Pacific Ocean, HI, CA Airliner Goes Down In Ocean, Nov 1957



San Francisco -- UP -- Pan American Airways reported today yellow objects "believed to be life rafts" were seen in the ocean near the last known location of the missing Pan American plane. The report came from the coast guard in Honolulu, PAA said.
An air force pilot radioed the location as 28 degrees 11 minutes north latitude, 142 degrees 45 minutes west longitude. The report did not say whether survivors were sighted.
A coast guard cutter was sent to the spot and should arrive about 12:45 PM PST, PAA said.

San Francisco -- UP -- A double decked Pan American Airways plane with 44 persons aboard is "presumed down" in the Pacific between Honolulu and San Francisco. A massive air-sea search is under way.
JACK E. KING, 42, a former Fresnan, was aboard. He is a flight supervisor for the airline and lives in South San Francisco.
The huge four engine plane was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu from San Francisco at 7:45 PM HST (9:45 PM PST), but early today in San Francisco, ROBERT B. MURRAY, JR., executive vice president of Pan American's Pacific-Alaska division, said:
"We now are past the gasoline endurance point, and the aircrafdt must be presumed down somewhere in the Pacific. The crew is experienced and well trained and we still are hopeful."
Large Families Aboard.
The plane, piloted by Captain GORDON H. BROWN, of Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, carried eight crewmen and 36 passengers, including two large families -- HUGH, SCOTT, NANCY, KIMI, BRUCE and ANNA CLACK of Midland, Mich., and ROBERT, DAVID, MARGARET and JUDY ALEXANDER of Los Gatos, Santa Clara County.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral STEPHEN H. EVANS, who is coordinating the search effort, said "time ran out" after the plane had been missing some 14 hours.
He immediately launched a massive air and sea search covering a 100,000 square mile area between Honolulu and 1,100 miles to the east toward San Francisco.
Coast guard, navy and air force planes from Hawaii were pressed into the search, and Pan American sent planes from both Honolulu and San Francisco. Two submarines and eight coast guard cutters were dispatched to the area and all surface vessels in the vicinity, were alerted.
Spotted Lights.
The navy search rescue center at Pearl Harbor confirmed a report that a military air transport plane spotted blinking lights on the air route the missing plane would have taken, but search planes found nothing in the area.
The last report from the plane came at 3:04 PM HST when the captain radioed he had passed the point of no return, 1,160 miles from Honolulu.
This is near the area where on October 16, 1956, another Pan American plane developed trouble and ditched at sea. All 31 passengers aboard were saved when pilot RICHARD OGG circled four hours on two engines to reduce the fuel load and then ditched near a coast guard weather ship.
Although the tail broke off on the imact, everyone board scrambled into lifeboats and were picked up within minutes by the crew of the coast guard ship.
Ships Flash Lights.
When the airliner failed to arrive on time here last night, rescue units went into action immediately. All ships at Pearl Harbor flashed their lights in the sky throughout the night in a vain hope the plane had lost radio contact and was searching for the island.
Scripps-Howard Washington reporter HENRY N. TAYLOR, a passenger aboard a Quantas airliner en route to San Francisco from Honolulu, said his plane joined in the search for the missing airliner but found nothing.
"We were flying about 15,000 feet when we got word of the missing plane. Captain MAX BAMMANA dropped down to 5,000 feet and followed along the track of the plane's last reported position for about 200 miles."
"The weather was clear and there was a full moon. But no sign of the plane."
Bombers Join Search.
Shortly before dawn, 11 P2V Neptune bombers and sever W2V Constellations took off from Barber's Point to join the widespread search.
A Pan American spokesman in San Francisco was asked how long the plane could stay on the surface after hitting the water.
"Naturally, that would depend on the conditions of the ditching," he said. "Under ideal conditions, the plane could float indefinitely -- as we said before, we still are hopeful."
Pan American refused to comment on reports a power failure may have knocked out the plane's radio.
"We never speculate on these matters," a spokesman said.
The airliner, named the Romance Of The Skies, carried 6,673 gallons of gasoline on takeoff. At its last known position, it had 3,723 gallons remaining or enough to keep it aloft until 3 AM.
Pan American said it has flown 9,085,000,000 revenue passenger miles without a passenger fatality. In June, the airline was given the National Safety Council award for outstanding safety in operation.

San Francisco -- UP -- Pan American World Airways today released the following names, addresses and destinations of the persons aboard an airliner missing on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.
The crew members, all from California:
Captain GORDON H. BROWN, Palo Alto.
First Officer W. P. WYGANT, Sausalito.
Second Officer W. A. FORTENBERRY, Santa Clara.
Engineering Officer A. PINATARA, Belmont.
Purser E. CROSTHWAITE, Felton.
Flight Supervisor JACK E. KING, South San Francisco.
Stewardess YVONNE ALEXANDER, San Francisco.
Stewardess MARIE McGRATH, Burlingame.
The passengers:
Hawaii bound:
ROBERT ALEXANDER and his wife MARGARET, and children JUDY and DAVID, all of Los Altos.
MRS. MARIAN BARBER, Shaker Heights, Ohio.
FRED CHOY, San Mateo.
EDWARD ELLIS, Hillsboro.
WILL HAGAN and NORMA HAGEN (address unknown).
ROBERT HOLLIDAY, New South Wales, Australia.
JOSEPH JONES, Kailua, Oahu.
LOUIS RODRIGUES, 53, San Francisco.
HELEN ROWLAND, 60, Palo Alto.
Tokyo bound:
TOMIKO BOYD, Baltimore, Ohio.
H. LEE CLACK, his wife, ANNA, and their children, SCOTT, NANCY, KIMI, and BRUCE all of Midland, Mich.
Lieutenant Commander GORDON COLE, Alexandria, Va.
WILLIAM DECK, Roanoke, Va.
MELIH DURAL, address unknown.
SOLEDAD MERCADO, address unknown.
RUBY QUONG, San Francisco.
PHILIP SULLIVAN and his wife, BESS, of Alexandria, Va.
Rangoon bound:
THOMAS McGRAIL, West Roxbury, Mass.

The Fresno Bee and Republican California 1957-11-09



Honolulu -- UP -- Planes and ships are combined in a gigantic search for a Pan American airliner which disappeared Friday night on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.
The plane, a double decked luxury craft carrying 44 persons, checked in at the "point of no return" with a routine radio message and has not been heard from since.
Pursue Blast Theory.
The possibility the plane had exploded in the air is being explored here by navy and coast guard officials. They said the lack of radio contact with the plane and the lack of any distress signal were considered signigicant factors in the explosion theory.
"There are many theories to be explored in the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a huge plant," Captain SAM READ, chief press information officer at Pearl Harbor said, "However the explosion theory is receiving priority."
Commander WILLIAM E. CHAPLINE, chief of the coast guard search and rescue section said there was a "potent possibility" that the missing aircraft "suddenly and for an unknown reason went out of control." He declined to speculate as to whether the plane actually exploded, but said a sudden and complete loss of power was a "very remote possibility."
100,000 Square Mile Hunt.
Dozens of aircraft from the navy, coast gurad and commercial air lines were criss crossing a 100,000 square mile area of the Pacific in perfect weather seeking clues to the fate of the big craft while at least 14 surface vessels and two navy submarines were hunting on the surface.
In addition air-sea rescue headquarters called in the air craft carrier Philippine Sea from Long Beach, Calif., to add its planes and helicopters to the search.
There were two reports of sighting "unidentified objects" near the midway point of the plane's flight. The first referred to "yellow objects" but the navy said later the sighting "may be" disposable jet fuel tanks and the coast guard said that the reports indicated that if the objects were life rafts, they were "uninflated."
Later a navy search plane reported sighting an "unidentified object" some 90 miles southeast of the "point of no return."
Pan American officials said they had notified the federal bureau of investigation of the plane's disappearance but that was "routine in case of anything unusual."
The FBI said it would not investigate unless "there is some evidence of crime."
Insurance officials also were checking the passenger list to determine whether there had been any unusual purchase of insurance on any of the 36 passengers or eight crewmen aboard.

The Fresno Bee and Republican Californis 1957-11-10




Honolulu -- UP -- A navy plane today sighted the bodies of nine persons in the Pacific 128 miles west-northwest of the last position report by a Pan American World Airways airliner which vanished last Friday night with 44 persons aboard.
The pilot, from the carrier Philippine Sea, radioed "highly probable wreckage sighted."
A few minutes later he sent word that nine bodies were sighted, one of them strapped in an airplane seat.
Proceed To Area.
The coast guard announced the Philippine Sea and the destroyer Renshaw were proceeding to the area to attempt to recover the bodies. The carrier was 75 miles from the bodies.
Helicopters from the Philippine Sea took off immediately.
The navy pinpointed the location of the wreckage as 135 miles west-northwest of the last reported position of the airliner, which is about 88 miles off the aircraft's planned course of flight and about 830 miles northeast of Oahu, Hawaii.
The sighting was due west of a track being taken by the Philippine Sea en route to Honolulu as part of a "vacuum cleaner" search effort between the point of no return and Hawaii.
The big luxury aircraft vanished without a word of warning while en route from San Francisco to Honolulu with 36 passengers and a crew of eight.
Last Message.
The plane's commander, Captain GORDON H. BROWN of Los Altos, Santa Clara County, a 15 year veteran of Pan American, last reported his position fewer than 100 miles past the midway point on the 2,400 mile flight.
No further word came from the plane and a massive air-sea search was launched Friday night.
Some 20 ships and 65 aircraft, led by the hunter-killer carrier Philippine Sea, scanned a 275,000 square mile area. Several sightings were made but all were checked out and discounted until today's report by the carrier plane.
With discovery of the wreckage and bodies, Hawaiian Air-Sea Frontier Search and Rescue headquarters ordered all 13 land based military and civilian aircraft and 20 surface vessels in the search at the moment to head for the pin pointed area.
The Philippine Sea was leading the destroyer Renshaw, and coast guard cutters Bering Straits and Minnetonka to the scene. Plans called for the bodies to be taken aboard the Renshaw and brought to Pearl Harbor.
Still unsolved however is the mystery of what happened to the plane. Company officials refused to speculate about the cause of the crash. But search officials suggested it was something sudden and violent which whould prevent the crew from radioing a distress message.

The Fresno Bee and Republican California 1957-11-14



Honolulu -- AP -- Seventeen broken bodies and recovered wreckage, showing many signs of fire, yelded clues today that a Pan American luxury air liner ditched with shattering force in the ocean a week ago only 23 minutes after making a routine position report.
As a search was pressed for the 27 other occupants of the Honolulu bound air liner, investigators pieced together these bits of evidence:
Twelve of the first 17 bodies recovered had on life jackets -- suggesting the 36 passengers got word to prepare for ditching during the 10,000 foot descent.
Three wrist watches were stopped at 5:27 PM -- only 23 minutes after the plane, Romance Of The Skies, reported her position as 1,028 miles east of Honolulu -- but with never a word of any trouble.
Evidence Of Fire.
The aircraft carrier Philippine Sea reported there was evidence of fire in the considerable debris consisting of mail, cushions and miscellaneous buoyant parts.
The bodies were found yesterday as the carrier combed a more than 100 mile square area 955 miles northeast of Honolulu with a flotilla of small boats picking up the debris.
All the bodies found were shoeless and all had external injuries and multiple fractures.
Time For Warning.
Coast Guard Captain DONALD MacDIARMID said the evidence "indicates the pilot did not have everything go sour suddenly or he would not have had time to warn people to get into jackets and get their shoes off. I would assume the pilot ditched the aircraft."
Removing the shoes is routine pre ditching practice for planes at sea.
The bodies were found 88 miles north of the plane's course to Honolulu. The navy said this was due to natural drift and the time was about right for the bodies to have risen to the surface.
Three Possible Reasons.
A navy officer who has been participating in the search from Pearl Harbor said there could be three reasons why the plane sent no distress signal. "That's the big mystery," said the officer, who declined use of his name. He said there could have been a fire, a propeller could have flown off, or a meteor could have hit the plane.
"He considered the loose propeller the likeliest cause. He said a propeller once came through the fuselage, made a right angle turne and sliced through the entire plane.

The Fresno Bee and Republican California 1957-11-15


Boeing 377

Unlike it's military sister the KC-97, the 377 had many reliability issues. Of the 50 built, ten were lost in accidents, giving it a 20% mortality rate. The last intact survivor I saw( which was reportedly scrapped later) was in 1987 in a storage area at Tucson (Arizona) International Airport. So sad--people would have loved to see a piece of history like that flying in air shows.
A picture of this plane does exist, along side a 1952 Buick, taken that year which I have seen from time to time in propliner related magazines.