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Beechcraft C-45B - USAF Training

July 6, 1953
By Ken Freeze, PACS, USCG (ret)

Coast Guard Lt. Cdr. LeWayne N. Felts had been assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, as a student from the Second Coast Guard District.

Felts had over 1,500 hours as a pilot the day he took off on his last flight with three others. Likewise so did his co-pilot Captain Phillip Clinton.

The mission had started the day before in Sioux City, Iowa headed for Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. When the aircraft got into the vicinity of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the pilot received a weather report indicating instrument conditions for the Lone Rock, Wisconsic area. Felts elected to return to LaCrosse and remain overnight.

The next morning, around 8:30 a.m. the plane with its crew departed LaGrosse for Camp McCoy Army Air Field, which was 25 miles NE, to refuel before continuing on to Wright-Paterson AFB, Ohio.

After landing at LaCrosse, the plane took on 150 gallons of 100-octane fuel and took off just before 10 am.

The pilot planned on filing a flight plan once in the air with LaCrosse Radio.

Once in the air the gear retracted and plane began to gain altitude. However, when the aircraft was about a mile and a half from the field is made a steep turn back to the left, evidently trying to make it back to the field.

The aircraft complete the 180 turn when it crashed 1 mile short of the runway. A fire broke out immediately and all four on board were killed.

An investigation was made at the scene and concluded the following: From nicks on the right propeller caused by striking a nearby fence and marks on the ground at the point of impact, is was concluded that the right engine was definitely operating at the time of the crash. However, the left propeller showed no nicks and no marks on the ground at the point of impact to indicate power. It was therefore concluded that the left engine was not running at the time of impact. Disassembly of the left engine disclosed a spark gap to run from .020 to .035, when the gap should have been placed at .014. Both magnetoes checked and breaker points on the left magento found stuck together. Upon separating breaker points, they were found pitted and clearance on the left magneto point was .003. According to tech orders the required gap was .008 to .010.

Further investigation discovered that that spark plugs had been due for replacement on April 3rd but the service had been were carried forward until April 14, then the discrepancy was dropped. Apparently through some mix-up the plugs were never changed. At the time of the crash the sparks plugs were overdue to be replaced by 281 1/2 hours.

Apparently the crash was caused as the result of an engine that failed, at least in part because of inadequate maintenance.

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