Estevan, SK Airliner Crashes, Sept 1946



Ottawa, Sept. 16. (CP) -- Examination of the wreckage of the R.C.A.F. Dakota aircraft which crashed Sunday at Estevan, Sask., with a loss of 21 lives showed a control lock on the starboard elevator had not been removed before the flight, Air Force headquarters said Monday in a statement. "In view of the fact that all members of the crew of the aircraft lost their lives, it appears doubtful that a full explanation of this regrettable error will ever be ascertained," the statement said.
"A full investigation covering the whole flight of the aircraft is already proceeding."
The Dakota, loaded with 21 R.C.A.F. personnel, was seen to approach the airport normally with its wheels lowered. "For some reason the pilot decided not to land on his first approach and opened up the engines to go round again. During this manoeuvre, the pilot apparently lost control and the aircraft crashed."
The statement said that standard air force procedure as laid down in regulations "requires positive evidence" of removal of all the control locks before take-off.
An R.C.A.F. official explained that the control device used consisted of wooden blocks to hold the elevator in place when the plane was not in flight.
It would be quite possible for the aircraft to take off with the blocks still in place, since very little elevator control was necessary in takeoff. However, the pilot undoubtedly would realize after getting the ship into the air that he had no elevator control on the starboard side.
However, in going around again after an unsatisfactory approach, elevator control would be essential in getting the aircraft back into the air. Apparently it was at this point that the pilot lost control.
The statement concluded:
"The minister of national defense for air and the chief of air staff extend to all the bereaved families their depests personal regret and sympathy."

Crashed in "Death Valley"
Estevan, Sask., Sept. 16 (CP) -- Grim faced Royal Canadian Air Force personel Monday picked through the fire-blackened wreckage of a twin-engined R.C.A.F. Dakota transport plane which crashed, exploded and burned while attempting to land at the air field here Sunday.
Twenty pilots and one ground crew man died in the accident one of the worst in Canadian aviation history.
The plane crashed at 10:20 a.m. (CDT) near a ravine at the west end of one of the runways, a place that had become known by local residents at "Death Valley" because of a number of R.C.A.F. accidents which took place there during the war.
R.C.A.F. personnel were instructed not to divulge any information regarding the disaster.
The plane was bringing in a load of pilots who were scheduled to fly a number of lend - lease Cornell aircraft to Fargo, N.D., today. Large numbers of these aircraft have been stored here since the end of the war, and now are being repaired and reconditioned in preparation for their return to the United States.
When the plane crashed pieces of wreckage were thrown over a wide area as the gasoline tanks blew up, and a towering column of dense black smoke shot through with brilliant orange flame, rose quickly into the sky.
By the time the flames were extinguished, there was little left except a scattering of fire blackened rubble. From the outskirts of the field, the twisted frame of the stabilizer, rising weirdly out of the long prairie grass, was the only recognizable part of the plane.
Air force officials would allow no unauthorized persons on the field, but some unofficial observers deduced from the position of the wreckage, some 50 yards from the southwest end of the runway, that the pilot had undershot the field. One man, who did not give his name, claimed he saw the plane approach the field with landing gear down. Then, he said, the pilot retracted the undercarriage, took the plane up again to a height of about 100 feet, nose-dived and crashed.
Air force officials declined to divulge any details of the accident and swore all immediate eyewitnesses to secrecy pending an official statement from R.C.A.F. headquarters at Ottawa.
The Estevan airfield was formerly No. 38 Service Flying Training school, and now is the headquarters of No. 4 Equipment Holding Unit. It was the scene of several crashes during the war. Civilian pilots here noted that the Dakota made its approach over a ravine, and said it was possible this may have caused the plane to be caught in a downward air current.
Air Vice-Marshal Kenneth Guthrie, air officer commanding No. 2 Air Command, announced Sunday night that the plane was attached to No. 124 Ferry squadron, Rockcliffe airport, Ottawa. It had come from Minot, N.D., to Estevan. Air Vice-Marshal Guthrie said a court of inquiry would be held shortly.
An Ottawa official said all occupants of the aircraft -- 20 officers and one leading aircraftman -- were members of No. 124 communications squadron based at nearby Rockcliffe. They had been engaged in returning land-lease Cornell aircraft from Estevan to the United States for the last two months.
Earlier headquarters issued the following statement:
"An R.C.A.F. Dakota transport en route from a United States airport crashed in landing at 10:20 a.m. C.S.T. There were 21 fatal casualties. The entire complement of the plane were R.C.A.F. personnel and the next-of-kin are being notified as speedily as possible."

The Dead.
Air Force headquarters at Ottawa Monday announced the names of some of those who died in the Estevan crash:
Flt. Lt. ROBERT C. McROBERTS, of 288 Yale avenue, Winnipeg.
Flt. Lt. LEONARD EDGAR TURTLE, North Battleford.
Flt. Lt. JAMES PYLE JESSE, Ottawa.
FO. H. H. COWAN, of Ottawa.
Flt. Lt. LAWRENCE KIRSCH, of Yorkton, Sask.
FO. WILLIAM PERRY, of Howarden, Sas., and Ottawa.
FO. PERRY is a nephew of MRS. R. J. TORGENSEN, 40 Kingston Row, and grandson of MRS. W. P. PERRY, 37 Kingston Row.
Names of the remaining personnel are being withheld pending confirmation that next-of-kin have been notified.

Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1946-09-16