Pan Am Flight 202
|Date||April 28, 1952|
|Summary||Engine separation, in-flight breakup|
|Site||220 nautical miles (410 km) SW of Carolina, Brazil
|Aircraft type||Boeing 377 Stratocruiser 10-26|
|Aircraft name||Clipper Good Hope|
|Operator||Pan American World Airways|
|Flight origin||Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|1st stopover||Montevideo, Uruguay|
|2nd stopover||Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport, Brazil|
|3rd stopover||Port of Spain-Piarco Airport, Trinidad and Tobago|
|Destination||Idlewild Airport, New York|
Pan American World Airways Flight 202 was a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser aircraft which crashed in the Amazon Basin about 220 nautical miles (410 km) southwest of Carolina, Brazil on April 28, 1952. All 50 people on board were killed in the worst-ever accident involving the Boeing 377. The investigation took place under exceptionally unfavourable conditions, and the cause of the crash was not established. But the Stratocruiser's engines were known to be temperamental, and it was theorised that an engine had separated in flight after propeller blade failure.
Flight, disappearance, and discovery
Flight 202, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser registration N1039V, had begun its route the previous evening in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with stopovers in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It departed Rio de Janeiro at 3:06 am local time for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, with an eventual destination of New York City, New York. It was cleared to fly an off-airways route directly to Port of Spain; this took it over the (at the time) unexplored forests of the Amazon jungle. The pilots reported abeam the town of Barreiras, Brazil at 6:16 am local time, and estimated the next position report (abeam Carolina, Brazil) at 7:45 am. Witnesses in the villages of Formosa and São Francisco reported seeing the aircraft overhead at about the time it reported abeam Barreiras; they reported that the aircraft appeared to be operating normally.
When the aircraft failed to report abeam Carolina and then abeam the town of Santarém, Brazil, local authorities initiated a missing aircraft alert. Brazilian Air Force, USAF, and US Navy aircraft searched the jungle, while Brazilian Navy ships searched the coastal areas off northern South America. The wreckage was not found until May 1, when a Pan Am Curtiss Commando freighter reported finding it in Caraja Indian territory 220 nautical miles (410 km) southwest of Carolina.
"The burned, broken wreckage of the Pan American Stratocruiser that vanished Monday night was found in northern Brazil today. There was no evidence that any of the 50 persons aboard, including 19 Americans, lived through the crash. An air hunt over 320,000 square miles [830,000 km2] of jungle, river basins and plateau land finally located the ruins in the Indian country between the towns of Barreiras and Carolina.
"Airline officials said the find had been made by a C-46 Pan American cargo plane piloted by Capt. Jim Kowing of Miami. The scene is about 250 miles [400 km] southwest of Carolina, a Tocantins River town 1,100 miles [1,800 km] north-northwest of Rio de Janeiro. The double-decked Stratocruiser was reported to have broken in two; its charred wreckage was scattered on both sides of a 1,500 feet [460 m] high hill."
"Pan American officials said a Panair do Brasil airliner circled the scene of the crash: Its pilot reported extensive evidence of fire and said he saw two of the big plane's engines: lying 1,600 feet [490 m] apart in the hilly, heavily wooded area. A Pan American passenger plane was converted to carry a seven-man rescue unit, headed by Maj. Richard Olney of the United States Air Force base at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Maj. Oliver Seaman, an Air Force flight surgeon."
"Pan American's office at Miami, reported that after circling the scene for four hours, the rescue plane returned to its base at Para without dropping the rescue team. It said they did not jump because there were no signs of survivors."[not specific enough to verify]
Later, a 27-man investigation team flew via seaplane to Lago Grande, a tiny Indian village on the Araguaia River less than 40 nautical miles (70 km) from the wreckage, with the intention of trekking to the accident site; unfortunately, the extreme nature of the terrain forced all but seven team members to return to Lago Grande before reaching the site. Seriously undermanned and short of water, food, and other supplies, the seven remaining investigators could only confirm that all aboard had died on impact and that a massive fire (possibly set deliberately by the local Indians for sanitary purposes) had consumed the fuselage.
A properly equipped and provisioned second investigation team built a base camp northwest of Lago Grande and finally reached the wreckage on August 15. They determined that the wreckage had fallen to the ground in three main sections. The main wreckage, including the fuselage, the starboard or right wing, the root of the port or left wing (including the nacelle for the No. 2 engine but not the engine itself), and the Nos. 3 and 4 engines (normally attached to the starboard wing) had fallen in an area of dense forest about 13 nautical miles (24 km) northwest of the base camp. The outer port wing and the No. 1 engine had fallen 765 yards (700 m) to the northwest of the main wreckage; the empennage and fractured parts of the No. 2 engine (normally attached to the port wing) had fallen roughly 1,100 yards (1,000 m) north of the main wreckage and 800 yards (700 m) northeast of the port wing.
Although the No. 2 engine and its propeller were not found, evidence on the port wing root, the No. 2 engine nacelle, the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer, and the horizontal stabilizer led investigators to believe that the engine and/or propeller failed in flight. The Stratocruiser's engines and propellers were notoriously temperamental; there had been numerous recorded instances of Boeing 367 and 377 engines separating in flight after propeller blade failure. In this case, investigators hypothesized that the propeller failure caused the engine to experience highly unbalanced loads and eventually separate from the aircraft, precipitating an in-flight breakup. Debris from the propeller and engine may have contributed to the breakup by damaging control surfaces after being flung from the port wing during the failure.
It was the worst-ever accident involving the Boeing 377.
- Macarthur, Job (2001). Air Disaster, Vol. 4: The Propeller Era. Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd. ISBN 1-875671-48-X.
- Civil Aeronautics Board Aircraft Accident Report on Flight 202 from the Department of Transport's Special Collections
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Fernandes Cruz, Felipe (2012). "Amazonia 1952: FOUND". The Apendix.