Saturday, May 31, 2008

B-24D Down Near Spokane, 41-23648

On July 16, 1942, Pilot 1st Lt. William P. Marsh Jr. flew his B-24D into a mountain some 15 miles southeast of Spokane, Washington. Ceiling was at 5400’, and Marsh flew his B-24 to practice night landings. At about 0300 he took off in B-24D #41-23648 on a local night flight. He flew through a small shower and then, apparently disoriented flew Southeasterly over the homes of Mr. Dean D. Triggs and Mrs. J.J. Wagner. The latter was on the slope of Signal Peak. At this point the aircraft was “dangerously low.” A short time later he hit near the top of the hill.

The aircraft was a total loss. The forces of the crash and “explosion had blown bodies and the plane to pieces.” The copilot was found still strapped in his seat, but was thrown clear of the wreck. The engineer was found in the vicinity of the Bombay with his parachute on and the rip chord pulled. The chute was somewhat spread out on the ground near him. The report indicates that if he did jump, it was at the same time the crash happened and it was obviously too late.

The ceiling was between 4 and 6000’ and the night was very dark with no horizon. The cause was attributed to 85% pilot error, with 5% each to contributing factors of Weather, Terrain, and Darkness.

The report contains several interviews of officers and men at the airfield, in this case Geiger AAF. Questions range from “What was the weather like?” to “What sort of officers were flying that night?” There are a few pictures. One of which shows wreckage of the aircraft and in the distance some sort of body of water. My brother-in-law, who lived in the area, suggested it may be Lake Coeur de Alane, possibly looking down on to Mica Bay.

Most of these reports come from accidents that happened while training. All are evidence of the way training ramped up during WWII and how the entire country became an “Arsenal of Democracy.” If one looks at the subcontracting for a single aircraft, it is easy to see how the whole country was part of the war effort, let alone examining the entire war industry. War is not a “safe” industry and it seems that casualties are expected. The estimated number of losses in aircraft accidents in the continental US is staggering.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nose Wheel Roulette

I have been reading about military matters for sometime. I enjoy reading about the camaraderie and even the mundane. I have been aware for sometime of the propensity of military men to gamble among themselves. I know that Craps and Poker were popular games in WWII, and Acey-Ducey in WWII submarines. I am also aware of such things as Anchor Pools. The new thing to me was “Nose Wheel Roulette.”

An Anchor Pool was where seamen would pay a small amount and place his name in a square, one of sixty, on a sheet of paper. Before all the squares were filled, a similar sheet with the same amount of squares was filled with numbers, 1-60, randomly dispersed and placed behind it, with a piece of carbon paper between. This way, when the seaman placed his name on the front sheet, his name also transferred to the back sheet, over a number. The military is well known for its paperwork and bureaucracy; every time a flight leaves or a ship anchors someone writes it down on a sheet of paper or log, along with the time and date. This final item is what the Anchor Pool relied on. On a ship’s bridge, the quartermaster of the watch (sometimes other ratings would record logs) would record orders and changes in course or speed. The Quartermaster of the watch would also record the time that the Officer of the Deck (OOD) or other bridge personnel reported to the OOD that the ship was docked, anchored, or in some other way made fast and not moving. He would write the time…down to the minute. It was this last thing that the pool was interested in. If the time that the Anchor was set was at 0904, the guy whose name was in the “04” box got the pool. Gambling is frowned upon in the military, so these pools were kept quiet.

This new item, Nose Wheel Roulette, though, is different…the officers were in on it. The idea was to mark the nose wheel in chalk with numbers corresponding to the number of crewmen aboard. The Pilot was usually one, and the Copilot was usually 2. The airplane type I was reading about was the C-133, so several crewmen could be aboard. Usually the pilots were the only officers aboard. The number closest to the ground at engine shutdown would buy the crew the first round at the bar. The author of this book, Cal Taylor, related that the pilot and Copilot almost always ended up buying rounds. He explained that there was a reason for this. The man in the observer’s hatch (above everyone on the flight deck to aid in taxiing the large aircraft) was usually an enlisted man, as was the man in the “Follow Me” truck. The Pilots apparently never got suspicious of the "forward a little bit more" instructions from ground personnell. (Source: Remembering An Unsung Giant: The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster And Its People, 2005)

Strictly speaking, this has nothing to do with wreckchasing, but I figure it is close enough.

I have not gotten much further with information on Exercise Coulee Crest around here. The Electrician at work thought his father might know about it. He did, and he related the beer experience I wrote in the prior post. He also noted that camps were south of the ridge, close to Moxee. I look forward to anyone with even a little information illuminating me further on this subject.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Exercise Coulee Crest

This is a request to the vast numbers of blog readers: Please ask your friends, grandparents, uncles, and anyone else: “What do you know about Exercise Coulee Crest?”

This is what I know: It was a large exercise concerning USSTRICOM, or United States Strike Command. It happened in Washington State, and involved the transport of military personnel from other parts of the United States. Douglass C-133 Cargomasters and C-124 Globemaster IIs were used in the transport of troops and equipment. It happened during April and May of 1963. I also know there was an army aircraft, which I assume was a helicopter, that crashed about 8 miles North of Ellensburg Washington after striking a power line while it was conducting reconnaissance for Exercise Coulee Crest.

I also know that a few first hand witnesses have described to me personally a large exercise that involved the military “capturing” the city of Moxee. They recall large movements of men and material. They usually date it to the late 1950s or early 1960s. Descriptions usually involve army jeeps armed with machine guns sitting on the corners of the town of Moxee. Yet Another witness described camps on the south side of the ridge, and noted that 2 1/2 ton trucks would pull up to the store and buy all the beer on hand. One of the witnesses also stated that Air Force aircraft also made a showing. His description seemed to indicate a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. There is a picture of an EB-66 at Larson AFB supposedly participating in the exercise, see below.

Here are my questions: Did the C-133s land in Yakima, at Larson, or McChord? What about the C-124s? How many troops were involved? Where are the photos of this operation? Where is the helicopter that went down? I am sure there are others questions that I might think of later. Does anyone out there know about this operation?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

C-141 vs. C-17

This has very little to do with aircraft, except the possibility that the metal detector may someday help me locate a wreck. I made my first EXCELLENT find. It was at my in-laws’ house. Cora and I went over to check on the kitten (AKA Psycho Kitty) and I took my metal detector. I thought, jeez, these people have owned this place for more than 30 years, there must be something in the yard. I thought, yeah, I will get some beer cans, perhaps. I found an old Pepsi can, right off. The second signal I got was something that looked similar to the Pepsi can reading I had a moment before. I decided to dig it up nevertheless, if only to ask to father-in-law about his Pepsi addiction. It turned out that this was something more important. It turned out to be a 1976 Kennedy 50 cent piece. Beautiful, aint it?

History Channel had a Boneyard show on tonight. Given my recent trip to Tucson, it broke my heart. Cora did not allow me to watch the entire episode, apparently the loud cries of anguish annoyed her, but I did record it. I am sad to say, the aluminum goes to other uses. It does not go to a museum. C-141s flew over my house for years as I was growing up. They are/ were huge planes. The C-17 now flies the path that 141’s did. The C-17 is actually bigger than the C-141, but since that is the case, they send fewer in maneuvers. Alas, this is not the Cold War.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Soaplake P-63, #42-68962

On September 4, 1944, at 1745 hours, a P-63A fell to earth near Soap Lake, Washington. It was piloted by Captain James E. McLaughlin. The P-63A, #42-68962, had been referred to the hangar for nose vibration problems. McLaughlin took of at 1720 on a test flight to check the vibration. He did a few circuits around the field at 5000 feet doing tight turns. There were no problems, so he took it up to 10,000 feet to begin diving and climbing. he raised the speed to 300mph and pulled into a chandelle. All of a sudden there was a crack and a sudden lack of rudder tension. The airplane began whipping aound violently. When he decided that control had exhited the aircraft, the pilot did, too.

The aircraft was found 960 feet from the empennage. It was so demolished that no investigation as to the cause could be made. The pilot lived and observed the empennage falling as he was in his parachute.

The War Department made an "Unsatisfactory Report." It stated that tech order 01-110fp-31 to change the surface area from 29.75 square feet to 33.99 square feet gave the fuselage additional strain, which caused the empennage to depart the aircraft. The report recommended that the rear fuselage be strengthened. So, there you have it, Washington Aviaition had a big effect on Bell Aircraft...what do you think? ( this info came from accident report #45-09-04-44)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

High and Mighty One

On a recent trip to Arizona, we stopped at the Pima County Air Museum. This is Balls Three, one of the two X-15 motherships. It is a piece of history. The ONLY A model B-52 remaining. She is affectionately known as the High and Mighty One. I am glad that she has been saved.

Friday, May 9, 2008

TB-26C in Yakima, #41-35392

Martin TB-26C-10 #41-35392 suffered a minor equipment problem on May 19, 1945 at about 0900, at Yakima County Airport. It was enough to be listed on AAIR as an aircraft casualty…well, that might be a bit harsh, since the problem in question was the departure from the aircraft of its life raft and its CO2 tank. The door opened and the CO2 tank crashed into the vertical stabilizer. The vertical stabilizer was damaged by a gash/dent 8X5 inches on the leading edge. There were no control problems and the pilot flew back around and landed without incident. The Air Force listed it as a major accident…mainly because of the amount of time it took to repair the damage to the stabilizer.

The pilot, George B. Smallfield, at the time, had 142:10 hours in the type. His total flying time was 428:35 at the time of the accident report. The mission was to tow a target over the Yakima Firing Range (Center). This was not the only tow plane to meet an untimely end in Central Washington.

(resource: UAF Accident Report: 45-5-19-21)