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Help researching 1961 Electra crash

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Help researching 1961 Electra crash

Old 21st Sep 2017, 20:10
  #121 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by G0ULI View Post
My impression from the sparse documentation at the time is that the initial efforts were devoted to recovering the casualties from the crash. Mapping of the wreckage wasn't initially seen as a priority, hence the confusion about the engine location(s). Nobody bothered to map it all out until the third day, when reports indicated that all the major parts of the airframe and engines were accounted for.
The overall site image from the impact end (page 41 of my latest version) appears to show a thin white line going off to the upper left with people along that line. The tracks are blocked, and they were reported cleared on the first day. Shadows indicate this image is about noon. I take that while line to be a measuring tape, so it suggests they were mapping on day one very soon after the smoke was gone.

Cockpit resource management was in its relative infancy in those days. The crew would most likely be looking to the Captain to direct attempts to recover the aircraft, so probably not a lot of discussion, rather orders to perform certain actions.
That was my guess, and how I described it in my cockpit resources document mentioned above, but I have no practical experience.

I wonder whether any of the current generation of P3 Orion pilots can give any insights considering that the two aircraft types are closely related.
That's the kind of feedback I'd really like to get. I'm frustrated by an acquaintance who lives near me. He's a retired Northwest Electra (among other types) pilot, and he refuses to look at this project or discuss it in any way. Mumph.
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Old 21st Sep 2017, 20:18
  #122 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by Concours77 View Post
Have you tried 'Failure Analysis' in Menlo Park, California? They might be of some help in (forensic) animation? PM me for contact info on a P-3 Navy Pilot.

Was whirl mode (investigation or AD) in play at the time of the crash?
PM sent.

Whirl mode was brought up in passing, but never seriously considered. The more curious question has to do with airspeed and height. The official reports say the plane was "somewhat low" or words to that effect, but when it passed the tower it was about half the normal height. It was only doing about 165 knots when it hit and should have been doing 225 if I recall right.

There was extensive investigator discussion of engine failure as a cause as reported in the papers, but then in the official reports there is not a word about the low and slow path. My simulation says that just a little more speed would have saved them, and the official report concludes that they were too low to effect recovery, but there's no hypothesis given to explain the flight path.
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Old 21st Sep 2017, 21:58
  #123 (permalink)  
 
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I have looked in vain for a detailed cutaway drawing of the wing showing the routing of the aileron and engine controls. I was wondering if the aileron control cables or turnbuckle could have recoiled and interfered with the engine controls, rolling the power back a bit on that side. That would certainly increase the bank angle by reducing propellor wash across the wing. It all rather depends on whether all the control cables were routed along a single channel in the wing, something I have been unable to establish.

If this was possible and did occur, that would suggest that the aileron cable parted during the takeoff run while the aircraft was still on the ground. The reduced power available could account for the slow acceleration and climb characteristics observed.

That does give rise to all sorts of questions as to whether such a power rollback would be reflected in the cockpit controls or be detectable by the crew.
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Old 21st Sep 2017, 22:15
  #124 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by G0ULI View Post
I have looked in vain for a detailed cutaway drawing of the wing showing the routing of the aileron and engine controls. I was wondering if the aileron control cables or turnbuckle could have recoiled and interfered with the engine controls, rolling the power back a bit on that side. That would certainly increase the bank angle by reducing propellor wash across the wing. It all rather depends on whether all the control cables were routed along a single channel in the wing, something I have been unable to establish.
The cabling ends at the boost unit which for ailerons is midship. The actuating force to the ailerons is carried within the wings by push-pull tubes. I presume that's one reason the emergency response to a cable failure is to switch to autopilot. The autopilot controls the boost unit hydraulically, bypassing all cabling.
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Old 21st Sep 2017, 22:43
  #125 (permalink)  
 
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Hi.

Whirl mode ending in fatal impact was well described in the two accidents I reviewed. My experience as pax in the Electra involved seated portside abeam the engines and witnessing it first hand. It is impressive. In my case the aircraft was short, and full power added whilst level at one hundred feet. The two port engines were wobbling and the aircraft was shaking so bad the passengers were alarmed. There were a couple of screams as I recall.

In the takeoff roll, at rotation, the stresses are at max on the mounts, and whirl mode is one loose motor mount away.

Have you the logs and maintenance records? I would consider whirl mode, especially as one engine left the airframe before the others?
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Old 22nd Sep 2017, 01:14
  #126 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by Concours77 View Post
Whirl mode ending in fatal impact was well described in the two accidents I reviewed. My experience as pax in the Electra involved seated portside abeam the engines and witnessing it first hand. It is impressive.
I never saw it while flying in an Electra. After my dad's crash I was probably on one three or four times. Thought it was a good plane. A friend shared that he'd noticed it on at least one occasion. All I can say is that after the wing geometry changes there were no more catastrophic instances, and of course the P3 is still going strong.

Have you the logs and maintenance records? I would consider whirl mode, especially as one engine left the airframe before the others?
I have almost nothing. Got a whole bunch of manuals supplied by a few retired NWA pilots and from downloads. Got the press photos that triggered this whole thing. Got the official reports and a bunch of newspaper archive stories.

A friend has an in with some Lockheed folks; he hopes to shake something loose. Lockheed has a reputation for saving documentation, but they've never answered my requests. One reason for putting this project out in front of the public is to get some buzz going, and maybe a FOAF will come forward with some musty folders. Small hope, but that's about all I have.
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Old 28th Sep 2017, 23:53
  #127 (permalink)  
 
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Been a while since I worked on the Electra as a maintainer. A few practical notes I can add; when we would deactivate the Autopilot, we would do so by depowering via a three phase ganged circuit breaker. The AP amp & cb were in the avionics rack on the flight deck at floor level,just behind & to the right of the FE's position. I flew many times on the flight deck & as the Electra was prone to Dutch roll,we would pull & reset the AP cb. It is extremely (impossible) unlikely for the flight controls and engine power controls to mechanically interfere. The engine controls being routed along the wing leading edge & flying controls along the trailing edge. They are also physically separated on the flight deck & within the fuselage.
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Old 30th Sep 2017, 11:54
  #128 (permalink)  
 
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woptb

Thanks for the info. Another possible issue eliminated in determining exactly what happened and the sequence of events.
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Old 9th Nov 2017, 05:38
  #129 (permalink)  
 
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Extremely poor quality film footage of crash site....

Dear Mr. Hagstrom:
On YouTube there is a video that contains an amateur film of the crash site. I'm not allowed to post URLs, but you can find it easily by knowing the title is "Chicago O'Hare Takeoffs and Landings From 1961 Video 1" and it was uploaded by davidevo2

Crash scene footage begins at 3:42. The camera work is absolutely horrible, but it does briefly show, for example, workmen up on the power lines who appear to be inspecting things rather than doing repairs. A large amount of the footage is shots of the power lines, in fact.

I can't make heads nor tails of most of it it's so shaky, blurry, and constantly shifting...except I could tell the flowers in one shot are sunflowers because I know sunflowers well enought to recognize them no matter how lousy the filming. Which is my optimistic way of expressing the very faint hope, since you know the scene so well, that you might likewise spot something recognizable that would help answer some of your questions. And even if it's no help at all, I thought you might want to know about it. Wishing you all best with your research, c
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Old 9th Nov 2017, 13:16
  #130 (permalink)  
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Wow, that's incredible, thank you very much.

The photographer must have been very excited, because it's just all over the place. I presume the scaffold near the powerline is something to support the slack wires over perhaps a road or a railroad line until they are tightened, but that's a guess. I'll freeze-frame it and see what I can see.

He's got an excellent frame or two of the initial impact, showing wing fragments left on the east side of the track. There's some clue to the depth of the impact hole where I suspect engine four hit. The sequence as a whole gives me a much better feel for the terrain than I had before. It looks like the photographer was on the access road and on an embankment east of the tracks. It's going to take a little time to map this out.

This must have been several hours after the crash, possibly the following day. That scaffold wouldn't go up instantly, but it looks like a portable rig that would be pretty quick to handle.

It's going to take some time to process this. Thank you.
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Old 9th Nov 2017, 21:25
  #131 (permalink)  
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The entire sequence was just over 2900 frames. About 820 of those were clear enough and stable enough to be useful. He appeared to shoot from three locations - (1) close to the main fuselage first impact site in the trees, about 300 feet west of the tracks, (2) just east and below the tracks and virtually under the high tension line, and (3) on a hill east of the tracks, elevated above them and slightly southwest of position #2. Since he was panning I should be able to map his location pretty closely.

The scaffolding looks like a permanent installation, not a temporary structure. It appears to have concrete footings. It doesn't seem to have any equipment. It's possible the platform on top supports lights that aren't obvious from this angle.

Three panoramas made from these sequences might be instructive.
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Old 9th Nov 2017, 21:34
  #132 (permalink)  
 
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Very glad if it ends up helping at all.

Also, I didn't see any mention of this in this forum or your PDF, so forgive me if I'm telling you something you already know. And I don't want to get you all excited about what may be nothing.

However, ALPA's archives are not with NARA. Instead they chose Wayne State University as their repository. As before, I can't post a URL, but try

reuther[dot]wayne[dot]edu[slash]taxonomy[slash]term[slash]9

and if that's incomprehensible look for the Walter P. Reuther Library site, Collections.

I didn't see a direct reference to this crash in the (admittedly few) collection descriptions I skimmed through. But there are a lot of records, with a descriptive PDF for each sub-collection within the ALPA group. And there are definitely documents and correspondence from 1961 and 1962, though the catalog is not necessarily specific enough to trust with regard to details of every document in every box. And none of it appears to be digitized, so you'd be in for a long, dusty slog through a ton of old paper.

Still, on the off chance it might help.

Cheers,
c
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Old 10th Nov 2017, 18:10
  #133 (permalink)  
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Wow, thanks again. I found the crash records in Box 12 folder 1. Now I need to contact a human.

Meanwhile, I've finished two composites. One is practically standing on top of the impact site. He was probably chased away from there pretty quickly. That they didn't have perimeter control at that point tells me he was shooting on the afternoon of the crash. The second is from his final shooting location, a hill southeast of the railroad track first impact point.

https://ibb.co/nasY7b

https://ibb.co/g83Fnb

I'm working on a third, taken under the power lines. There are fewer visual cues to tie the images together, and he took two sequences from slightly different locations.

Pretty amazing to see this after all these years.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 00:51
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Astonishing! I never expected to see colour images after all this time.

I note that there are regular poorly focused vertical and horizontal markings spread across the still frames. I initially thought that suggested filming through a wire fence, but watching the video reveals these are apparently just scratch marks on the film. I would guess the lens as being the equivalent of a 200 or 400mm modern zoom lens. Pretty hard to get steady hand held shots and probably no compensation in the viewfinder from more normal wide angle lenses. I believe the other aircraft shots were made with a tripod support if they are all by the same photographer.

I think the chaotic panning was simply an effort to try and include all of the scene, shooting handheld while not having a decent viewfinder to confirm what was being filmed.

Truly remarkable what turns up on the Internet.

Last edited by G0ULI; 11th Nov 2017 at 01:23.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 00:59
  #135 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by G0ULI View Post
Astonishing! I never expected to see colour images after all this time.

I note that there are regular poorly focused vertical and horizontal markings spread across the still frames. That suggests filming was through some form of wire fencing, perhaps installed to keep wildlife and people off the railroad track. That might help to establish the camera position exactly.
I think the vertical lines are scratches on the film. This was 8mm, and probably converted to digital form after at least 35 years of being played mechanically. There's a very curious horizontal line in the foreground on the left side of the composite done near the crash site. I really don't know what to make of that. There is also a wire draped higher up in that image, which suggests the plane managed to go entirely underneath it.

I've heard back from Wayne State U, and they'll be looking for the crash materials next week. The ALPA never answered my emails, so I had pretty much no hope of getting their stuff. This is a real gift, but as I told my wife it will make for a long weekend! Lockheed-Martin also never answered, and Delta couldn't begin to care about NW history. Next week should be interesting.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 10:22
  #136 (permalink)  
 
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In the first panoramic composite, the power lines can be seen descending at the extreme right side of the image. There are two parallel lines clearly visible.

The second composite would appear to have been framed looking between the two power lines that are descending from left to right across the image.

The angles and spacings look very similar considering the difference in scale caused by changing the filming position.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 10:36
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This is quite a development. Some amazing information from cordwainer. It'll be very interesting to see what Wayne State University have in their archives.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 15:31
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I'm still trying to nail down where he was. He shows no sign of zooming, but he could have had something like a 3-lens turret, pretty common for a movie camera of the era. If you compare the AtImpact image with the press photo that I use for my overhead view in my document (page 41), He's somewhere on a line roughly between point Y and the lower left corner of the image. He could conceivably be filming through the railroad wires running beside the tracks.

His second shooting position was down below that structure I mentioned earlier, and if you view the video its footing is clearly quite a bit above him. Also note in the OverTrack image that there's a power pole on his near side of the track almost between him and the impact site (the red spot in the distance), and the next power pole to the left is on the opposite side of the track. So the low-voltage line crosses the track at that point, and presumably the high-tension line does as well. The highest two frames of the OverTrack image show the bottom conductor of the high-tension line. On page 70 of my document you can just barely pick out a couple poles at the bottom of the picture, and see that the power lines are crossing the tracks.

At the pole in front of him, the lines drop down quite quickly but are parallel and under some tension at least. It appears that the string of poles is dropping down into the lower elevation from which he filmed up at the structure (landing lights?). So the droop on the right side of the OverTrack image is not severed lines, and if they were cut it was beyond a following pole off to the right.

I'll work on a composite from that lower vantage some more. It's pretty terrible film.

booke23 - this is what I keep begging for, and the reason I release my research in stages. I ask people to pass it around in the hopes that it will come to the attention of someone who knows where to find documentation.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 17:03
  #139 (permalink)  
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I've uploaded an aerial photo of O'Hare from 1961. Forgot I had the thing.

https://ibb.co/krms0w

Last edited by BRDuBois; 11th Nov 2017 at 17:26.
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Old 11th Nov 2017, 18:35
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Truly thrilled the ALPA archive may be of help.

I should be clear, I'm not a pilot. But your project is exceptionally intriguing from the standpoint of accomplishing a kind of time travel - creating a window into the past where you can view the scene as it was on the dates of and surrounding the crash.

So while I'm of no use when it comes to analysis of the flight sequence, I can at least try to locate other information out there useful for purposes of identification, mapping, and orientation around the site.

I'll also keep working on ferreting out other sources where photos, documents, or footage are hiding.

BTW, I don't want to clog the thread, so please let me know if you'd prefer PMs to posts.

A few last notes though: with regard to nailing down exact locations, have you done any comparisons with topo maps from the time period? Or with the various City of Chicago planning documents for O'Hare ? Together they might provide clues to structures and features for orientation, are drawn exactly to scale, and in the case of the topos and one engineering report provide info on elevation and terrain.

There are USGS historic maps available for free, none from 1961 , but I can point you to a 1957 Chicago quadrangle and a 1963 Elmhurst map with enough detail they may be of use.

Several O'Hare master-plan documents are available in the Internet Archive. They contain quite a number of maps, diagrams, and photos potentially relevant to your re-creation...though you'd be the best judge of that, of course. 1958 master plan volumes are avaiable, including the first-stage Engineering report, also the 1960 fueling system agreement and the 1962 Revenue Bond Improvement plan which probably contain the most contemporaneous look at the airport and area.

I can also look, if you like, for surveys and documents from public utilities, and from the rail companies tangentially involved (if I'm reading the maps and reports correctly those would be the Chicago and North Western or the C.M.St.P&P or both). It's possible their files might even include information from the crash and/or related repairs.

Um...nonetheless, if any of these are way off the mark, please let me know. Likewise if there is anything in particular you think would be useful. I actually enjoy historic research, and would be pleased to be of assistance wherever possible.

Cheers,
c
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