Topics - C-46D Crash
Japan - February 1, 1954

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On February 1, 1954, a US Air Force Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando (tail number 44-78027) had an in-flight fire in the main cabin while flying over the Japan.  Thirty minutes prior to that it had taken off at Misawa AFB.  The pilot tried to ditch the aircraft in the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido.  He lost control of the plane and it crashed into the sea, killing all 35 onboard.  After reporting the fire in the cargo hold and that a ditching was imminent, the last message from the aircraft was, "I've lost control of the aircraft.  We're going in." The plane crashed 30 km south of Tomakomai.  Japanese on a nearby shore said that they saw the plane's distress signal and some open parachutes as the aircraft lost altitude.

According to an Air Force spokesman, some open parachutes and an oil slick were spotted by search planes, but a big blizzard had hit Hokkaido just a couple of days before and the water was very cold.  There was also light snow.  The spokesman said that a man could stay alive only a few minutes in the frigid water.  The disaster occurred in a very short time, and reports stated that the occupants were probably trapped in the aircraft, thus preventing escape.

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Most recent update to this page: March 23, 2020

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Fatalities
    • Five crew members missing in action
    • Twenty-eight passengers missing in action
    • Two passengers' bodies recovered
  • Bios of the Crew and Passengers
  • Extract - Airways and Air Communications Service
  • Cover Letter to Report of Special Investigation
  • Report of Special Investigation


Five crew members remain missing in action:

  • Adams, A2C William Jr. - radio operator
  • Morrison, 1Lt. Donald Robert - instr. pilot
  • Raveling, A2C Marvin Oscar - flight engineer
  • Shirley, 1Lt. Donald Boyd - pilot
  • VanValkenburgh, 2Lt. Dean - co-pilot

Twenty-eight passengers remain missing in action:

  • Biconish, M/Sgt. John
  • Bingham, Sgt. Daniel A. - Sta Compl, 8196yh AU
  • Burkett, Col. Leo B. - HQ 1st Cav Arty
  • Chandler, WOJG Edward Bailey - Hq & Hq Det, 27th Ord Bn
  • Collins, M/Sgt. Glen V. - 8196 AU,1st Cav Div
  • Combs, Capt. Hubert W. Jr. - SVC Co, 5th Cav Regt
  • Dean, 1Lt. Thomas Edgel "Tommie" - Hv Mort Co, 7th Cav
  • Deevers, Lt. Col. John Murray - 1st Cav Div/TDY W/8-16 AU
  • Haley, Maj. William - 15th Med Bn
  • Hultsch, Capt. Elmer H. - G-3, HQ 1st Cav Div
  • Iverson, 2Lt. Donald J. - 5th Cav Rgt
  • Johnston, SFC Charles H. - 7th Cav Rgt
  • Jones, SFC Robert W. - Hq Co, 1st Cav Div
  • Loucke, SFC Robert T.
  • Lucas, Cpl. William H.
  • Lumley, Capt. James A. - Hq, 2d Bn, 5th Cav
  • Manos, SFC Leo E. - 27th Ord Bn
  • McClellan, CWO Bennie O. - 5th Cav Rgt
  • McCloskey, SFC Ranny Jarrold
  • McDonald, Maj. C.I.
  • Mosher, Capt. Howard D. - Hq G-2, 1st Cav Div
  • Neece, SFC James W.- 82nd FA Bn
  • Oppenheimer, WOJG Paul K. - Hq 1st Cav Div (G-2)
  • Osborne, A/2C Harold Gene
  • Record, 1Lt. Glenn Hubert
  • Riesberg, WOJG F.J.
  • Schimpf, Capt. T.J.
  • Stewart, SFC William H. - 8th Engr "C" Bn

Two passengers' bodies were recovered:

  • Peterson, SFC Harold S. - 8196th AU - body recovered from coastal water off Hokkaido after the accident.  Death was attributed to drowning in extremely chilly waters.
  • Van Hoesen, Sgt. William - body recovered from the water off the island of Hokkaido shortly after the accident.  Death was attributed to drowning in extremely chilly waters.

Bios of the Crew and Passengers

William Adams Jr.

William was born December 2, 1929, the son of William Adams Sr. and Rosie Adams of Dallas, Texas.  Rosie's name was Rosie Bell at the time of her son's death.

John Biconish

John was born November 16, 1924, a son of Nicholas Biconish (1898-1993) and Catherine Biconish (1906-1989) of New York.  His siblings were Anthony N. Biconish and Anna Biconish Krywnak (1921-2012).

Daniel A. Bingham

Daniel was born April 12, 1926.  He was the husband of Mrs. Lucy Domingo Bingham (1925-2011).  There is a marker for Daniel and Lucy in the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix, Arizona.

Leo B. Burkett

Colonel Burkett was born August 07, 1915, a son of Ed Burkett (1886-1974) and Auda Smith Burkett (1892-1972).  He is memorialized in Clopton Cemetery, Newcastle, Oklahoma.  He was the brother of Roy Edward Burkett (1914-1989), Margaret Louise (Mrs. Marshall Carpenter) (1916-2013), Robert Orland Burkett (1917-2010), Gordon Willis Burkett (1919-2007), Mary M. Houck (1921-1982), and Gerald Burkett.

Edward Bailey Chandler

Edward was born June 27, 1921 and the KWE believes that he had a twin brother, Edwin Marshall Chandler (6/27/1921-1/08/1981).  Both men were lost at sea.  There are markers for them in the Riverside Cemetery, Demopolis, Alabama.  Edward's wife was Dolores D. Chandler.

Glen V. Collins

Born November 17, 1920, M/Sergeant Collins was a military policeman assigned to the 8196th AU, 1st Cavalry Division.  He had at least one child: Michael Collins.

Robert W. Combs Jr.

Born April 26, 1925, Robert's next of kin was Mrs. D.B. Combs.

Thomas Edgel "Tommie" Dean

Tommie Dean was born March 30, 1930 in Charleston, West Virginia, the son of Claude Okey Dean (1902-1967) and Mabel Camilla Seward Dean (who later married Ernest Edward Curtis).  Tommie was married to Frances Beach Goldstein of Brooklyn, New York, on September 2, 1951 in Guilford, North Carolina.  He attended military school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for two years, and then worked for a while for Erwin-Wasey Advertising Company in New York.  He joined the service on November 01, 1948, trained with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, and then attended officer candidate school.  He received a commission in the 1st Cavalry.  In 1952 he was sent to Japan, but returned to the States to accompany his wife and two daughters (ages two and a half years old and one year old) to Japan.  He was (possibly) a half-sibling of Loretta Ann Dean-Quinton of Lampasas, Texas.  This has not been confirmed.

John Murray Deevers

Murray was born August 28, 1909 in Arkansas, a son of William Fred Deevers (1876-1953) and Floy Murray Deevers (1882-1961).  He was married to Wilma Bartley Deevers (1911-1992).  His siblings were Charles Deevers (1900-1961), L.E. Devers (1903-1978), and Sallie Deevers Henderson (Mrs. Ertle Ray Henderson 1906-1988).  Lt. Colonel Deevers was the commander of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion that participated in the capture of the Bridge of Remagen during World War II.  In his local community of Pocahontas, Mississippi, he was a scout master. 

William Haley

William was born August 5, 1920 and his next of kin was Mrs. Anne Haley.

Elmer Herman Hultsch

Captain Hultsch was born October 24, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois.  He married Cecilia Ann McGinley (December 12, 1916), and they had two daughters, Margaret Carola Hultsch (Furlong) and Maureen Ceceila Hultsch (1943-2014).  Maureen was a Lt. Commander in the Navy during the Vietnam War.  [KWE Note: This entry is incomplete.  Further information is needed.]

Donald J. Iverson

Born May 19, 1929, Donald's wife was Barbara J. Iverson.

Charles H. Johnston

Born May 8, 1929, Charles was from Clearfield, Pennsylvania.  He was the husband of Janice J. Johnston and the father of two children.  They lived in Butler, Pennsylvania.  His mother was Mrs. Clarence Sipes of Tonawanda, New York.

Robert W. Jones

Sergeant Jones was born on August 25, 1917, a son of Myron Wayman Jones (1892-1961) and Lois Terrasy Rinker Jones (1895-1964).  He was survived by a son, James Alan Jones (1950-1996) and siblings Alberta L. "Suzy" Jones Williamson (Mrs. Mark C. Williamson 1918-2019), Eugene Willard Jones (1921-2013), Marvin Leo Jones (1922-2011) and Lois Jones Boydstun.  There is a memorial marker for him in Anderson Memorial Park, Anderson, Indiana.

Robert T. Loucks

Robert was born November 19, 1920 and his next of kin was Mrs. Grace L. Loucks.  The KWE believes that Grace was Grace Lenora McRaney Loucks Graham (1925-1989) of Mississippi.  She is listed on the Internet as marrying Robert T. Loucks in 1942 in Mississippi.  She married Ernest Malcom Graham in 1960.  Robert and Grace had one child.

William H. Lucas

William was born May 18, 1931 in Congers, New York, a son of Mr. and Mrs. William Lucas.  He graduated from Congers High School in 1949 and entered the military service in 1952.  William and his brother Richard were outstanding players on Congers High School championship soccer teams.  After basic training he was sent to the combat zone in Korea.  He was married to Annie Lucas of Congers.  There is a memorial to him at St. Peters Cemetery, Haverstraw, New York.  Corporal Lucas attended Crafts Training School for ten days in January 1954.

James Alvin Lumley

James was born March 04, 1911 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a son of James Alvin Lumley Sr. (1878-1959) and Della Ressie Barrett Lumley (1877-1956).  He married Dorothy Pearl Miller (1921-1985) and they had a son Alvin Lee Lumley (1945-1995).  Captain Lumley's siblings were William V. Lumley (1900-1901), Pansy E. Lumley Graham (1902-1992), Violet S. Disher (1904-1999), Rosa Lucile Lumley (1907-1907), Lillie Frances Lumley (1908-1916) and an infant brother (1914-1914).  There is a marker for James in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Durham, North Carolina.  He was a World War II and Korean War veteran.

Leo E. Manos

Leo was born March 21, 1910, and was the husband of Mrs. Heidi Manos.

Benjamin "Benny" Oscar McClellan

WO McClellan was born August 20, 1916 in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and lived there most of his life.  He was a son of Frank LeRoy "Roy" McClellan (1893-1974) and Carrie Viola Johnston McClellan (1894-1970).  He was married to Irene Baker.  Benny attended public schools in Oil City and enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1933.  In 1940 his unit was called into federal service.  During World War II he fought in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.  After the war he worked for the Pennzoil Company, but reenlisted in 1947.  In June of 1952 he sailed from the state of Washington to Japan and saw service in Korea.  He was transferred to Japan in April of 1953.  His siblings were Rev. Archie V. McClellan (1911-1985), Glenn Leo McClellan (1913-2002), Eugene L. McClellan (1922-2007), Bill McClellan, Bob McClellan, Mary Lou McClellan, Betty Irene McClellan (1935-1967), James E. McClellan (1929-2015), Raymond L. McClellan (1920-1999), John McClellan, Ruth Florence McClellan (1917-2006), Beatrice Ardella McClellan Cosper (1924-2001), and Melvin E. McClellan (1927-2008).

Ranny Jerrold McCloskey

Ranny was born in Fresno, California, son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard J. McCloskey of Selma, California.

C.I. McDonald

Major McDonald was born March 18, 1912.

Howard D. Mosher

Captain Mosher was born November 21, 1915, and his wife was Celia T. Mosher.

Donald Robert Morrison

Donald was born September 16, 1925.

James W. Neece

SFC Neece was born in April of 1920.  His wife was Myrtle B. Neece.

Paul K. Oppenheimer

Born December 28, 1915, his next of kin was Margarete Oppenheimer.

Harold Gene Osborne

Born July 10, 1933, Harold was a son of John Samuel Osborne (1905-1988) and Othella E. Bolton Osborne (1913-2000) of Russell Springs, Kentucky.  His siblings were John W. Osborne and Mrs. Bill (Geraldine) Marcum.  There is a memorial to him at Russell Springs Cemetery, Russell Springs.

Harold S. Peterson

Born on August 26, 1919, Harold was the husband of Barbara E. Peterson.  He was a member of the 8196th Army Unit at the time of the aircraft accident.  Harold is buried in Ft. Benning Post Cemetery, Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Marvin Oscar Raveling

Marvin was born August 04, 1931, son of Fred Raveling and Vivian C. Raveling of Linn Grove, Iowa.  Marvin's home address at the time of the accident was Rembrandt, Buena Vista County, Iowa.

Glenn Hubert Record

Glenn was born October 03, 1926 in Bourbon, Missouri, son of Charles Thomas Record (1891-1973) and Joy Mildred Johnson Record (1892-1980).  He married Genevieve Louise Copeland (later Wade 1929-2009) and they had a son.  He later married Mary Kathryn Glasby (1930-2015) in 1952.  She arrived in Japan in January of 1954 and was living there when her husband's plane crashed.  Mary Kay later married Loren Goetz.  There is a memorial to Glenn in High Gate Baptist Cemetery, High Gate, Missouri.

F.J. Riesberg

WOJG Riesberg was born March 19, 1919.

Thomas Joseph Schimpf

Born on April 09, 1923, son of Joseph George Schimpf and Elizabeth Schimpf of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  T.J.'s wife was Joan Carey Schimpf (1922-2003).  They had three daughters: Christine, Susan Joan, and Elizabeth.  There is a memorial to Thomas in Arlington National Cemetery.

Donald Boyd Shirley

Donald was born October 03, 1920, was the husband of Evelyn Essie Tyree Shirley (1923-1959) and the father of Allen Ray Shirley of Spokane, Washington.  His mother was Mrs. Inez Shirley of Opportunity, Washington and his sister was Bernice Shirley Smith of Spokane, Washington.  Donald's father was deceased at the time of the plane crash.  Donald entered the military on August 1, 1942 and was discharged on November 28, 1945. He married Shirley on March 13, 1944 in Spokane. Donald reentered active military service on May 28, 1951 after the Korean War broke out. 

William H. Stewart

Born September 17, 1924, he was the husband of Maria Stewart.

William Van Hoesen

William was a member of H&S Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.  He was born October 06, 1915 and was the husband of Lois Van Hoesen.  He received a short leave of absence to meet his family during their arrival to Japan in January 1954.  His body was one of two recovered from the crash.

Dean Van Volkenburgh

Dean was born January 19, 1929, the son of Dale S. VanVolkenburgh and Margaret M. VanVolkenburgh of Manhattan, Kansas.  His wife was Mrs. Jacqueline J. VanVolkenburgh of Wichita, Kansas.  Dean entered military service on July 25, 1951. 


Airways & Air Communications Service
AACS Detachment 1953-3 - 1953D AACS Squadron
APO 309-1, c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, California



Schedule 201, a C-46, called and said he had a fire in the cockpit, that he would have to ditch the aircraft in the straights.  Tower notified crash, base operations, and the dispensary via the crash phone.


Pilot called tower to advise he was losing control of the aircraft.


Pilot called tower to advise he lost control of the aircraft and was going in approximately ten (10) minutes South of the Chitose homer.  Tower asked him if he couldn't make it to the beach, and the pilot said, "Negative tower," which was the last transmission tower received from this aircraft.  At this time Japan Air 007 was inbound to this station and said he would try to find the wreckage and report a position.


9085, An Air Sea Rescue SA-16, taxied out for takeoff.


7485, an Air Sea Rescue H-19, took off for the accident.


9085 airborne and proceeding to the accident.


7485 reported wreckage approximately ten (10) miles south of Tomakomai.  He reported three (3) dye markers and one parachute, but no survivors.


Army 454, an L-19, reported one survivor in the water waving his arms.


A second survivor was reported, 180 degrees from the wreckage approximately five hundred (500) yards away.


9085 advised that the survivor had not been picked up.  Also wanted to get a surface craft to pick up two or three bodies.


9085 advised that the survivor had not been picked up.  Also wanted to get a surface craft to pick up two or three bodies.


Some L-19 reported seeing several bodies floating around the area.  It was believed to be Army 706.


Misawa ADCC advised they were trying to contact a Japanese ship to see if he would go the scene of the accident.


Army 706 called and wanted to know the course, or where the ship was coming from, so he could lead the ship to the wreckage.


9085 reported that he was going to land.  He also said he didn't there were any survivors.


Rescue operations advised that 9085 land and pick up all survivors and bodies.


7485 advised that he was coming back to the base for refueling and that he would return to the accident as soon as possible.


7485 landed, refueling standing by.


9085 called and said he was landing near the accident.


Rescue operations said the ships were going out of Tomakomai.


Army 561 reported 9085 landed and was picking up bodies.


Army 561 said Army 706 was going out to lead the ships to the scene of the accident.


9085 picked up two bodies and said that he will not pick up any more unless there is a sign of life.


Rescue operations advised the ships were on the way.


7485, the B-19, is airborne and on his way back to the accident.  Rescue operations wanted to know if 9085 had taken off yet.  Tower was unable to contact any aircraft in the air.  Do not know if he is airborne or not.


Army 561 advised that 9085 would taxi in closer to shore before taking off.  Will advise later.


Rescue operations wanted to know if 9085 was picking up any ice while he was in the water.  The pilot reported no ice.


Army 706 reported it would be approximately a half hour before the ship would be at the scene of the accident.


Rescue operations advised tower to tell 9085 to take off if possible.  9085 advised that he was going to find some smoother water before trying to take off.  There are four (4) to five (5) foot waves at his present position.


7485 is now twelve (12) miles off the coast and has 9085 below him.


Army 454 reported he would be over the scene of the accident in approximately five (5) minutes.  He is going to climb to an altitude where OCI can get a radar position of the wreckage for possible salvage operation.


7485 reported 9085 is airborne and is returning to Chitose.


7485 landed at Chitose.


9085 landed at Chitose.  Admiration Oscar, a C-47, is standing by at the accident.

1630 (delayed entry)

Relief Briefed.  Weather at the time of the accident was eight thousand (8,000) broken, twenty-two thousand (22,000) thin overcast, visibility three (3) miles with ground fog, wind north at six (6) knots.  This observation was taken at 1346/I and 1630/I.


To the best of my knowledge this is a true copy of the Control Tower Log for 1 February 1954 between the hours of 1346/I and 1630/I.

(signed) Harold E. Hayman, AF 19312857
S/Sgt., 153-3 AACS Detachment


Cover Letter - Report of Special Investigation

Department of the Air Force
Headquarters United States Air Force


Report of Special Investigation of Major Aircraft Accident Involving C-46D Serial No. 44-78027A, 12 miles south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, on 1 February 1954


Commander, Middletown Air Materiel Area
Attn: Maintenance Engineering Services Division
Olmsted Air Force Base, Middletown, Pennsylvania

1.Inclosed [sic] is a report of special investigation conducted by this office of an accident involving a C-46D aircraft which occurred 12 miles south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, on 1 February 1954.  The aircraft was on a 315th Air Division (Combat Cargo) scheduled transport flight when the accident occurred.

2. This accident resulted from a fire in flight that originated in the lower forward cargo compartment.  Due to the loss of the aircraft in the sea, the exact cause of the fire could not be determined.  However, it is probable that leaking hydraulic fluid or anti-icing fluid was ignited by a short circuit in electrical wiring in the vicinity of the station No. 128 bulkhead.  The fire probably destroyed essential flight control components in the sub-cockpit area, causing an uncontrollable descent to the water.

3. When the accident occurred the aircraft was overdue for depot level maintenance (DIR). Its last depot inspection and repair was completed on 2 March 1949 and the aircraft was overdue for DIR after 2 March 1952.  Deterioration of the aircraft that took place during the four years and 11 months since its last depot inspection and repair may have been a contributing factor in the accident.  Nineteen additional C-46 aircraft of the 315th Troop Carrier Wing were overdue for depot level maintenance; 11 of these aircraft received their last DIR in 1949.

4. The absence of a fire detection system in the lower cargo department may have been a contributing factor in the accident.  Due to unsatisfactory operation and maintenance difficulties, the Fenwal (fusible alloy) fire detecting systems in the lower forward cargo compartment had been removed from all C-46 aircraft assigned to the 315th Troop Carrier Wing.  315th Troop Carrier Wing Unsatisfactory Report Station Serial No. 53-19, dated 24 April 1953, contained a recommendation that the Edison fire detection system be installed in C-46 aircraft.  In a letter from Middletown Air Materiel Area to the Commander, Far East Air Logistic Force, subject, "Fenwal and Edison Fire Detectors, C-46 Aircraft," dated 8 July 1953, it was stated that: "Fire detection systems are being manufactured by Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated, in quantities to effect a new installation in all C-46 aircraft.  These will be made available and a technical order will be published at the earliest possible date."  The technical order referred to has not been issued.

5. The recommendations contained in paragraph 3 of this report are submitted for your consideration and reply to this office.

By Order of the Chief of Staff
Victor E. Bertrandias
Major General US Air Force

Report of Special Investigation

Report of Special Investigation of Major Aircraft Accident involving C-46D. Serial No. 44-78027A, 12 miles south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, on 1 February 1954.

The Accident

1. At 1347 I, on 1 February 1054, C-46D aircraft serial no. 44-78027A, assigned to the 344th Troop Carrier Squadron, Tachikawa Air Base (AB), Japan, crashed into the Pacific Ocean, approximately 12 miles south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, while on a scheduled transport flight from Misawa Air Base, Japan, to Chitose Air Base, Japan.  The aircraft was destroyed and two passengers were fatally injured; five crew members and 20 [sic] passengers are missing and are presumed to have been fatally injured.


2. It is concluded that:

a. The primary cause of the accident was an inflight fire that originated in the lower forward cargo compartment (see paragraphs 9, 12, 13 and 15).

b. The fire probably resulted from ignition of leaking hydraulic or anti-icer fluid by sparks or fire from a short circuit in electrical wiring (see paragraphs 9, 12, 13 and 15).

c. The fire probably destroyed essential flight control components in the sub-cockpit area resulting in loss of control of the aircraft (see paragraphs 7 and 9).

d. The absence of a fire detecting system in the lower forward cargo compartment of the aircraft may have allowed the fire to progress in intensity until it could not be controlled after its detection (see paragraph 16).

e. Failure to provide depot level maintenance as C-46 aircraft at intervals required by technical orders has created hazardous aircraft operating conditions (see paragraph 21).


3. It is recommended that the commander, Middletown Air Materiel area. 

a. Expedite action to replace the existing C-46 fire detection system with a more dependable system (see paragraph 16).

b. Insure that all C-46 aircraft receive depot level maintenance at time intervals specified in technical orders (see paragraph 21).

c. Require an inspection of the lower forward cargo compartment in all C-46 aircraft for the presence of leaking volatile fluids or vapors and any possible source of ignition thereof.  In addition, revise T.O. 10-46A-6 to require this inspection be accomplished at each post-flight inspection (see paragraphs 12 and 13).

Action Taken

4. Message No. AFCFS-2D-2-C-95 sent by Office of the Inspector General USAF Norton Air Force Base, California, to Commander, Middletown Air Materiel Area on 16 February 1954, provided information of hydraulic and anti-icing fluid leaks discovered in 315th Troop Carrier Wing C-46 aircraft and the general deterioration of the crashed aircraft, particularly wiring resulting from a five-year period during which no depot level maintenance was performed.  The message also contained a request for action on 3145th Troop Carrier Wing Unsatisfactory Reports (UR's) Station Serial No.'s 53-19 and 53-52.  UR Station Serial No. 53-19 referred to difficulties encountered with the Fenwal (fusible alloy) Fire Detection System on C-46 aircraft and contained a recommendation that the Edison Fire Detection System be installed.  UR Station Serial No. 53-52 contained a recommendation that a fire extinguisher line at bulkhead Station No. 128 be re-routed to prevent chafing of electrical wiring.

5. Message No. AFCFS 2_____ was sent by Office of the Inspector General, USAF, Norton Air Force Base, California, to Commander 315th Air Division, Honshu, Japan, on 5 March 1954 requesting laboratory analysis of recovered wreckage reported in message No. 1G 171-O, dated 4 March 1954 from the Commander 315th Air Division.

6. The recommendation contained a paragraph 3 have been referred by letter to the Commander, Middletown Air Materiel Area for consideration and reply.

History of Flight

7. On 1 February 1954, C-46D Serial No. 44-78027A, departed Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, on "Schedule 201" on a scheduled 315th Air Division transport flight to Chitose Air Base, Japan.  En-route stops were scheduled for Niigata Air Base, Japan and Misawa Air Base, Japan.  The aircraft made a routine flight to Misawa Air Base, stopping en-route to Niigata Air Base to discharge and load passengers, cargo and mail.  At Misawa AB the aircraft remained on the ground approximately 55 minutes while preparations were made for the flight to Chitose AB.  The aircraft, with five aircrew members, 30 passengers, and 427 pounds of cargo aboard, departed Misawa AB at 1309 I after having received the following airways clearance through Misawa tower: "Schedule 201 cleared to the Chitose Airport via Red 7, to cruise and maintain 9,000 feet, to climb on course and to climb visual flight rules (VFR) 5,000 to 7,000 feet."  The pilot acknowledged the clearance and, after take-off, no further transmissions from the aircraft were received by Misawa tower.  The next radio contact with the aircraft was at 1325 I, when the pilot of Schedule 201 requested a change in airways clearance to "500 on top."  Chitose tower replied, advising Schedule 201 to stand-by for Military Airways Traffic Control (MATCON) clearance, and at 1329 I Chitose tower transmitted: "ATC (Air Traffic Control) clears Schedule 201 to descend to and maintain 500 feet on top."  The pilot of Schedule 201 acknowledged the clearance and was further advised by Chitose tower to report when over Chitose homer, 500 feet on top; the pilot acknowledged.  The next radio transmission received from Schedule 201 was at 1346 I.  The Chitose tower operator reported the following radio conversation between 1346 and 1348 I:

Pilot:     Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Schedule 201.

Tower:   Schedule 201, Chitose tower, what is the nature of your emergency?

Pilot:      I have a fire in the cockpit, and I'll have to ditch it in the straits.

Tower:    201 give me a count to about five and I'll give you a course to the base.

Pilot:       Chitose tower, 201, one, two, three, four, five.

Tower:     201 I couldn't get a pattern on my scope, what is your approximate position?

Pilot:        I'm about 10 minutes south of the homer.  Tower, I'm losing control of the

Tower:      201, tower, how many passengers do you have on board the aircraft and
                have they bailed out yet?

                (No answer)

Pilot:          Tower, I've lost control of the aircraft.  We're going in.

Tower:        201, can you make it to the beach?

Pilot:           Negative, tower.

No further transmissions were received from Schedule 201.

8.  Search and rescue aircraft sighted dye-marker, oil, and debris in the water 12 miles south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, at 1418 I.  Five bodies, two of which were recovered, were sighted.  No survivors were found.

Investigation and Analysis

9. The pilot and observer in a B-26 that was flying at 1500 feet altitude approximately 50 miles southwest of the crash scene reported hearing some of the transmissions from Schedule 201 to Chitose tower, and in addition heard: "Chitose this is 201, Mayday.  I have a fire in the baggage compartment.  I may have to ditch.  I'm about 15 minutes south."  The pilots of a civilian airliner, en-route from Misawa to Chitose and a few minutes ahead of Schedule 201, reported hearing the transmission: "I've lost all rudder control and am on trim tabs."  Since the pilot of an aircraft was attempting to contact Chitose tower on several very high frequency (VHF) radio channels during the emergency, and the tower operator was forced to interrupt his communications with Schedule 201 long enough to warn all aircraft of an emergency and advise them to maintain radio silence, it is presumed that the tower operator did not receive the transmission intercepted by the B-26 and the airliner.

10.  Two Air Rescue Service aircraft, an H-19 and an SA-16, had completed a ferry flight to Chitose AB on the morning of 1 February 1954.  When Chitose tower was advised of the emergency the Air Rescue aircrews were present at base operations and were alerted for a rescue "scramble".  Both aircraft were airborne by 1355 I.  Soon afterwards four U.S. Army L-19 aircraft were dispatched from Chitose to aid in the search.  A B-26 in flight approximately 50 miles southwest of the distressed aircraft and a civilian DC-4 in flight approximately 20 miles north of the last reported position of Schedule 201 were diverted by Chitose tower to search for the crashed aircraft.  Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) operators in the area received fragments of distress communications from Schedule 201 and tracked the aircraft by radar until it disappeared.  Japan Air Defense Force communications facilities were utilized to promptly alert the the Rescue Control Center at Misawa AB.  Rescue Control Center in turn established direct wire communications with Chitose tower, and direct radio contact with the SA-16 aircraft airborne on the search.  Rescue Control Center also requested the Japanese Maritime Service to dispatch a surface vessel to the scene as quickly as possible.  At 1413 I the pilots of the H-19 and an L-19 reported sighting wreckage in the water.  The pilot of the H-19 assumed "on the scene" command of the search and rescue effort: he directed the SA-16 and the four L=19's to continue the search for survivors.  As bodies were sighted the B-19 hovered over each one to determine if there was evidence of life.  After the air search failed to locate surviving personnel the SA-16 aircraft landed at 1512 I to recover bodies.  Unfavorable sea conditions prompted the SA-16 aircraft commander to discontinue surface operations after two bodies had been recovered.  At 1647 I a C-47 aircraft arrived at the crash scene and the original search and rescue aircraft returned to base as their fuel supply became low.  At 1730 I a surface vessel arrived to assist in the search.  The air search was discontinued at 10000 I on 2 February 1954 and the surface search was discontinued at 1600 I, 3 February 1954.  Twp life jackets (Mae Wests), a small cardboard box, a sleeping bag, and a seat cushion were the only items located and recovered by surface vessels.  Message No. IG 171-C from the Commander, 315th Air Division, dated 4 March 1954, further reported the recovery of miscellaneous metal aircraft parts, some of which were smoke stained.  Communications and search and rescue facilities is the northern Honshu-southern Hokkaido area were adequate to cope with the emergency, and search and rescue action was prompt and thorough.

11.  When the crash scene was located by search aircraft, approximately 30 minutes after the crash, an oil slick in the shape of a tear drop, with the bulbous portion to the north, was sighted.  The oil slick was approximately 150 yards wide and 400 yards long.  Debris observed within the widest part of the oil slick included unopened and partially inflated life rafts, an oil tank, a gasoline tank, a partially opened parachute, and three partially submerged bodies.  Debris within the tapered portion of the oil slick included unopened parachutes, boxes, papers, life jackets, oxygen bottles, and unidentified small debris.  The distribution of debris and the strength and direction of the surface wind indicate that initially the wreckage was concentrated in a small area, and that the lighter items of debris and those floating high in the water were blown southward during the time interval between the crash and the sighting.  This would indicate the aircraft was out of control and was descending steeply when it crashed.  The sighting of a fuel tank further indicates the aircraft must have struck the sea with great force in order to dislodge the tank from its position in the interior of a wing.  Two bodies and two opened parachutes were found outside of and approximately 300 yards south of the wide portion of the oil slick.  These two bodies were recovered by the crew of a rescue amphibian, autopsy reports indicate that in each case death resulted from drowning and exposure to 35 degree Fahrenheit water. It is probable that these personnel attempted to bail out immediately before the aircraft struck the water, and were able to free themselves from their parachute harnesses before they were incapacitated by exposure to the cold water.  If any personnel survived the crash it is estimated that they could have survived in the 35 degree Fahrenheit water no longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

12.  In the C-46 airplane there is a concentration of lines containing volatile fluids in the lower forward cargo compartment; gasoline lines lead to heaters, anti-icer lines lead from the anti-icer tank in compartment B to two anti-icer pumps at Station 128, hydraulic accumulators are in the area, and a network of hydraulic lines connect to the automatic pilot server.  Maintenance records of the aircraft that crashed indicate that during its last previous major inspection (eighteenth major inspection, completed 24 December 1953) the aircraft hydraulic fittings were tightened due to leaks around all servos.  During the same inspection the battery cover (located forward of Station 128, underneath the cockpit) was found to be saturated with hydraulic fluid, and the "lower hell hole" (beneath the flight deck and immediately forward of Station 128) was very dirty.  On 14 January 1954 a hydraulic leak at the dual equalizer was repaired by tightening a fitting.  Maintenance personnel indicated the aircraft had chronic hydraulic leaks in the lower forward cargo compartment, and was usually "dirty" from hydraulic fluid.  Examination of maintenance records and interrogation of pilots and engineers who recalled previous flights in the aircraft revealed that there had been repeated heater malfunctions in flight.  Repairs consisted of changing spark plugs, glow plugs, and thermostats, but heater malfunctions continued.  There was no evidence of leaks in heater fuel lines, in anti-icer lines, or around anti-icer pumps.  However, as a precautionary measure after the accident, all C-46 aircraft possessed by the 315th Troop Carrier Wing were inspected for anti-icing fluid leaks and five aircraft were found to have leaks at Station 128.  Due to the close grouping near Station 128 of the many lines containing volatile fluids, it could be expected that an undetected fire from any source in the lower forward cargo compartment would quickly burn through hose connections and fluid carrying lines, and would be kindled rapidly by volatile fluids in the area.

13.  Volatile fluids leaking into the lower forward cargo compartment could have been ignited by the cabin heaters, or by an electrical short circuit.  A bundle of electrical wiring, approximately two inches in diameter, is routed through the lower right side of a bulkhead at Station 128.  An electrical function box is located near the center of the same bulkhead.  Other electrical circuits, including those for the cabin heaters and the anti-icer pumps are routed along the left side of the Station 128 bulkhead.  During the 17th major inspection of the aircraft (completed 2 October 1953) it was discovered that electrical wiring was chafing on a drain line at Station 128.  Maintenance personnel repositioned and taped the wiring.  Maintenance records indicated a discrepancy on 6 January 1954, "Right Generator out," and corrective action, "Adjusted fingers on on relay--field flashed."  Another discrepancy reported on 7 January 1954 was, "Right generator relay sticking," corrected by, "fixed short in hell hole junction pops circuit breaker," corrected by, "fixed short in hell hole junction box (Station 128)."  On 23 January 1954 a discrepancy was reported.  "Right generator inoperative," corrected by , "Generator replaced."  On 30 January 1954 a discrepancy was noted, "Short in overhead panel, left ammeter out."  This discrepancy was carried forward as a red diagonal item to Part III of the Form I, and existed on the day of the accident.  The history of electrical malfunctions in the aircraft indicates that its electrical system was in poor condition.  Further, it is possible that some, or all, of the malfunctions noted above could have resulted from undetected shorts in wiring at Station 128.  UR Station Serial No. 53-52, 315th Troop Carrier Wing, dated 12 October 1953, was submitted describing the chafing of electrical wiring against a fire extinguisher line, and recommending re-routing of the line.  There  is no record of a reply to the UR being received by the 315th Troop Carrier Wing.

14.  Interview of personnel who deplaned from Schedule 201 at Niigata and Misawa revealed that there were no unusual occurrences on the first two legs of the flight, except that it was uncomfortably cold in the aircraft from time to time.  On the flight from Tachikawa to Niigata the engineer entered the lower forward cargo compartment through the hatch located to the rear of the pilot's seat: It was assumed that he was attempting to repair an inoperative cabin heater.  The aircrew did not request fuel or mechanical servicing during intermediate stops.  However, at each stop members of the aircrew remarked that they were cold during flight due to inoperative heaters.  Although the maintenance history of the aircraft provides no evidence which would point to the fire originating in the cabin or cockpit heaters the possibility remains that fuel leaking into the hot surface of the heater, or a cracked heater combustion chamber, could have originated the fire.

15. In summation, evidence obtained from the aircraft's maintenance records and from interrogation of maintenance and flying personnel who are familiar with the aircraft that crashed, indicates that the most probable source of fire origin was ignition of leaking anti-icing fluid or hydraulic fluid by electrical arcing or electrical fire in the vicinity of Station 128.

16. The aircraft was equipped with a lower forward cargo compartment fire extinguishing system and maintenance records indicate the system was in operating condition.  However, the Fenwal (fusible alloy) fire detection system originally installed in the lower forward cargo compartment had been removed from this and all other C-46 aircraft in the 315th Troop Carrier Wing prior to the accident.  The Commander, Far East Logistic Force authorized installation of the Edison Fire Detection System and ten installations were accomplished during depot inspection and repair in the Far East Theatre of Operations.  The reasons for removal of the Fenwal system were stated in 315th Troop Carrier Wing UR Station Serial No. 53-19, dated 24 April 1953:

"a. There is a lack of serviceable parts (replacement), rendering the system inoperative.

"b. The entire system is unreliable in that the fusible tubing is affected by moisture or foreign matter, and by vibration causing the tubing to crack or break, and in these instances it would indicate a fire erroneously or fail to indicate a fire in the even there was a fire.

"c. The Fenwal system requires an excessive amount of maintenance in trouble shooting and repair."

Middletown Air Materiel Area reply, dated 8 July 1953, to the UR included the following information:  "Fire detection systems are being manufactured by Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated, in quantities to effect a new installation in all C-46 aircraft.  These will be made available and a technical order will be published at the earliest possible date."  As of 15 February 1954, the technical order referred to had not been received in the Far East Air Forces.  A satisfactory fire detection system in the lower forward cargo compartment of the aircraft might have provided sufficient warning to the aircrew to permit them to extinguish the fire in its early stages.

17. At Tachikawa and at each intermediate stop cargo was loaded in the main cargo compartment only.  After the preflight inspection at Tachikawa AB the lower cargo compartments were not entered, with the exception that at Misawa AB a baggage handler opened the lower rear cargo compartment door and looked inside to check for baggage.  Prior to departure from Misawa personnel of the air terminal section, Misawa AB, loaded 427 pounds of cargo and 30 passengers in the main cargo compartment.  Although a copy of the aircraft's weight and balance form (Form F) was not filed at Misawa AB, a Form F was computed using the weights and load distribution known to have existed at takeoff from Misawa, and it was determined that the weight and balance of the aircraft were within limits specified in T.O.'s and in 315th Air Division directives.

18. Emergency equipment aboard the aircraft included 38 parachutes, 38 life jackets (Mae Wests), and six 7-man life rafts.  Interrogation of passengers who deplaned at Niigata and Misawa indicated that prior to each takeoff aircrew members carefully briefed the passengers on emergency procedures and the use of emergency equipment.  passengers were required to wear Mae Wests and parachutes at all times in flight.  An airman assigned to the air terminal section at Misawa AB escorted the passengers to the aircraft and boarded the aircraft behind them.  He assisted passengers as they donned Mae Wests and parachutes and, before leaving the aircraft, noted that each passenger was wearing a Mae West and a parachute.  Also he noted that the aircraft commander was preparing to enter the left (pilot's) seat in the cockpit.  The airman left the aircraft before the passengers were briefed on emergency procedures and emergency equipment.

19. At the approximate time of the accident weather over the water area on the route from Misawa to Chitose, as reported by the pilot of a civilian airliner was: scattered to broken clouds at 5000 feet, visibility unrestricted in all quadrants except north-northeast about 10 miles due to haze, wind north-northwest about five knots, sea calm with very slight ground swell.  Weather was not a cause factor in the accident.

20.  315th Air Division, 315th Troop Carrier Wing, and 344th Troop Carrier Squadron regulations and Standing Operating Procedures (SOP's) pertaining to all phases of the type of mission on which the aircraft was being operated are adequate and are vigorously enforced.  The commander of the aircraft had accrued 2208 hours and 25 minutes flying time, of which 914 hours were flown in C-46 aircraft.  He had flown 690 hours in C=46 aircraft as first pilot.  During the 90 days preceding the date of the accident he flew 276 hours as first pilot in C-46 aircraft.  During the 30 days preceding the accident he flew 95 hours as first pilot in C-46 aircraft.  He successfully passed a proficiency check flight on 2 August 1953.  On 23 November 1953 he was designated a C-46 instructor pilot after having demonstrated his proficiency in this capacity to his flight commander.  All aircrew members involved in the accident were well qualified for the duties they performed, and had been afforded adequate rest during the 24 hours preceding the mission.  The flight was essential to the FEAF and 315th Air Division mission of furnishing intra-theatre air transportation to elements of the Far East Command.  The passengers were authorized air travel on competent orders and were properly manifested before boarding the aircraft.

21. The last depot inspection and repair (DIR) of the aircraft was completed on 2 March 1949. Under the DIR concept of major maintenance which was in effect until 1953, the aircraft became due for a DIR 36 months later, on 2 March 1952.  Thus, when the aircraft was delivered to the Far East theatre of operations on 2 April 1952 it was one month overdue for DIR.  The depot inspection and repair as necessary (IRAN) concept replaced the DIR concept in July 1953.  Under the IRAN concept of depot maintenance 24 months became the specified time interval between C-46 aircraft IRAN's.  The C-46 aircraft that crashed had never received an IRAN.  At the time of the accident the aircraft was two years and 11 months overdue for IRAN and under the former DIR concept it would have been one year and 11 months overdue for depot level maintenance.  As of 12 February 1954, 19 additional C-46 aircraft assigned to the 316th Troop Carrier Wing were overdue for IRAN: 11 of these aircraft received their last depot level maintenance (DIR) in 1949.  The resulting general deterioration of these aircraft creates a condition conducive to accidents of the type described herein.  The reasons that C-46 aircraft delivered to FEAF arrived in the theatre overdue for DIR, and that the DIR program continued to lag, were not determined during the investigation.  However, after adoption of the IRAN concept the Air Materiel Command advised FEAF in message MCMD-9-0-M, dated 11 September 1953,  that: "...the objective (of the IRAN program) is to process one-half of the active year one inventory each year regardless of the age of the aircraft if the aircraft is on the 24 months cycle...." (parenthesized words and underlining added).  FEAF personnel interpreted the above quoted message to mean that regardless of the elapsed time since the aircraft received a DIR, it would be placed on the 24 months cycle.  In message MCMDWA-11-67-E, dated 5 November 1953, AMC concurred in FEAF's interpretation.  This interpretation resulted in FEAF waiting for the backing of C-46 aircraft overdue for DIR to be eliminated during a two-year IRAN cycle which will be completed by fiscal year 1956.

22. The mission that the aircraft was performing when the accident occurred was typical of the majority of C-46 missions being performed in the Far East Command.  From the standpoint of aircrew and passenger safety C-46 aircraft, if properly maintained and operated, are adequate for the mission.  However, the C-46 aircraft is not the optimum aircraft for the mission; it lacks many safe characteristics desired for passenger carrying aircraft that are inherent in four-engine aircraft, and twin-engine aircraft of later design.


23. The following substantiating data pertaining to special investigation of aircraft accident involved C-46D, Serial No. 44-78027A are on file in the Directorate of Flight Safety Research and can be obtained upon request:

a. Directive from D/FSR to Investigating Officer

b. Letter Orders Directing Investigation

c. Appointment and Organization of Investigating Team

d. Operations Summary

e. Sample Proficiency Check Forms

f. Flight from Tachikawa AB to Niigata AB and Allied Data

g. Flight from Niigata to Misawa

h. Manifesting, Briefing, Loading at Misawa

i. Flight from Misawa to Chitose

j. Search and Rescue Operations

k. Maintenance Summary



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