A CAA inspection party flew a seaplane to a small lake at the foot of the mountain, and planned to proceed afoot. Another group left from the beach.

The wreckage was first sighted about 8:45 a.m., the coast guard reported. Five planes flew over the scene, and pilots reported the tail structure of the P. A. A plane was plainly visible, within 200 feet of the peak.

The position of the wreckage on the north side of the mountain indicated that Monsen, on his northbound flight, had swung back southward.

Today was the first time since the Sunday crash that clouds have rolled away from Tamgas mountain enough to allow a clear air view of it.

Pan American search leaders said the wreckage was apparently imbedded in the snow of the white-capped peak.

A party being organized by the airline was expected to reach the crash scene late today or tonight. Progress was expected to be slow because of rough and soggy ground, with thick timber and underbrush.

The crash was the worst air disaster in Alaska commercial flying annals and was the first crash of a Pan American four-engine clipper.

Among the passengers on the plane were Frank Twohy, formerly of Spokane; Sam Phillips, a long-time resident of Davenport; Sally Richards of Ely, Minn., sister of Ben Richards of Spokane; and the Rev. Willis Shank of Seattle, a Youth for Christ leader who gave several addresses here two weeks ago.

Alaska Crash Site Reached Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

Transcribed from The Montreal Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November 1, 1947, p. 1:

Alaska Crash Site Reached

Ground Party Finds All Dead in DC 4 on Mountain


Ketchikan, Alaska, Oct. 31 — (AP) — A United States Coast Guard ground party this afternoon reached the sight of the Pan American World Airways airliner crash on an Annette Island mountainside and reported there was no sign of life. The plane carried 18 persons when it crashed Sunday.

Aviation charts showing Tamgas Mountain on Annette Island to be 3.610 feet high were blamed for the crash of the Pan-American DC-4.

Newspapermen flying in the area said that when their plan approached the level of the DC-4’s wreckage, the altimeter showed 3,400 feet — and the peak loomed several hundred feet higher. The mountain apparently is 4,000 or 4,100 feet high.

Pilots said several peaks in Southeastern Alaska are improperly marked on charts.

The smashed, partially burned wreckage of the plane which vanished on a Seattle-Juneau flight was sighted from the air this morning as clouds rolled back for the first time in six days from 3,600-foot snow-capped Mount Tamgas. The four-engined plane struck within 200 feet of the peak, highest on the island off the rugged Southeastern Alaska coast.

The Coast Guard party, one of several which set out for the scene today, reported the last 200 feet of the climb was extremely difficult. A Coast Guard plane was to drop ropes and sleeping bags to the party.

Pan American search leaders reported no sign of life at the spot where the plane apparently was imbedded in snow. It carried five crew members and 13 passengers, including an infant.

After flying over the wreckage, Wesley Monsen, son of the pilot on the ill-fated airliner, said “apparently all had been killed instantly.”

Plane With 18 Aboard is Missing Saturday, Nov 16 2013 

Transcribed from the Schenectady Gazette, Schenectady, NY, October 27, 1947, p.1,5:

Plane With 18 Aboard is Missing

SEATTLE, Oct 26 (AP) — A storm-buffeted Pan-American World Airways Clipper carrying 13 passengers, including one infant, and a crew of five was missing tonight between Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska, more than six hours after its last radio contact with ground stations.

Widespread Search

PAA officials here said the big four-engined DC-4’s gas supply would be exhausted by 8:40 p.m. (PST).

Meanwhile, as high winds ranging from 35 to 45 miles an hour hampered a widespread search of the area by coast guard cutters and other surface craft the army’s Alaskan air command prepared to send several planes southward from the interior.

Pan American was advised by the army that a B-17 and a C-47 from Fairbanks and another B-17 from Anchorage were being readied to take off from Annette field, near Ketchikan, arriving there by day-break. They will join the search if weather permits.

Capt. A. N. Monsen, pilot of the long overdue transport and a veteran Alaska flier, radioed the Annette control tower at 1:38 p.m. from an altitude of 7,000 feet he was preparing to make an instrument landing there.

No Reply Received

Six minutes later he reported that he had encountered “extreme turbulence” at 4,000 feet, was abandoning the approach and would proceed to Junseau approximately 230 miles to the north.

No reply was received when Monsen was given airways clearance to continue to the Alaskan capital.

Monsen, a bush pilot in Alaska for many years, joined Pan American when it started its Alaska service in 1932. His wife, Mrs. Helen Monsen, is publisher of the Juneau Empire.

The PAA Clipper disappeared only two days after 52 passengers and crewmen were killed in the crash of a United Air Lines DC-6 at Bryce canyon, Utah.

Carried Life Raft

The Clipper, which took off from Seattle at 10:30 a.m., would have reached Juneau at about 3 p.m., if it had not encountered trouble. PAA officials said it carried a life raft as standard equipment.

The cutters Watchusett and Juneau, Hemlock of Cape Deception and Thistle of Ketchikan were sent out to comb the inland sea passage over which the plane would have flown on its way to Juneau.

High winds ranging from 35 to 45 miles an hour prevented an aerial search from Juneau.

One plane of the Alaska Coastal Airlines took off from there but was forced to turn back soon after it had set out.

The possibility that the big transport may have continued on to Alaska, or turned back in an effort to return to Seattle was voiced by Pan American officials, who said the missing craft carried enough gasoline to last until 8:40 p.m.

The plane was loaded to little more than one-fourth of its capacity. A DC-4 normally carries 44 passengers and a crew of four.

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