EC-47 42-24304 Crashes October 25, 1968

EC-47 42-24304

EC-47 Crash Landing in Alaska, enroute to SEA

From USAF Accident/Incident Report Dated 9 Nov. 68


Upon arrival at McClellan Air Force Base, California, Lt. Colonel Ronald A. Bena, Major Jerry E. Marshall, Major Floyd J. Brazile ans SSgt Thomas Kaminski, were directed to ferry EC-47Q #42-24304 to Southeast Asia.

The personnel performed the following duties on the flight: Aircraft Commander, Lt. Colonel Bena; Copilot, Major Marshall; Navigator, Major Brazile; Flight Engineer, SSgt Kaminski. The crew departed McClellan AFB, California, for McChord AFB, Washington, at 1930Z 24 October 1968. Flight time enroute was four hours.

At 1500Z, 25 October 1968, the crew departed McChord AFB, Washington for Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Flight altitude was 10,000 feet IFR and estimated time enroute was eight hours and thirty-seven minutes.

At approximately 1955Z the aircraft yawed to the right. Lt. Col. Bena, the aircraft commander, feathered the right engine. The nearest suitable landing field was determined to be Annette Island Coast Guard Station, Alaska and an immediate turn was made toward Annette.

Altitude could not be maintained on one engine so an enroute descent was made to 6,500 feet. The flight continued until at approximately 2020Z when the left engine lost power. The aircraft was still approximately 70 miles north west of Annette Coast Guard Air Station. Attempts were made to restart the left engine. When attempts to restart the left engine proved fruitless, the right engine was unfeathered and attempts were made to restart it all to no avail.

During the descent following loss of power on the left engine the C-47 became IFR at 5,000'. Upon reaching 3,500' a break in the clouds to the right of the plane revealed water below. A turn was made toward the break in the clouds and decision was made to ditch rather than bailing out over very mountainous and wooded terrain. VFR conditions were attained at approximately 3,000 feet. The cargo door was jettisioned in preparation for ditching.

As a pattern was set up for a water landing, a small marsh on the edge of the edge of a lake was observed. This lake was Big Salt Lake, actually an inlet of salt water on the western side of Prince of Wales Island. A left hand pattern was initiated for a gear up landing on the marsh. Final approach was at 90 knots and half flaps. Initial contact was made almost simltaneously by both wings on three large stumps.

The right wing was partially seperated near station 100 and both wing tips were torn off near station 340. Ground contact was made shortly thereafter by the rear portion of the fuselage. The aircraft traveled approximately 430 feet after contact was made with the stumps. Initial landing slide fairly smooth. At approximately 60 feet from the final resting place, the right wing separated completely from the aircraft at station 100. Approximately 40 feet from the final resting place the aircraft hit another stump which caused the aircraft to swerve to the right. Final restingplace of the aircraft was on a salt marsh on the north side of the eastern tip of Big Salt Lake.

No serious injuries were received by the crew and the aircraft did not catch fire. Parachutes were deployed to assist other aircraft in locating the crash site. This was of prime significance because the aircraft was painted with camouflage paint.

A USAF KC-135 arrived over the site approximately 30 minutes after the crash. Contact with rescue aircraft was complicated by apparent survival radio malfunctions. Shortly after the KC-135 arrived overhead, an Alaskan Airline Golden Nugget Grumman Goose aircraft, an amphibian, landed on the lake and evacuated the copilot, Major Marshall and the flight engineer, SSgt Kaminski. The Pilot, Lt Colonel Bena and the navigator, Major Brazile remained behind to guard the classified equipment aboard the aircraft. The pilot and navigator were evacuated by a Coast Guard H-52 helicopter about 5 1/2 hours after the crash. Security of the aircraft was maintained by tow Coast Guard security personnel who were aboard the helicopter which evacuated Lt Colonel Bena and Major Brazile.

{{ NOTE: }} For those of you not familiar with the phrase, "station 100" or "station 340" etc., these are references in inches measured from a particular point on the aircraft. I can't recall where the wing measurments begin, but just for the sake of clearification, we will call it at the center of the fuselage and measuring from there outboard on each wing. The same measuring system is used throughout the aircraft and I believe the fuselage measurements begin at the nose and count toward the tail. Among other things, these "station locations" are used for referances as you see here and for weight and balance of the aircraft when loading cargo or when making modifications that either add or deduct weight from the aircraft structure. Hope this helps you to understand.

{{ NOTE: }} I have several reproduced Photos of the crash site but they are not clear enough to post on the site. I will try to post one (1) in the Photos section but it will not be good. J.C. - View Photo

{{ NOTE: }}This aircraft was enroute to Pleiku according to the report.

Having crewed and flown many hours on the C-47, this is my opinion based primarily on the times given in the above report and the fuel capacities and consumption of the aircraft. Having myself flown one of the EC-47s from Grenier Field New Hampshire to Tan Son Nhut along the same route in September 1966, I remember the 'spagetti mix' of plumbing and valves in the 2 auxilary 250 gallon fuel tanks, giving approximately 5 additional hours flying time, it looked like a nightmare.

I have never located a report of what may have caused this aircraft to go down, but as stated in the above paragraph, I do have an opinion. I will, until proven wrong, believe the auxilary fuel system was the cause. My opinion is based on normal used fuel consumption figures of 100 gallons per hour, and assuming the auxilary fuel was burned off before switching as we did, to the normal aircraft fuel system. The aircraft had been airborne 4 hours and 55 minutes when the right engine was lost, one of the 250 gallon tanks is now empty. At 5 hours plus 20 minutes, 25 minutes later the left engine was lost, the other 250 gallon tank is now empty. The aircraft went down with a normal full load of fuel, 804 gallons still in the wing tanks.

I believe that the right engine was lost after switching the fuel supply. It is possible that in the spagetti of fuel lines and valves that the lines or the valves were improperly installed and instead of switching to a new fuel supply, it switched to a vent or other line with no fuel available. It is also possible that the valves were mis-labeled. And lastly, it could have been human error in the switching which I would first discount. 25 minutes after the right engine was lost, the left engine is lost, and again the fuel available and fuel consumption fall well with the range of fuel exhaustion.

This is in no way intended to place fault on the aircrew, but is an honest oppinion of the cause of the loss of this aircraft.
James C. Wheeler MSgt Ret. Flight Mechanic - 361st TEWS Nha Trang - 1966/67

New Photo uncovered today, (Feb. 13th, 2008) from Joe Hogg over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. This photo is the second photo below.

EC-47 "42-24304", down in Alaska enroute to Pleiku. Sorry for lack of Quality.

                      Thanks to Joe Hogg for this Newly Found Photo below.

         Who would believe that in a small photo framing shop in Mountain View, Arkansas
         a complete stranger walks in and sees some of my EC-47 photo's being framed and
         says to the lady doing the work "I have a picture of an aircraft like that" and
         then brings it in the next day!

         I don't know the fellows name but I am going to try to find out so I can thank
         him and then tell him where he can view the picture on the web.


         Update, Feb, 14th, 2008.  Joe found the gentleman who had the photo of 304 today.
         The gentleman's name is Billy J. Wolf of Mt. View, Arkansas and formerly from the
         Memphis area. He has never been in the military but is a collector of memorabilia
         and helped in the restoration of the Memphis Belle.

         Joe Hogg

December 5th, 2008

Just received from Lt Col. Retired, Floyd Brazile Navigator aboard.
Floyd was the Navigator aboard this aircraft when it went down
enrout to Vietnam. THANKS so much for these photos. J.C.

"Picture of EC-47 Crash Landing in Alaska, enroute to SEA"

Received April 25th, 2009 from Mike Bailey

I just came back from a trip to alaska and took a picture that I think is this plane. They removed the left engine and cut the cockpit off but the hull is still there. Too bad the weather wasn't better the day they crashed. This is not very far from Klawock airport (<5 miles).

If anyone is interested, a local told me you can hike to it and some locals even have picnics there. This is of Prince of wales island, north of Craig, on big Salt Lake wich is really just the bay north of Klawock. It is on the opposite side of the bay from the road.

I enjoyed your site.