B-17G Flying Fortress Crash

Discussion in 'The BS Topic' started by david.rosol, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. david.rosol

    david.rosol Veteran Member

    1,115
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    Jul 2, 2009
    Southern Maryland
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    June 28, 1944 a B-17G Flying Fortress (similar to the one pictured above) #42-97619 (same type of aircraft as the famous “Memphis Belle”) took off from Yuma Army Airfield (now known as Marine Corps Air Station Yuma) in Arizona just shortly after 1:15am, for a night navigation training mission. The plane took off with an instructor pilot, two pilots in training, a flight engineer, and a crew chief.

    Just a few weeks earlier, one of the pilots, 2ndLt William Richell, 22 yrs old from upstate New York was home on furlough. He was excited to be a newly trained pilot for the Army Air Corps (US Air Force today) as he recently completed his 4-engine training at Roswell Army Air Base before being assigned to Yuma. His younger 15 year old brother Fred, asked of his older brother, what the hardest part of being a pilot was. William told him it was the night flying he was not fond of.

    On that fateful early morning hours of June 28th, 2ndLt William Richell radioed the tower to request landing instructions. Ten minutes later, the B-17 slammed into the Gila Mountains. Witnesses 20 miles east of Yuma saw a massive fireball when the crash occurred. It was not known who was at the controls of the WWII bomber at the time of the crash, but investigators believed that the pilot had been using the lights of Yuma as a navigational aid, and inadvertently let the bomber descend too low before the city lights became obscured by the mountain ridge the plane impacted. Most of the debris from the bomber remains today, but almost seven decades of rock & mud slides and steep terrain have covered up much of the wreckage. There were no survivors. The following airmen were killed in the crash: 2ndLt William Richell, 2ndLt Angus MacArther, 2ndLt Sheridan Marek, Sgt Manteu Jones, and Cpl Merle Ice.

    My buddy Jon and I were looking for some scenic places to hike and one of the locals mentioned a B-17 crashed up in the mountains and that there was a rough hiking trail that not many people know about that we could take and see the wreckage. So, yesterday we decided on the fly that we’d climb up into the Gila Mountains to view what we could of what was left of the wreckage just to see what was there. The first few hours started out bad, as we started out climbing the wrong peak, and had to transverse over two mountain ridges to get to the correct one. There were no signs or anything that pointed us the right way except for a Canadian “eh” that was down here on vacation we came across on a quad who warned us about the Rattle Snakes all over and he wasn’t for sure where the plane was either, but he guessed it to be over the next peak… so Jon and I kept moving, only now we were paranoid of rattlers.

    Here are some of the views of the rocky terrain and rattle snake infested areas we hiked through… very rocky areas and very challenging as well. We were in constant look out for Mojave Rattlers as they have been slithering about today. Also pictured are parts of the plane that we found in the impact area. We had almost given up looking as we didn’t run across anything and we were losing daylight fast… at the last minute of when we decided to turn back, we came across the wreckage. It made the climb worth it.
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    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  2. david.rosol

    david.rosol Veteran Member

    1,115
    2
    Jul 2, 2009
    Southern Maryland
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    Me next to what’s left of one of the four Wright Cyclone Radial Engines… should have nine piston heads, but this only has four that remained intact. Amazing.
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    One of the main landing gear struts and wheel assembly.
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    Here I am next to one of the main landing gear struts with a wheel still attached as well as parts of the wing and a few engine/exhaust parts.
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    More engine related parts, I’m guessing.
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  3. david.rosol

    david.rosol Veteran Member

    1,115
    2
    Jul 2, 2009
    Southern Maryland
    A fuel cell for sure, and then some engine parts maybe?
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    The view from the crash site, gives an idea of the elevation the B-17 was flying just before impact.
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    More engine parts
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    A closer shot of the Wright Cyclone Engine heads, you can see the valve springs, and bent up cooling fins on the heads.
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    We were losing daylight fast!! We wanted to climb further and explore more, but we had to get off this mountain, through the rattle snake infested desert, and still find the car before it got dark. Jon slipped and fell on a rock and landed on his hip – I thought he was going to fall down the whole mountain, but he only scraped himself. We made it off the mountain in time before dark - but it got dark on us while hoofing it back through the desert. Luckily Jon had a flash light built into his cell phone so we could at least see part of the trail. Eventually we found the car after a total of 18 miles hiked all together. I don’t see how we did it – but we made it. We were pretty wore out.
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  4. SupplySgt

    SupplySgt Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    1,369
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    Jun 20, 2009
    Finally back home!!!
    Wow, that's one heck of a hike. That must have been neat to see.
     
  5. ZS10

    ZS10 Moderator Staff Member Lifetime Gold Member

    12,165
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    Jan 18, 2003
    BC, Canada
  6. Z28PILOT

    Z28PILOT Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    2,001
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    Oct 8, 2009
    Emerald Isle , NC
    thanks for sharing.!

    There is a B25 wreck slammed into the side of a mt. in the Blueridge Mt , VA back in 40's.
     
  7. FlaJunkie

    FlaJunkie Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    5,421
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    Mar 24, 2001
    Indialantic, Florida
    Very Interesting! I love the desert pics! :D

    In flying I have learned that carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks.

    — Wilbur Wright in a letter to his father, September 1900

    If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.

    — Wilbur Wright, from an address to the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago, 18 September 1901
     
  8. 351maverick

    351maverick Veteran Member

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    Aug 11, 2010
    erie, PA
  9. jdove

    jdove Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    Oct 19, 2002
    Chattanooga,TN
    Very cool, thanks for sharing.
     
  10. EricsZ28

    EricsZ28 Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    3,487
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    Feb 28, 2006
    Here and there...
    +1. Nice job documenting your experience!!!
     

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