Pilots spend many hours training for in flight emergencies. In most cases, a pilot's skill and training will bring him home safely. But sometimes, despite his best efforts, the flight is doomed from the start. A pilot who is not trained to fly on instruments, and becomes lost in the clouds, is one such emergency. Another is engine failure over the mountains at night. But few in flight emergencies can surpass the terror created by fire in the cockpit!
A cockpit fire at 7,800 feet over the American River Canyon, is what sent this C-46A falling to earth in small flaming pieces. Two men were killed in this accident, but three were able to parachute to safety just as the aircraft was torn to pieces by a violent explosion.
However, their troubles weren't over when their chutes opened. They weren't out of danger yet! Because, it was dark, they had no idea where, or when they would hit the ground. They may hit the steep side of a mountain which would collapse their chutes, and send them tumbling to their deaths over a steep cliff. They could also drown in the American River, which they knew was below them somewhere. Fortunately, none were seriously hurt when they finally did hit the ground after their frightening descent.
Onboard the aircraft that night were, Lt. Henry Harvey (Instructor pilot), Lt. Bengy Guptill (student pilot), Lt. Albert Bourquin (student pilot), Corporal Wilhelm Inman (crew chief) and Private First Class Douglas Elder.
Lt. Bourquin had completed his dual C-46 transition training and was in the jump seat observing Lt. Guptill who was at the controls. Lt. Harvey was in the right seat giving instruction at the time of the accident.
The C-46 transition training flight departed McClellan Field near Sacramento, California at 00:45 on February 18, 1944, enroute to Reno Army Air Base in Nevada. The altitude assigned was eleven thousand feet, but as they passed through 7,800 feet, Lt. Harvey noticed that the cabin heater was not working. He called the crew chief, Cpl. Inman, on the interphone and instructed him to check the heater and the fuses which were located in the forward cargo compartment. The forward cargo compartment is located in the belly of the aircraft, directly under the cockpit.
In the new book "Aircraft Wrecks in The Mountains and Deserts of California" (3rd edition), you will find out what happened in the cargo compartment that doomed the flight. You'll also find out who survived this incident, and who did not.
Now available from Info Net Publishing, Don R. Jordan, or any retail book store.
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