Pan Am Flight 1104
|Date||January 21, 1943|
|Site||Mendocino County, 7 miles (11 km) SW of Ukiah, California
|Aircraft type||Martin M-130|
|Aircraft name||Philippine Clipper|
|Operator||Pan American World Airways |
|Flight origin||Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii|
|Destination||San Francisco, California|
Pan Am Flight 1104, Trip No. 62100, was a Martin M-130 flying boat nicknamed the Philippine Clipper that crashed on the morning of January 21, 1943 in Northern California. The aircraft was operated by Pan American World Airways, and at the time of the crash was transporting ten US Navy personnel from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to San Francisco, California. The aircraft crashed in poor weather into mountainous terrain approximately 7 miles (11 km) southwest of Ukiah, California due to pilot error.
The Philippine Clipper was one of three M-130 commercial flying boat aircraft specially designed for Pan American World Airways by the Glenn L. Martin Company. The aircraft was purposely built as trans-Pacific airliner and sold for $417,000 each. At the time, the M-130 was the largest aircraft built in the United States. The Philippine Clipper entered service with Pan American in 1936, and inaugurated passenger service between the United States and Hong Kong on October 14, 1936.
During World War II, the Philippine Clipper and sister ship China Clipper were pressed into service to serve the Navy's ocean transportation needs, though they remained crewed by Pan American personnel. At the time of the crash, the aircraft had logged 14,628 hours of flight time, had flown the Pacific Ocean for eight years, and had survived strafing by Japanese aircraft on Wake Island on December 8, 1941.
Flight 1104 departed from Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian islands at 5:30 PM on January 20, 1943. The 9-man Pan Am crew consisted of four pilots, three engineers, two radio operators, and a steward. The flight was captained by Robert M. Elzey. By mid-January 1943, Captain Elzey had accumulated approximately 4,941 flying hours, of which 3,359 were while in the employ of Pan American.
The ten passengers on board the flight were all U.S. naval officers. Among them was Rear-Admiral Robert H. English, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Submarine Fleet, the submarine component of the United States Pacific Fleet. Rear-Admiral English planned to visit submarine support facilities at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard bordering San Pablo Bay, and was accompanied by three of his senior staff officers. Another passenger was Lieutenant Edna Morrow, a Navy nurse diagnosed with terminal cancer who was on her way home to die. Also on board was Captain Robert Holmes Smith, formerly in command of the USS Sperry (AS-12) submarine tender, and recently promoted to Commander of Squadron 2, Pacific Submarine Fleet.
Up until the crash, the flight was routine, as evidenced by radio transmissions during the night. A strong tailwind put the flight three and a half hours ahead of schedule.
On the morning of January 21, 1943, the aircraft ran into poor weather conditions as it flew north over California towards San Francisco. Heavy rain, strong winds, thick cloud cover and fog forced the captain to descend to a lower altitude. At 7:30 AM, the far off-course aircraft crashed into a mountain at approximately 2,500 feet (760 m), descending at an angle of 10 degrees, whereupon it clipped a number of trees before crashing, breaking up, and burning. Over a week passed before the wreckage was located, and after it was found the area was cordoned off by soldiers to protect any surviving highly classified military documents that may have been carried aboard.
The Civil Aeronautics Board investigated the crash and ultimately determined that the probable cause of the accident was due to pilot error.
|“||Failure of the captain to determine his position accurately before descending to a dangerously low altitude under extremely poor weather conditions during the hours of darkness.||”|
—Civil Aeronautics Board, CAB File No. 1413-43
The Hiller Aviation Museum, in San Carlos, California, is situated very near the flight's destination, San Francisco Bay. A memorial plaque to the aircraft sits outside the entrance to the museum. The memorial plaque includes a brief history of the aircraft, as well as a list of casualties.
- 1943 in aviation
- China Clipper, the first of three Martin M-130 flying boats built for Pan Am.
- Hawaii Clipper lost in 1938
- List of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft
- Accident description for Pan Am Flight 1104 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2009-05-23.
- "CAB report for January 21, 1943 incident involving NC14715, Docket No. AC-4, File No. 1413-43." (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. Adopted June 4, 1943. (a text version is also available)
- "Chasing the Sun". PBS.com. undated. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
- Don R. Jordan (2006). "The Philippine Clipper". Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- "Pan American Philippine Clipper Flight Orders for June 1, 1939". The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- "The Golden Age of Aviation". undated. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- "Flying Clippers at War". undated. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Pan American Philippine Clipper Memorial Plaque, Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos California. Photo.
- Blair, Clay (March 2001). Silent victory: the U.S. submarine war against Japan. Naval Institute Press. pp. 365–366. ISBN 1-55750-217-X. (Google books online preview)
- Photo of Philippine Clipper NC-14715 flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in 1936 at sfmuseum.org
- Photo of Philippine Clipper afloat at findagrave.com