Pittsburgh, PA Plane Crashes After Attempted Landing, Mar 1937





Pittsburgh, March 26. -- (AP) -- Two separate investigations today attributed the crash to the Transcontinental and Western Airlines plane in which thirteen persons were killed to the formation of ice on the air liner's control equipment.
While federal and state aeronautical inspectors searched through the splintered wreckage of the giant twin-motored transport that nosed into a corn field last night, officials of TWA said ice had formed on the ailerons and sent the plane out of control.
DR. JOHN J. McLEAN, director of the Allegheny County Airport where the plane attempted to land a few moments before the crash, said the disaster was caused by ice collecting on the wings.
Plan New Measures.
L. C. FRITZ, eastern region superintendent of the airliner, said new safety measures would be developed to prevent a repetition of the tragedy, declaring:
"Never before in tests or in scheduled flying has ice formed on the ailerons to an extent that interferred with normal flight."
"However, the unusual ice formation causing this accident indicates that protection against icing must beb extended to include ailerons, and TWA is taking immediate steps to develop this additional safeguard."
Fusilage Is Burned.
Workmen burned the twisted fusilage of the plane late today after federal investigators announced they had completed their inspection of the scene of the disaster. W. A. HAMILTON, superintendent of maintenance for TWA, said the motors and instruments would be preserved for further examination.
Company officials said only the ice would explain why Pilot F. L. (LARRY) BOHNET and the twelve others crashed to their deaths a few minutes after he had circled the airport and radioed that all was "okeh."
The company issued this formal statement:
"The crash of the plane last night near Pittsburgh was due to the plane passing through localized, but very severe icing formations while descending toward Pittsburgh, where a ceiling of 1,200 feet and visibility of five miles prevailed."
Pilot Loses Control.
"A heavy deposit of ice formed on the leading edge of the ailerons, which control lateral balance, and caused the plans to go completely out of control."
"All this happened within the space of a very few minutes."
"The fact that several other places flying into Pittsburgh at approximately the time of the accident encountered no severe icing, substantiates our belief that Pilot F. L. BOHNET ran into localized and exceptionally heavy icing conditions."
Fails To Dislodge Ice.
"The crash of the plane failed to dislodge the ice formed on the ailerons, and gave us the clue on which we were able to reconstruct the accident."
"All modern transport planes carry de-icing equipment for every part of the plane on which ice formations have been encountered."
Note Discloses Storm.
Investigators found a postcard on which one of the passengers, MISS PAULINE TRASK, a school teacher from Germantown, Pa., had written to a friend:
"Arrived safely -- 6:15 P.M. -- Pulling out of ice storm."
ROBERT I. HAZEN, one of five aeronautical inspectors investigating the accident for the department of commerce said a public hearing would be held later to receive testimony of technical experts and eye witnesses who saw the plane nose-dive into the sloping ground near suburban Mt. Lebanon.
Pilot BOHNET, of Newark, his co-pilot, HOWARD E. WARWICK, of East Orange, N. J., DORIS C. HAMMONS, the hostess, of Elk City, Okla., and the ten passengers were killed instantly.
Many Bodies Mangled.
All of the bodies had been hurled to the front of the cabin.
Many of the bodies were mangled. MISS HAMMONS' head was crushed. The watch of C. R. LEWERS, of Kansas City, Mo., a passenger, had stopped at 6:42.
The cabin was split open but there was no fire. One of the pilots had turned off the ignition before the impact.
Had the plane been able to level off, a flat field would have provided a safe landing 100 feet from the sloping ground where it struck.
Barely Missed Auto.
As it zoomed out of the sky, the airliner missed by only about fifty feet striking the automobile of MR. and MRS. H. E. GRIEST, of suburban Mt. Lebanon. GRIEST said:
"At the point where we were the road slopes down into a field and it hit on that slope, not over twenty or thirty feet from the road. It was just a mass of wreckage."
As if in farewell to her mother in Leddy, Okla., MISS HAMMONS had written this thought on the last page of her flight log, discovered among the debris today:
"Sadness must always be for the living. When a ship sets sail it is the eyes of those who watch from shore that are blinded with tears."
Log Is Refused.
Officials refused to divulge the radio log at the airport or of the plane saying it was "tied up" by the federal communications commission.
H. L. CUNNINGHAM, a state aeronautics inspector, the only official who would be quoted, said:
"The plane apparently was out of control. The throttles must have been closed before the crash."
The crash occurred at the edge of a valley about forty yards wide. First persons to reach the wreckage said they heard no screams or groans, indicating all died instantaneously.
Had Pilot BOHNET been able to level off his ship, safety lay less than 100 yards away.
Pilot Gets Orders.
At the county airport an executive said the plane had attempted to land but was ordered to descend at a lower altitude because of fog and mist and the operator could not see the ship at 5,000 feet.
It was about five miles to the airport and eight miles to downtown Pittsburgh from where the liner struck.

Modesto Bee and News-Herald California 1937-03-27

The passengers, announced by TWA officials at Kansas City:
E. J. FLEMING, Standard Oil company, Kansas City.
C. R. LEWERS, Standard Oil company, Kansas City.
B. HAXIL, Chicago.
MISS M. BLACK, New York.
MISS F. REED, New York.
E. G. NEILL, Minneapolis.
FREDERICK D. LEHMAN, Harrisburg, Pa.
H. HERMAN, Elmhurst, Ill.
E. BRAZELTON, Elmhurst, Ill.


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