High up on a rocky crag, above Independence Lake in California are the remains of a C-47D, AAF # 43-49030. The pilot was Master Sergeant Thomas W. Rafferty of the 2924th Area Maintenance Group located at McClellan Field near Sacramento. M/Sgt. Rafferty, who was the last flying Sergeant in the Air Force, had received his pilot's wings on February 24, 1933. At that time being an officer was not a requirement for pilot status.
At the time of this accident M/Sgt. Rafferty had accumulated more than 9,350 hours of flying time, with 996 hours in C-47 type aircraft, and more than 522 hours of instrument flying time. He was without doubt one of the most experienced pilots in the service.
So how could a pilot of M/Sgt. Rafferty's experience allow his aircraft to hit a solid rock wall? We'll never know for sure, but the investigating board felt that M/Sgt. Rafferty simply misjudged the winds aloft that day, and thinking he was clear of the Sierra Nevada mountains, started down from altitude in cloudy instrument conditions. Unfortunately he was not clear, and at 8,200 above sea level, the clouds turned to solid rock!
The accident took the lives of M/Sgt. Rafferty, Captain Richard N. Luse, copilot, T/ Sgt. William A. Larsen, Engineer, and Pfc. Dan L. Young who was simply catching a military ride home. Pfc. Young had just been discharged from the Army, and still carried his discharge papers in his pocket. He was no doubt thinking of home and family in that last instant of life.
You'll read the full story of this tragic accident in the new book "Aircraft Wrecks in The Mountains And Deserts of California" (3rd edition), by G. Pat Macha and Don R. Jordan. Available now through Info Net Publishing, this new book is a database of more than 1,500 California aircraft crash sites. It also contains 27 short stories, and 355 photographs from selected accidents.In the days before Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR), this is as close as it gets to being in the cockpit, and hearing the last words from the crew. The pictures taken of these sites will be presented in a "then and now" format, so that the reader can see what the site looks like today.
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