Aircraft Accidents of the Great Lakes Region
This book contains a collection of fourteen aircraft accidents that have taken place in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Ranging from the earliest days of commercial and military aviation to 1970, each of these tales was chosen to provide the reader with an insight into this region’s rich aviation heritage. While some of these tales end in tragedy, others conclude on a much happier note.
Examples of these narratives include the pilot that exhausted his aircraft of fuel despite one of its fuel tanks being nearly half full, the successful landing of a DC-3 airliner following a tragic midair collision over downtown Milwaukee, the mysterious crash of a brand new 727 jetliner into the waters of Lake Michigan, the crashes of two British strategic bombers some 200 miles and 20 years apart, and the failure of government regulators to fully adopt an aircraft manufacturer’s recommendation that contributed to a crash of a commuter plane into an ice covered Lake Erie. From propeller-driven to jet-powered, the aircraft involved in the accidents described in this book represent the advancement of aviation technology during the time period covered.
Lining up on the runway at 9:25 p.m., nearly an hour and a half past the flight’s originally scheduled departure time, Captain Ohrbeck pushed the throttles controlling the aircraft’s engines forward to begin the takeoff roll. As the engines responded, the brand new airliner began moving down the runway. A few seconds later, as the Electra continued to accelerate, its tail lifted off the ground. Thundering down the runway, while picking up even more speed, the lift generated by the wings finally overcame the force of gravity and the Northwest airliner climbed into the sky. This entire process had taken less than one minute to accomplish.
Within a few moments of the first officer’s warning, the Northwest airliner struck a chain link fence at the airport’s southern boundary. Remaining airborne for another sixty feet, the DC-6B struck the ground some 2,900 feet from the threshold lights located at the southwest end of runway 22. Impacting the ground in a slightly nose up attitude, the ill-fated airliner skidded for another 1,600 feet before coming to rest just 30 feet short of a farmhouse owned by Jerry Christian. During its slide through the cornfield, the aircraft demolished a granary, storage shed, and a garage.
For some reason, no one will ever be sure, the pilots of the 727 never leveled off at 6,000 feet, and continued their descent unabated. In spite of the fact that that airliner had broken through the cloud base and visibility was at seven to ten miles, the crew did not notice the aircraft descending below its assigned altitude. Furthermore, at the time of Captain Towle’s final transmission to approach control, as investigators would later determine, Flight 389 was already below 3,000 feet.
Growing up around United States Air Force bases but now a resident of Michigan, W. D. Becker gained an early fascination in aviation that has led to this book on aircraft accidents in the Great Lakes Region.