At 09:15, on the morning of October 24, 1941, Captain F. S. Nelson advanced the throttles of his B-18A Bolo and roared off the runway at Hamilton Field. Soon he and his crew were climbing into the cloud laden northern California sky. As he banked the obsolete pre-war bomber toward the northeast the crew began to settle in for the flight to McClellan Field near Sacramento. It was the first stop enroute to Ft. Douglas in Utah. This leg was short, and should have been routine. The flight plan required Captain Nelson to remain clear of all clouds for the estimated thirty minutes of flying time.
The remainder of the crew was, 2nd Lt. E. W. Sell (copilot), T/Sgt. Zeik (engineer), T/Sgt. Kinney, (radio operator), and Pfc. Phillips (observer).
The visibility was ten miles that day, but the ceiling was hanging low over the Vaca Mountains to the northeast. The tops of the small mountains were obscured in the overcast sky. Laying directly on the flight path, and hidden in the clouds, was Twin Sisters Peak. Fifteen minutes into the flight, the B-18, and its crew would meet the Twin Sisters, and the peak would be unforgiving.
The pilot's clearance was issued for contact flying on the entire route. From all indications, the pilot was flying instruments in the bottom of a cloud at the moment of impact. It appeared that the pilot assumed that all of the terrain between takeoff and destination was level, and was unaware of the small chain of mountains on his course.
You'll read the full story of this tragic accident in a new book from Info Net Publishing. Now available, "Aircraft Wrecks in The Mountains And Deserts of California" (3rd edition), by G. Pat Macha and Don R. Jordan, will take the reader back in time to visit this many other of the more than 1,500 aviation accidents documented.
here to visit the crash site of the Twin Sisters B-18A
Click here to go to True Tales of Aviation Archaeology
Return to Main Page.