|C-54A "SKYMASTER" 41-37227
20 JUNE 1944
FORT MOUNTAIN, NEAR MILLINOCKET
NORTH ATLANTIC WING
AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND
|The aircraft was on a routine mail/cargo flight between England and Washington DC. It was manned by 6 civilian personnel from "Contract Carrier 16" (TWA), with one Army Air Force Sgt. aboard as a passenger. The crew and aircraft departed Stephenville, Newfoundland on the final leg of the flight with an IFR flight plan,and a planned time enroute of 6 hours 55 minutes at 4000 feet. The aircraft checked in with Flight Control at Presque Isle Maine AAF over Moncton, New Brunswick on schedule and on course. Around 11 PM, a morse code ETA was transmitted to Washington DC by 277. No further trasmissions were heard.
When the aircraft failed to report passing Bangor, Maine, it was reported overdue. All military radio stations in the region were asked to attempt contact, to no avail.
The leg of the flight that 277 was on at the time it lost contact was along the Blissville NB- Bangor ME radio airway. Poor weather conditions, with low ceiling, prevented any air search until late the following afternoon. This and more extensive air search activity along the Blissville-Bangor route on the 22nd also came up empty.
The Blissville-Bangor route passed across the relatively flat terrain of coastal Maine. The Pilot of another C-54, flying the same route an hour behind the missing plane,reported severe thunderstorm activity between Moncton and Blissville during his flight with severe southeast winds blowing his aircraft 40 miles off course to the north and poor radio direction finding "fixes" due to static interference from electrical storms. A break in the weather had allowed his Navigator to get a good bearing on Blissville and correct their course.
Operations Officers at Presque Isle AAF projected the location of the storm front when 277 had passed the area and projected that the winds aloft could have pushed the aircraft nearly 70 miles of course into the Mt. Katahdin area, with mountains over the 4000 foot flight altitude in the flight path. This theory proved correct, and at around 9 AM on the 23rd, a C-47 spotted the wreckage at the 3900 foot elevation on the southeastern side of Fort Mountain. The aircraft was completely demolished and a post-crash fire was evident. This area is among the most rugged, and at the time inaccessible, mountain terrain in Maine.
The first ground search party reached the crash site seven days after the mishap and confirmed that all seven personnel aboard had died in the impact. The right wing had contacted the mountain, about 100 feet below the peak and turned the aircraft about 15 degrees into the slope. The plane had broken up in a boulder field along a 1000 foot path. The autopilot was off and the plane was being flown manually at the time of impact.
The Board of Inquiry concluded that the winds aloft had pushed the plane off the airway and static interference prevented a good fix on the Bangor radio beacon. The crew appearantly did not realize they had strayed from the airway, and had not climbed to avoid the terrain.
Killed in this mishap were: Rodger Inman, Pilot; Disbrow Gill, Copilot; David Reynolds, Navigator; Nordi Byrd, Flight Engineer; Eugene Summers, Radio Operator; Samuel Berman, Purser; and Sgt. Elbert Barnes USAAF, Passenger.
|Two views of the tail section. Note the obliterated North Atlantic Division emblem on the verticle stabilizer and the yellow paint used to "mark"the wreckage.|
|One of the aircraft's four Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines.|
|Main landing gear.|
|Section of right wing.|
|Prop. The remote location of the crash site, and the fact that it is in a state park have preserved the site well.|
|A section just aft of the flight deck is the only easily recognizable piece of the fuselage.|
|[all photos from the Maine Air Museum Collection- Courtesy of Brent Harper via Jim Chichetto]|
|LINKS TO OTHER SITES ABOUT THIS CRASH SITE
2009 Boston Globe Article
Mainely Hiking Site
Bangor Daily News Article