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Help researching 1961 Electra crash

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Help researching 1961 Electra crash

Old 12th Mar 2016, 11:06
  #61 (permalink)  
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Looks like the rudder/aileron linkage is all in the cockpit. It's a feedback mechanism between rudder pedals and control column. So it still depended on the cables to get the rudder-induced inputs to the ailerons.
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Old 12th Mar 2016, 12:36
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Megan, I had exactly the same idea when I woke in the night. There would have been imprints of the cables and copper flash residue on the aircraft, so the investigators would have been able to state with certainty the angle of the aircraft with respect to the cables. Any of the cable strike marks would be sufficient. It is so obvious, there was no need to explain it in the reports. The marks would have extended beyond the leading edges of the wing and/or fuselage so there would certainly be clear evidence of angle of contact. We know that the cables were carrying power and that a blue flash was seen by witnesses.

I don't know quite how litigious the US was at that time, but I suspect that whoever maintained the power lines would have made an insurance claim against the airline to repair the damage. The insurers would have insisted on full details of the damage and costs of repairs down to the last penny, judging by my dealings with such companies.

The other point that I missed in looking through the mass of documentation is that the two official reports are, in fact, merely summaries of the investigations carried out. A huge amount of detail has been skipped or glossed over because it wasn't directly relevant to the cause of the accident or avoidance of further problems.

The actual investigation documents would have filled many boxes. What has been published is just the highlights. It may well be that there is an archive in a warehouse somewhere containing all the documents generated during this investigation. That would be a treasure trove to find.
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Old 12th Mar 2016, 12:55
  #63 (permalink)  
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Look at the pictures. The wings ended as pools of melted metal.

The actual investigation documents would have filled many boxes. What has been published is just the highlights. It may well be that there is an archive in a warehouse somewhere containing all the documents generated during this investigation. That would be a treasure trove to find.
As my document explicitly says, that's the reason for going public - to shake those boxes of materials out of the trees. Someone out there has something, and I'm depending on word of mouth in the flying community to bring it to light.
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Old 12th Mar 2016, 15:00
  #64 (permalink)  
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whoever maintained the power lines would have made an insurance claim against the airline to repair the damage. The insurers would have insisted on full details of the damage and costs of repairs down to the last penny
Let's say I'm the power company and your plane just brought down three wires between two towers a hundred feet apart. I don't trust the integrity of the downed lines in such cases, so I'm going to replace them all. I'm going to bill you for 300 feet of wire, for the splices needed to attach it at the towers, for the payroll to cover it, for the recovery costs of the downed line that I'm sending to recycle, and for any strain damage and repair parts on the towers themselves.

The one thing that I don't care at all about is where in the line the wires were severed. I'm assuming you didn't run off with a length of it wrapped around your plane. To me it's six hunks of random length wire that are going to be lying on the ground to be spooled onto the salvage truck.
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Old 12th Mar 2016, 17:00
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"The one thing that I don't care at all about is where in the line the wires were severed. I'm assuming you didn't run off with a length of it wrapped around your plane. To me it's six hunks of random length wire that are going to be lying on the ground to be spooled onto the salvage truck."

The on scene investgators at the time would not know whether the severed cables were significant. Every detail would have been recorded in case it became relevant at a later stage. Once the scene has been tidied up, it is impossible to go back looking for evidence, so it is vital that every detail is recorded at the time, even if it seems totally unrelated to what happened. I can speak with a certain amount of authority and personal experience on this point.

The severed cable lengths would have been measured and recorded. The copper spray contamination from the melted cables would have left marks on the outer skin of the aircraft which would have been detectable even after parts had been exposed to fire. The inner skin would be expected to display signs of copper contamination from melted wire bundles but there should not be traces of copper on the outer skin. So whether visible to the naked eye or not, the traces would be there and detectable with simple chemical testing.

Just because a full explanation doesn't appear in the official reports doesn't mean that the work wasn't carried out, simply that it wasn't considered relevant to the reasons for the accident.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall reading about this or a similar accident being significant in influencing aircraft design by ensuring that there wouldn't be a single mode of failure in the control systems in the future. Dual paths of control were required so that failure of one system would not cause an aircraft to crash. Probably read about that 20 years or more ago, so I will have to trawl through my archives to refresh my memory.
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Old 12th Mar 2016, 19:51
  #66 (permalink)  
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The power company doesn't care about the wire lengths. I stand by exactly what I said.

The crash investigators would care, if they thought about it. The power company would be happy to measure the wires if they were asked, but if they aren't asked they aren't going to do it. So it depends on the investigators. Since the CAB had already gone public with an erroneous scenario on the afternoon of the day, I don't have a lot of confidence in them.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 01:45
  #67 (permalink)  
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The accident report states the wire strike was on that portion of the wing that snapped off on striking the embankment. So the evidence would have been there.
I'm not aware that the CAB report in my document includes any such information. Please give the statements that make this assertion.

they list the respective SHP and ITT
I'm always impressed by people with acronyms, but for the rest of us, what does that mean? The goal here should be communication.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 03:39
  #68 (permalink)  
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Not an assertion, fact. You should be on top of this stuff, given you tell us the CAB and ALPA don't have a clue. You are an aggressive little bugger. CAB page 4 and ALPA page 4 respectively.
Nothing on page 4 of either report mentions the scars left from the wire strikes or says that the damage from those strikes would be in the part of the wing that was left at the tracks.

I am not impressed.

ETA: What happened to SHP and ITT?
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 03:45
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Monsieur DuBois,
Having myself had a little exposure to crash scene investigations and forensics, I've been following this thread with interest.

It's my observation that you are fortunate indeed to have experienced, astute aviators and communicators such as GOULI and megan who have been prepared
to take the time and trouble to help you.

Please be careful and don't take them for granted.
Comments such as "The goal here should be communication" and "I am not impressed" are not going to going to help you toward YOUR goal.
And... I'm assuming that is finding out what REALLY happened, compared with what you would like to think happened.

I look forward to seeing how this turns out for you and hope you can arrive at the correct conclusions.
.

Last edited by Stanwell; 13th Mar 2016 at 04:10.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 03:56
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Hi Stanwell

All inputs are welcome. If you have some experience in the field, I'd appreciate your thoughts.

My goal is to figure out what happened, which is something that the official reports clearly failed to handle. Once one comes to grips with the fact that the CAB didn't know which side was up, it gives a sort of jaundiced view of their operation.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 04:42
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I'm afraid my experience, fortunately or unfortunately, is not directly in the field of air accident investigation.
The principles, though, are the same.

While I've not had the time to examine the available material in minute detail, I do think, from reading the contributions to this thread,
that I've a fair grasp of what went on that fateful day.
I therefore defer to the observations, knowledge and experience of those who've had the practical experience in that particular field.

Once again, good luck and please take on board what I said earlier.
.

Last edited by Stanwell; 13th Mar 2016 at 04:53.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 08:55
  #72 (permalink)  
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I think the number four engine ended at the tracks; I thought you didn't accept that. Saying that the number four engine stopped at the tracks means the ALPA report is wrong. That would mean the number three prop left the scars on the tracks mentioned by the ALPA, and that puts the bank at no more than about 34-ish degrees.

I naturally assumed, that you being an expert in accident investigation, would have understood the lexicon of the business.
No you didn't.

Actually, the idea that wire mark evidence was left at the tracks is quite intriguing. Thanks.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 12:01
  #73 (permalink)  
 
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At this point, it would be helpful to locate the original accident report records.

Government organisations never throw anything away, although given this was the early 60s, the records may have been committed to microfiche (microfilm).

All of the original paperwork is preserved somewhere. As far as I am aware, there are no legal reasons for the full contents of the original investigation to be witheld and suitably targetted freedom of information requests may yield results.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 14:44
  #74 (permalink)  
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At this point, it would be helpful to locate the original accident report records.
I'd love to. The National Archives tells there's nothing on file except the official reports. Everything from the CAB was turned over to them. I'm hoping my NWA contacts may turn up something. And as I mentioned it's possible someone involved in the investigation still has records, which is the reason for going public with what is a work in progress.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 14:54
  #75 (permalink)  
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what with you continually telling us the CAB, ALPA and posters here don't know crap.
Don't misquote me. I don't question the root cause of the accident, and didn't accuse anyone of not knowing crap.

What I said was that the CAB misinterpreted the breakup sequence, probably because it wasn't very important to them. I think the ALPA followed the CAB lead. In the course of this I've discovered the Chicago Tribune graphic which shows they went public on the day of the crash with a bogus scenario. That's the bit about the plane being upside down, which you dismissed as not germane.

As I say in my document, I don't know that I have the real scenario but there is enough information to show the official scenario is wrong. To be precise, I said

It's clear enough that the ALPA and CAB were wrong about the breakup, but that alone does not prove my reconstruction is correct.
That doesn't sound like someone saying that no one else knows crap.
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Old 13th Mar 2016, 17:16
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A couple more snippets from my document

Not being a pilot, there are things I don't understand. I want to know what Electra pilots would do in this situation. I would like to find more pictures and perhaps debris maps, to verify details I've had to guess. Given the limited documentation I stumbled on, an attempted belly landing seems like the best explanation. Even so, for most of this effort I'm beyond my depth.
I've tried to present it in as much detail as possible, to show the ways in which it is either congruent or conflicting with the evidence. I've shown my conclusions and also how I got there, because there may be errors in my method as much as my results.
Doesn't sound like I'm claiming to be the source of all knowledge.
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Old 14th Mar 2016, 00:42
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From the Lockheed Martin website

"Every so often employees at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics are asked to clean house. They go through their desk drawers and file cabinets to discard old and unnecessary materials to make space for the new.
This process often results in unearthing items of historical significance. This was the case in 1990 and again 2006, when concepts or advanced design drawings, reports, and other documents dating back to the 1940s and 50s were found.
When the Lockheed facility in Burbank, California, was shutting down in the early 1990s, all the commercial aircraft data for aircraft such as the Constellation, L-188 Electra, and L-1011 TriStar was moved to Marietta, Georgia.
The file cabinets of data were placed in a warehouse for distribution to various groups. The Field Service group (now known as Technical Operations) inherited a large number of cabinets, including those for the L-188. While searching through the contents of those cabinets, three ring binders were found that were chock full of preliminary aircraft designs numbered CL-xxx, which stood for California-Lockheed.
Bill Slayton, a Burbank customer support employee, realized the historical importance of data available to him through the Advanced Design group. Slayton gathered descriptions, three-view drawings and isometric drawings and compiled these into a remarkable collection of the Lockheed advanced designs.
Slayton stored the data in the L-188 cabinets, most likely because the cabinets happened to have an empty drawer. Most of the CL-xxx collection has never seen the light of day."

Seems like a good place to make enquiries for a start. They will certainly have had an interest in the accident report.

Even if the documents are no longer with Lockheed Martin, they are likely to have gone to a university, aviation library, or some other organisation or individual with a particular interest in the history of avaiation. They should certainly be able to provide you with some clues as to where to continue your searches.
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Old 14th Mar 2016, 03:22
  #78 (permalink)  
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Thanks, great idea. I'll pursue that.
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Old 14th Mar 2016, 16:28
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Some Background Information

For those who don't want to trawl through all the documentation, some basic information about the Lockheed Electra.

The aircraft is a four engine turboprop which first entered service in January 1959. The aircraft had a very good power to weight ratio with short wings and huge propellers giving very good short field performance.

Two notable accidents in September 1959 and March 1960 were attributed to wing failure caused by the gyroscopic forces from the propeller disks causing the engine mounts to fail. This whirl mode failure was addressed by strengthening the wing and engine mounts and by altering the mountings to run the engines at an angle of three degrees in relation to the wings.

Four other accidents could be attributed to crew handling errors and one to bird strike where three of the four engines were affected.

The seventh accident (this one) occured in September 1961 at Chicago O'Hare airport as the aircraft climbed after take off. The aileron control cable separated leaving the aircraft with a full right wing low input. The aircraft initially climbed but the roll command could not be counteracted by the crew and the plane eventually crashed.

At present, only summary reports of the accident and press photos appear to be available to re-examine what happened. The summary reports appear to have some conflicting information regarding the final few seconds of the flight and the final disposition of the wreckage.

Did the pilots have any measure of control over the aircraft?
Did they somehow manage to attempt a belly landing?

The documents available so far, do not support this idea, but some of the data in the accident summaries has been given without context or supporting data.

There is no evidence that the investigators at the time took any shortcuts in the investigation, or that a less than thorough job was carried out. It is an unfortunate fact that no comment on the pilot's performance appears in the documents currently available.

Public confidence in the Lockheed Electra was severely damaged by this series of accidents and no further airframes were built after 1961.

It is significant that remedial upgrades and strengthening of the aircraft were so successful that it was not until 1971 that another incident involving structural failure of a Lockheed Electra in a thunderstorm occured.

Out of a total of 170 airframes built, 58 remain in service or could be restored to flying condition. The US Navy anti submarine patrol aircraft and NASA storm chaser aircraft are based on the Lockheed Electra airframe, which gives a measure of just how successful and robust the aircraft became.
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Old 14th Mar 2016, 21:09
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This may seem glaringly obvious, but I assume you have approached the NTSB regarding any original files or evidence relating to this accident? It was only a few years after this accident that the CAB became the NTSB.
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