Cessna UC-78 Bobcat
UC-78B s/n 43-7968
24 JAN 45
10 miles south of Arlington AZ
This crash has a very interesting story, the struggle to bail out and the rescue of the crew, be sure to read the crash report excerpts below. If anyone knows the current whereabouts of any of the people involved, what they went on to do in WWII, or has a yearbook with pictures of the crew, please contact AAIR.
Crash Report Narrative
This report has two synopses of the accident (Section M – Description of the accident)
A/C Kyle, student, and Lt. Hamm, instructor, were flying at 7500” on a navigational training flight to Marana, Arizona. They were overtaking anther airplane so made a 360 degree turn to the left to let the other airplane get ahead of them. After the turn was completed they noticed another airplane flying formation on their right wing. It stayed in that position momentarily, then crossed over to their left and back again to the right and ahead. Lt. Hamm took over the controls, pulled over into airplanes left wing to identify the occupants. He then crossed over to he right side of the airplane and in doing so his left wing tip collided with the right horizontal stabilizer or elevator of the other airplane. Lt. Hamm witnessed the three occupants of the other airplane bail out. He then flew over and landed at Luke Field and reported the accident.
On the third leg of a student navigational training flight from Marana, Arizona, to Phoenix, Arizona, to Salome, Arizona, to Marana, in a UC-78B type aircraft, and at an indicated altitude of 7500 feet, A/C Robert P. Kohler, Jr., Student Pilot, and 2d Lt. Marcella D. Hanson, Instructor, noticed another UC-78 directly ahead of them make a 360 degree turn to the left. Thinking that the aircraft last referred to might be in difficulty, Lt. Hansen took over the controls from A/C Kohler and moved into apposition on the other plane's left wing to determine whether or not this might be the case. As it appeared to Lt. Hansen that everything was in order with the other aircraft, he then moved over to the right wing to determine whether the right seat was occupied by a student or an instructor. Having satisfied himself that an instructor was in the airplane, and that it must have had a legitimate reason for executing a 360 degree turn, Lt. Hansen moved away to the right. In the meantime, 2d Lt. William A. Hamm, instructor in the other aircraft, bad become suspicious as to whether or not solo students were attempting to fly unauthorized formation during the progress of the cross country (it is to be noted that on this particular mission, some aircraft were occupied by students only, while others were occupied by students and instructors). As Lt Hamm was unable from his position on the left to determine whether or not an instructor was in the right seat of the other airplane, he (Lt. Hamm) endeavored to move into a position off the right wing of the other pilot. In the process of this maneuver, Lt. Hamm flew too close to the other airplane, hit some turbulent air and, as was subsequently determined, struck either the right elevator or right horizontal stabilizer of Lt. Hamm's aircraft with the left wing tip of his own. All occupants of both airplanes state that they were not conscious of any jar or jolt when the collision occurred; Lt. Hansen and his two students stating that their airplane suddenly started down and that they were unable again to bring it level. All three occupants bailed out successfully, although A/C Kohler struck a portion of the tail section and sustained injuries noted elsewhere in this report.
Lt. Hamm landed at Luke Field and reported the accident.
2nd Lt. Marcelle D. Hansen O-758333
COL BEARD: Will you tell us all about what happened in that accident in which you were involved?
LT HANSEN: We were flying on this student cross country and there were about four ships that were fairly close together. The first thing I saw, I noticed one ship peel off and start turning at 360 degrees. I started following him around to see who it was. I thought Lt. Hamm was one but I wasn't sure. When I saw him turn I followed his to see where he was going. He made a 360 degree turn and I cam up momentarily on right wing and saw it was Lt. Ham so I dropped back and out to his left and I came back over to his right and out and back on across. Then Lt. Hamm come over and up on my right wing and that is the last thing I remember of seeing of him. He was, the last I remember, slightly a little bit above and behind my ship. Then the whole nose of the airplane seemed to drop for the ground. The minute it dropped I unfastened my safety belt, locked my knees straight against the rudder pedals and applied backpressure. Mr. Kohler also applied pressure and pulled the wheel all the way back to his chest. There was pressure on the controls because it raised me off the seat and my knees looked. I could see it drop and go to the left and I could see it wasn't coming out so I hollered, "This is it - bail out". Mr. Kohler let go of the wheel and put both hands on the emergency release handle. Mr. Lundy had one hand on the door handle forcing the door out into the slipstream as far as possible and the other hand on the release panel. The door wouldn't come off. I didn't have to tell them to force their way out. Mr. Lundy pushed his way out and the ship was in approximately a 30-45 degree bank when he went out to the left. Mr. Kohler started going out when the ship was pretty close to being in a 90 degree bank. It was standing on its wing. He pushed his way out - the door came back and caught his seat pack between the doorsill and the door. I reached up - I can't remember over getting out of the co-pilot seat - I must have been thrown out - because, I remember grabbing the braces on the co-pilot seat and shoving him out with my foot. The minute he left the door there was a heavy thud and I know he must have hit the elevator. The ship came around and it was on its back when I left. That is how I got battery acid in my face. It must have settled on its back or stopped momentarily and it gave me enough time to got out. I bailed out and on the way down I could see the other chutes and I watched the airplane go into the side of the mountain. We were all fairly well grouped and as soon as I landed I picked up my chute and started for the other chute on the aide of the mountain - it was Mr. Lundy. I called to him - he answered and I asked him if he could walk and he said he could so I told him to pick up his chute end start down the mountain towards me. I left my chute at the bottom of the mountain and started towards him. When I found him he was well, then we spotted Mr. Kohler's chute down in a little valley between two hills. I called Mr. Kohler and he finally answered and I asked if he could walk and he said he couldn't move. I sent Mr. Lundy down to the bottom of the mountain far my chute and I took his chute and went over to Mr. Kohler. When I found him he was lying on his right side. His chute had been collapsed and he said he could not move. I could see he was in pain and I looked at his left leg. There was some silver paint on his flight suit and when I tried to roll him over onto the parachute I saw his left leg sag and knew it was broken. When I got his on his back he said his right wrist was hurt and I looked and it was off at an angle. By that time Mr. Lundy was there and we covered him with one of the chutes, spread the other two chutes out in a largo circle. I left Mr. Lundy with Mr. Kohler and I went up to the airplane to see if I could find a first aid kit. I found the airplane and got two heavy winter flying jackets and the first aid kit. I came back and covered Mr. Kohler with the two jackets and checked the first aid kit but there was no morphine in it for him so we built a large fire and got as much smoke as possible by throwing everything green we could find on it. By that time, I believe it was Lt. Hamm, came back over in an AT-6 from Luke. They located us then they went back and approximately an hour and a half later, they told me later it was an AT-6 from Gila Bend, came over and dropped us four blankets with red streamers and in these blankets was a first aid kit and two notes saying "stay where you are help, is on the way". I checked the first aid kit and there was no morphine in that either. It started getting dark so I took one parachute and made a lean-to over Mr. Kohler and built a fire to keep him warm. On this other parachute sill spread out I took the four streamers and made a large "M" in the hopes that they would know we needed medical care. That was the last we saw of the airplane. Were lying around the fire in front of the lean-to at approximately 9:30 when we heard someone holler. We pulled the lean-to down and put wood on the fire and on a peak quite a distance away we saw a little fire and so we hollered. He answered. He finally came to u - it was the Assistant Operations Officer from Luke Field and a first aid man. They had no water nor equipment of any kind because they had been walking quite a while searching for us. We decided the first aid man and myself would stay with Mr. Kohler. Mr. Lundy started back to the ambulance with the officer. They were going to pick up the medical officer from the ambulance and bring him up the mountain with a stretcher. At approximately 12:30 the Major got there with the morphine for Mr. Kohler. They gave him the morphine. When the morphine took effect, we rolled Mr. Kohler in a blanket and wrapped gauze tightly around his leg. We loaded him on to the stretcher and wrapped the remaining three blankets around him and put warm rocks in the first aid kit along side of the stretcher to keep him warm. The five of us tried carrying him out. We couldn't carry our parachutes out so we rolled them up and left them there. They told us the next day we had carried Mr. Kohler about 400 yards in the riverbed. We were all so tired we could not carry much weight. We left him in the riverbed with the first aid man and gave him a blanket to keep warm. The remaining four of us started back toward the ambulance, which was approximately 7 miles down the mountain. We got to the ambulance at approximately 5:30 next morning. The moon had gone down and it was too dark to see where the ambulance was so we built a fire and waited for daylight. As soon as it got daylight we found the ambulance tracks and then the ambulance and they brought us back to Luke. We arrived back at approximately 9:00 or 9:30. They picked 12 enlisted men and took them to the scene of the accident so they could carry Mr. Kohler down in relays. At Luke Mr. Lundy and I were sent to the infirmary. They checked us and put something on my face and fixed his head up and sent us to the Flight Surgeon. From there we went to Operations where we met Lt. Wenek and Major Larson.
COL CRUMLEY: When your nose dropped, how far was Lt. Hamm's airplane from you?
LT HANSEN: I saw him on my right wing and a little closer then cadet flying formation. As to the exact distance I could not say, Sir.
COL CRUMLEY: What prompted you in the first instance to join formation with Lt. Hamm?
LT HANSEN: It was on a student cross country and when I saw him turn off his course and go around, I started to the left and started following to see where he was going. When I came up along side of him, I saw it was Lt. Hamm. He said the reason he made a 360 degree was because there were so many airplanes close to him. At the time he made the 360 degree turn I did not know it was Lt. Hamm.
2nd Lt. William A. Hamm O-767208
COL BEARD: Will you please tell the Board what happened concerning this accident in which you were involved?
LT HAMM: On the 24th of January, at approximately 3:00 o'clock I was proceeding on my course from Salome to Marana, or to the auxiliary field, Coronado. It was a student cross country flight and I had my cadet with as and directly in front, approximately 200 to 300 feet was a ship. I wanted the cadet to fly on the course so I told him to make a 360 degree turn to the left. He made the turn and as we came out of the turn it left the ship in front far enough ahead so he didn't follow it back to the field. The cadet pointed to another ship off to our right. This was Lt. Hanson's aircraft. As we noticed him, he sat there momentarily and then he went around to the other side -- the left side.
COL BEARD: How far was he when you first saw him?
LT HAMM: I would say he was 15 feet behind me and in formation.
COL BEARD: Was that shortly after you completed the 360 degree turn?
LT HAMM: Yes, Sir.
COL BEARD: You did not see him on the way around?
LT HAMM: As he moved over to the other side - he stayed there momentarily - then he dropped around and went to the right side.
COL BEARD: And under you?
HAMM: Yes, Sir, but I figured he had gone behind - I couldn't see. He stopped there momentarily and proceeded off to my right to a position 150 feet away, I would say. As he stopped there, I could see they were looking at us so I moved closer to him. I moved into his left side, stopped momentarily, and went underneath and on to the other side. Just as I came up to the other side, I stopped about 3 to 5 seconds and I saw his ship go down and out to the left. Immediately, as I couldn't see what had happened, I took my ship up into a 60 degree bank so I could see down and see what happened. I could not see him in that position so I banked around to the left and saw the ship circling to the left. (Positions of aircraft; degree of bank, etc. demonstrated with the hands). I didn't know whether the ship was upside down or right side up. I saw a parachute pop open -- that was Cadet Lundy. The ship continued to circle and about ten seconds later I saw a second parachute open. I proceeded around the ship, turned the other way, and started a 360 degree circle to the right. At that time I saw the third parachute pop. It seemed quite a long time between the second and third chute. The ship completed another 270 degrees and hit the mountain. I saw all three chutes full so knew the individuals had not hit the ground. I could see no oscillation. I circled and looked at my map and figured Luke Field would be the closest field to go to that had facilities to give help. Gila Bend was about the same distance. I looked at my watch and it was 1510 and I took off on the course to Luke Field. I knew my bearings. I noticed I was in a 90 degree position to Tonopah Auxiliary Field, which is on the airlane from Phoenix to Blythe. It took me exactly 20 minutes from the scene of the accident to go to Luke and land. I reported to the Assistant Operations Officer as Major Keller, the Operations Officer was out. Within a short period, possibly 15 minutes, we had an aircraft with a pilot and I was to direct the pilot to the scent of the accident. We had made arrangements to make ground to aircraft physical signals so that they would be able to follow the aircraft to the scent of the crash. We were back to the scene of the crash within an hour, circled them and looked around to find the best way to send a rescue party in. By prearranged signals from the ground to the air, we sent the rescue party to the dry bed. We didn't notice it ended with a short wall so the ambulance and rescue truck were unable to go further. Lt. Knapp and the Assistant Operations Officer and I proceeded up there and dropped a note to them that I would return in a jeep as soon as possible. It was nighttime and we flew back to Luke and landed. I called the Motor Pool and got a jeep and driver. We got the jeep and another officer and a Corporal who worked in the Operations Office at Luke. We went, back up to the creek and got up as far as we could. In the meantime they had moved the ambulance to a different spot. We looked around and did not know where they had gone So the next best thing was to go back to Luke and wait for them. We arrived back at Luke at 1215 midnight and called Major Larson at Marana. At approximately 7:00 the next morning Mr. Keller made arrangements for a small parachute to be dropped with food, medical equipment, etc. We had this same pilot from Luke take another officer and go and drop this equipment to them. Just after that occurred, we found that Lt. Hanson and A/C Lundy were in the Luke Field Hospital. At approximately 5 minutes to 9 Major Larson and Lt. Wenck arrived at Luke Field and I told them everything I know about it and they made arrangements to take photographs. Lt. Wenck and myself and a Sergeant photographer from Luke were to go down to my ship and take pictures of the wing tip and then go back and take pictures of that ship. We arrived back at Luke at approximately 1900, January 25th.
COL CRUMLEY: As I recall you said that after Lt. Hanson joined in the formation with you, he finally wound up in position about 300 feet.
LT HAMM: No, Sir, about 150 foot to my, right.
COL CRUMLEY: Then, did you have any particular reason for moving over closer to him?
LT HAMM: No, Sir, none except that I wanted to find out who the officer was. I thought it was Lt. Hinman or Lt. Miller.
COL CRUMLEY: You went over to get close enough look into the window to see who it was?
LT HAMM: Yes, Sir. It was hard to even remember the ship's number for a while. Lt. Hansen’s number was 776.
COL CRUMLEY: I don't quite follow you.
LT HAMM: Sir, after the accident I found I had difficulty in remembering the ship's number when I was asked what it was.
COL CRUMLEY: After it was all over you found it difficult to remember the ship's number?
LT HAMM: Yes, Sir.
COL CRUMLEY: Obviously something happened to Lt. Hansen’s airplane and obviously something happened to yours. What is your explanation?
LT HAMM: Sir, I have thought it over quite a bit since the accident and tried to figure out aerodynamically what happened. My left wing tip is damaged. The pictures will indicate that there is a slight indication that the wing tip is down, showing that if I had hit I would have had to come up. If I had come up and hit his elevator, the elevator would have been thrown into an upward position and the airflow passed over the elevators, in the upward position, the tail would have to go down, making the nose of his airplane go up. If his right elevator had been damaged, it would have caused increased drag on the right elevator. If I understand my aerodynamics, a drag will cause a ship to go in that direction so if his right elevator had been damaged, he would have been tossed to the right. But he went to left and down in just exactly the opposite direction, as indicated by the damage to my aircraft.
COL CRUMLEY: That still doesn't answer the question. What do you think happened? What caused your wing tip to be damaged, and what happened to his airplane?
LT HAMM: I do not know, Sir. All I know is that I was in a position that was safe, yet it must have been closer than a cadet formation because something automatically happened and the two aircraft hit.
COL CRUMLEY: There in no doubt in your mind that your wing tip must have contacted some section of his airplane?
LT HAMM: It must have, Sir, but just what caused it I have no idea.
COL BEARD: Are there any other questions?
BOARD MEMBERS: None, Sir.