The Crash of the C-124 near Travis AFB, CA
7 April 1956
United States Air Force C-124 Globemaster II
Tail Number 52-1078, assigned to the 1501st Air Transport Wing.
There were 7 aboard, the 4 survivors:
1st Lieutenant James Lyman Hayter
2nd Lieutenant Richard C. Nelson
2nd Lieutenant Garth L. Tingey
Master Sergeant Russell M. Hobart
And these 3 whom died:
Master Sergeant Harold E. Roache
Master Sergeant Arthur G. Bird
Staff Sergeant Amos H. Kolb
Upon takeoff, the aircraft stalled at 100 feet, leaned over on to one wing, and plunged into the ground, just southwest of the base. It broke into three sections, and burst into flames.
Click here to see more photos of the crash site in 1956
We are currently searching for photos of the crash site taken during the investigation. If you have any - please contact us.
According to the US Air Force Accident Report Narrative:
Attempts to obtain a copy of the official mishap report have so far proven fruitless. However, we have not given up hope.
An Eyewitness account...
Thanks to Charlie Kohler (visit his website at www.Lancair-IV.com), we now have a first-hand account of this accident.
"On April 7, 1956, I was an assistant crew chief on a C-97 that belong to the 1501 A. T. W.. I was in the 79th Air Transport Squadron as a mechanic. That afternoon I was given the assignment of towing a C-97 to the fueling pit which was on the North side of the East-West runway.
Due to the close proximity and the noise of the C-124 on take off I turned to watch it. As it accelerated, the nose lifted off first and it rapidly climbed to the vertical position, then rolled over on the left wing. The ensuing crash fire left me and my crew stunned. But within a very few seconds, fire trucks rolled up and began to fight the fire and aid the injured. I recall a man walking away from the fireball and sitting down on the runway.
The C-124 squadron was also part of our 1501st wing and as a maintenance person, we had access to some information through the grapevine, that was perhaps not generally known. In summary, The airplane had just completed a major inspection in the docks, and had the elevator cables replaced. These cables in the aft compartment made a cross. This flight was a test flight from that inspection. The speculation among the mechanics was that the cables were incorrectly installed.
Flying the C-124 as a flight engineer years later (12,000 hours), I always made this a preflight inspection item. We also had an item on the checklist in which the flight engineer's check for proper movement of the elevator vs. the yoke travel. I do not know if that was in effect that day, or if it was overlooked-misread or what ever."
The Pilot Speaks...
After a little bit of phonework, we were able to track down and speak with the pilot of this aircraft, James Hayter.
The crash was attributed to incorrect assembly of the elevator and aileron control cables within the aircraft. More to come!
The Crash Site Today
Today, the site is sparsely scattered with few remains of the aircraft. The site lies is a field that has been graded since the crash. It is thought that much of the aircraft remains (that when not removed in 1956) are buried as a result of this.