Mena, AR Airliner Crashes In Rugged Hills, Sep 1973



El Dorado, Ark. (AP) -- A Texas International airliner with 11 persons aboard disappeared in a torrential rainstorm over southwest Arkansas Thursday night and three National Guardsmen were killed in the crash of a helicopter en route to help search for it.
Hours passed with no trace of the Convair turboprop jet which carried eight passengers and a crew of three on a flight from El Dorado to Texarkana.
Fog and low ceilings grounded most search planes. Authorities held little hope of finding the airliner from the air if it went down in the swampy, wooded, sparsley populated area between the two cities.
A spokesman for the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, Tex., said three of the passengers were colonels from the base. One of them was Col. ARTHUR B. GLENN who was flying in to assume command of the depot today.
Texas International did not immediately identify the other passengers or the crew.
BOB BREWER, public information officer at the depot, said Col. GLENN was traveling with Col. ROBERT E. HOPPE, the depot's director of supply, and Col. CLAYTON CRAFT, director of maintenance.
The Convair left El Dorado at 8:20 p.m. and was scheduled to reach Texarkana, 75 miles away, about 20 minutes later. JIM CASSADY, senior vice president of the airline, reported it missing shortly before midnight.
By then the plane was out of fuel, according to KENNETH SENYARD, Civil Defense director at Texarkana. He said it carried only enough fuel to last until 11 p.m.
Two helicopters were dispatched from Little Rock. They flew together into a fog bank near Prescott, about 100 miles from their base, one never came out.
The second helicopter turned back and made a safe landing at Malvern. State Police quoted its pilot as saying that the other radioed that it was in trouble just before it went down.
Lt. EARL ORR of the State Police said three bodies were recovered at the crash scene about two hours later.
The National Guard identified the crew members as Capt. JOHN LARRY BEARDEN, 33, of North Little Rock, the pilot; Capt. WILLIAM ROBERT WEST, 31, of Little Rock, the co-pilot and Spec. 6 DAVID MURLE, 32, of North Little Rock, the crew chief.
Storms In Area.
Thunderstorms were raging over Southwest Arkansas when the plane disappeared. The flight plan carried the Convair over the Red River bottoms, some of the wildest country in the state. The flight, Texas International's 655, originated at Memphis. It was to have terminated at Texarkana.
State Police and county and local officers launched an immediate ground search and a few planes took off during a break in the weather shortly after midnight. All had been forced down by 4 a.m., however, low ceilings and heavy fog kept most of them on the ground deep into the morning.
Lt. Col. CHARLES McKINNON of the Civil Air Patrol said search planes had no real hope finding the airliner in the dark. About all they could do, he said, was to monitor for an emergency beacon and listen for any other emergency transmission.
Police knocked on doors along the flight path hoping to find someone who had heard a plane in trouble.

Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville Arkansas 1973-09-28

Houston (AP) -- Texas International released this list Saturday night of passengers and crew members on the Convair airliner that disappeared while on a flight from El Dorado, Ark. to Texarkana.
Army Col. CLAYTON CRAFT, 49, Texarkana, Tex.
Army Col. ROBERT B. HOPPE, 47, Texarkana, Tex.
Army Col. ARTHUR B. GLENN, 46, Texarkana, Tex.
MILTON C. JOHNSON, 51, Texarkana, Tex.
JOHN THOMAS TORRENCE, 49, Texarkana, Tex.
JOHN HAWKINS, JR., 18, Texarkana, Ark.
Capt. ROBERT McDONALD CROSMAN, 41, Irving, Tex.
First Officer WILLIAM FRED TUMLINSON, 37, Dallas.
Flight Attendant MARILLA JEANA LOTZER, 23, Dallas.
CROSMAN had been with the airline for 14 years. TUMLINSON had worked for TI eight years.
The three Army officers were stationed at Red River Arsenal, Texarkana.

Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville Arkansas 1973-09-30
TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The wreckage of this airliner was finally located near Mena, Arkansas on October 1, 1973.


Head Up and Locked, location unknown vs. rock in cloud

The CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) of the last few minutes of flight revealed it all about this accident.
CAM That the highest point out here is about 1200 feet
CAM-2 (That right?)
CAM-1 The whole general area, and then we're not even where that is. I don't believe.
CAM-2 I'll tell you what, as long aas we travel notrhwest instead of west, and I still can't get Paris.
CAM-? Whistling
CAM Go ahead and lot at it
CAM-? Whistling
CAM-? ####
CAM-? Whistling
CAM-2 Two hundred and fifty, we're about to pass over Paige VOR.
CAM-2 You know where that is?
CAN-1 Yeah
CAM-2 All right
CAM About a hundred and eighty degrees to Texarkana
CAM-2 About a hundred and fifty two
CAM-2 Minimum en rout altitude is forty-four hund. . . .
33:42.0 Sound of impact

NTSB Report No. AAR-74-4 Appendix E

Search for Flight 655

A reporter followed a group of people searching for the wreckage of Texas International Flight 655, 30 years after the plane went down.

Watch the video here: