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Mishap VP-34 MishapMishap


MishapsMISHAPs: 22 MAR 53 A/C: PBM Marina "...Mishap Information..." MUNDAY, Tom thommunday@att.net..." [Updated 27JUN2003 | 28MAY2002]

VP-34 stationed NAS Trinidad, British West Indies was deployed to San Juan, PR for participation in "Operation Springboard". Our tender was the USS Currituck II (AV-7) and we had 10 of our 12 aircraft on site.

We anchored our aircraft on buoys in the body of water adjacent to San Juan's Jose Martin Airport. One of our aircraft, EC-10, had been experiencing random electrical problems while airborne but the problem could not be detected while anchored on the buoy.

It was decided to send one of the lead Aviation Electrician's mate along on EC-10's next flight to see if he could analyze the problem when it occurred.

My recollection was that it was early evening on the 22nd of March, 1953, that EC-10, with it's full crew and the Aviation Electrician, got airborne about 2000.

The aircraft's hourly position reports were received by the Currituck Operations, once at 2100 and again at 2200. The 2200 report was the last message received.

Our squadron was scrambled early the next morning to see if we could find the aircraft and possibly any survivors. Most all of the Atlantic fleet on maneuvers also participated in scouting for the missing aircraft. Our aircraft with crew searched for the next 36 hours but to no avail. The search was called off and we returned to "Operation Springboard." We received a message from a Pan American Clipper, flying from New York to San Juan, that they had sighted something that looked like a life-raft, but after searching the coordinates they provided it turned out negative.

According to web sites Accidents-United States and Honor Roll-United States, it was estimated the aircraft went down at coordinates 2337N & 7007W. It also mentions the aircraft was en route from San Juan to Trinidad. This may be fact however the coordinates listed are quite a bit north of San Juan. If the aircraft was heading for Trinidad you would have thought it would have been quite a bit south of San Juan. It's possible that the decision to go home to Trinidad was made after flying a couple of hours on station.

Crew Members

The pilot and plane commander of the doomed aircraft was LTJG. J.D. Wick. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. I believe his father held the rank of Admiral during WWII. I had flown with LT Wick prior to my assignment on EC-12. In my book he was an excellent pilot and officer. He helped me a lot in my training as an aircrewman.

Co-pilot was LT. M.R. Armour. When not flying he was VP-34's Electronic & Electrical Shop Maintenance Officer. Navigator was LTjg E Radovich. The PPC was W.J. Livingston, AD1 and he had D.J. Eames, AD-3, & R.L. Harrington, AD-3 as 2nd & 3rd Mechs respectively.

The 1st radioman was D.C. McLaughlin, AL2, with R.L. Piersante, AT3, sitting 2nd radioman and R.E. Appelt, ATAN, as 3rd radioman.

The 1st ordnance was C.E. Holder, AO1 and C.R. West, AOAN, was the 2nd ordnance. "

The Aviation Electrician, AE1 was also aboard the flight. His name was not mentioned on the Honor Roll-United States web site. I can't recollect his name.

If anyone out there knows anymore about this incident please contact me.

Mishaps --- 25 MAR 53 A/C: PBM-5S Marina Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico Strike: Yes BUNO: 85151 Cause: Flight:Overdue for 36hrs. SAR negative. Terminated Mar 25, 1943. PBM-5S BuNo 85151 tender based aboard the USS Currituck II (AV-7) anchored in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Time Zone 4. The aircraft departed San Juan at 210114z March 1953 on a ASW search in connection with a PHIBEX II Operation. The flight plane was a controlled VFR to 19 deg 30'N, the south boundary of the airspace reservation, thence on operational clearance 0' - 4500' VFR, 2000' - 4500 VFR. At 220240z the pilot reported by OW. "On Station" at a predesignated point "A" 20:15M 67.45W. The search area was 340 miles wide along a base line of 315 deg. At 220455z the reported "Plan B" a predesignated point at 24.15N 71.45W. At 220600z, the following message was sent by CW. "Proceed immediately Latitude 22-50 North, Longitude 67-30West. Maintain stationary gambit tactics; report on station and hourly plan. IFR 2000'. You will be relieved approximately 221050z." At 220626z the following, CW transmission was received "Roger" "Wait" The was the last contact with the aircraft. Its estimated position at this time was 23-37North, 70-07West. The aircraft's ETA San Juan was 221315z and it had sufficient fuel to remain airborne until 221515z. The pilot and crew were well qualified to handle any but the most extreme types of emergencies. Because of the complete lack of evidence, it is concluded that an immediate emergency occurred and the aircraft exploded or crash landed at sea in such a manner that aircraft parts and equipment were carried under with hull. Crew missing: Lt(jg). John Glen Wick (pilot), Lt. Emil (nmi) Rakovich (co-pilot), Lt. Mark Robert Armour (navigator), AD1. Wallace J. Livingston (Plane Capt), AD3. Daniel Josiah Fames (2nd mechanic), AL2. Glenn D. McLaughlin (1st radioman), AO1. Clearance Egar Holder (1st ordanceman), ATAN. Howard Edward Appelt (3rd radioman), AD3. Robert Lee Harrington (3rd mechanic), ATS. Leonard J. Piersante (2nd radioman), and AOAN. Charles Ray West (2nd ordanceman). Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [07OCT2003]

MishapsMISHAPs: 00 XXX 55 A/C: PBM Marina Location: NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone Strike: Yes BUNO: 59232 Cause: Unknown

UPDATE VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraMishap Telex "...I have attached a copy of the telex that was sent immediately after VP-34 EC10 crashed into the sea wall at the entrance of the Panama Canal on 31 October 1955. There is one error that I know of in the telex and that is the correct name is William Hopkins not William Hophing. I don't recall how I gained possession of it or how I managed to keep it all these years. FARNETT, Nick njf5@comcast.net..." [17FEB2005]

UPDATE "...I was a LCDR serving with VP-34 at the time we lost EC-10 (10 Boat) when she hit the rock seawall in attempting to land after losing the Starboard engine. I was fairly new to the Squadron and had been assigned as Maintenance Officer. I remember that day very well as I had been assigned to that flight in the morning but was recalled to my office for some emergency so left the aircraft just before she went over the side. The cause of the fire was a loose clamp on the hose to the fuel flow meter on an engine that had been replaced. I had watched the engine replacement work in the hangar and had flown in 10 Boat for the 10 hours required slow time before the plane was ready for operational flight. On this particular morning the ASR aircraft in our sister squadron, VP-45, had gone down and EC - 10 was scheduled to take her place. An additional 300 gallons of fuel was taken aboard making her some 1800 pounds heavier than originally planned. That was one factor that contributed to her loss. Factor #2 was that the seadrome was experiencing a rain squall that blocked visibility in the normal take off direction placing the takeoff run directly at the seawall instead of some 30 degrees to the left. Factor number 3 was that the plane was piloted by a PP2P as I recall, not a PPC with greater experience. I was on the hangar mezzanine when the alarm went off and I looked out the window onto the seadrome and saw 10 Boat go by at about 100 - 150 feet altitude with fire streaming out of the starboard engine nacelle. No attempt was made to turn left (into the good engine) and thus get more seadrome length and the plane continued straight ahead until it hit the rock seawal, ripping open the belly tanks and exploding into flames. They were within 3 feet or so of clearing the rocks. In flight training we were always told with engine failure to land straight ahead - that may have influenced the pilot's decision to fly straight ahead. I do not remember the pilot's name but I do remember Ensign Sperlich and his wife, Ellen. For those of you who have read "Fate is the Hunter" by Ernest Gann, it usually takes several factors occuring at the same time to cause an accident. This one was a prime example: extra fuel ( without the additional weight the plane could have cleared the seawall and landed in the ocean beyond ), rain squall preventing a longer takeoff in a cleared area of the seadrome and perhaps a relatively inexperienced pilot. Since only the inexperienced Airman Aprentice survived ( without seat belt or harness ) there was no on left to give an account from the cockpit or the inside of the aircraft. As for me, for six months I wondered what I might have done to prevent this accident and spent many sleepless nights trying to see what might have been done. Like one of the other crewmen who got releaved before the flight I guess it was not my fate to be aboard that morning...KANE, CAPTAIN John C. Retired johnckane1@aol.com..." [17NOV2002]

UPDATE "...the day 10 boat hit the seawall losing 15 of the 16 people aboard. I came very close to being on 10 boat that day. I had been grounded for an punctured airdrum and got back to flying status that morning, I asked LCDR Tenold if I could go out on 10 boat and get my flight time in. He said no. I thank God every day that he said no. It was strange feeling watching 10 boat burn that day...OGLE, Thomas J. og167@aol.com..." [23MAY2001]

UPDATE "...I was the (teenage) dependant son of a Naval Aviator, LCDR R. H. Bookhamer, assigned to VP-45 NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone from 1954 to 1956. During that time frame, a PBM Mariner (late '55 I believe) from VP-34, A/C #10 crashed during take-off into the Atlantic Breakwater. Later the salvaged wreckage was brought up and placed on a pier very close to our quarters. Being a curious teenager with an old camera my father had given me, I went down to the pier and took these photos. I would have taken more but a Marine guard ran me off after I talked him out of confiscating the camera..." Contributed by Robert Bookhamer Jr. rbookhamer@earthlink.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 1 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 2 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 3 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]

UPDATE "...I was in VP-34 from 1/54 to 4/56. NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone in late "55" or early "56". We lost a PBM on takeoff when one engine caught fire and the plane crashed into the seawall at the entrance to the canal. There was one survivor. Sorry I can't remember any names but a fellow Ordnanceman and basketball player (Roger Ward). He was one we lost..." Contributed by Nick Farnett njf5@comcast.net [12MAR99]

UPDATE "... NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone...I don't recall what month or date but we were there from late 1955 to middle 1956. It was a Monday morning. I recall much of it vividly because I was on 10 boat in the water ready for takeoff when the tower called that they were sending out a replacement for me & I was to get aboard 3 boat. It seems that AT1 Alan Johnson & myself were the only two in the squadron qualified to teach our ECM equipment to newcomers & that was the mission for 3 that day & Johnson had been on a flight over the weekend that had been delayed. So when the crew on 3 realized that Johnson was not there they had the Electronics dept look for me & they got me off of 10 & transferred to 3 just before we were ready for takeoff. As 10 made its takeoff run the starboard engine caught fire & power was lost & they tried to make it over the manmade seawall that guarded the Atlantic entrance of the canal but did not make it. All on board except a flight eng. trainee were killed. He was the only one not in a seat with a seat belt on & was standing behind the flight eng. seat. We heard later that the cause of the engine failure was a clamp not tightened on a hose to the fuel flow meter & upon full power for takeoff it came off resulting in the fire. I remember that Mac Childress was the flight eng. & Ens Sperlich was Co-Pilot. I can still picture the others but I can't seem to remember their names. Hope this may help & maybe others can add more..." Contributed by Fred Reitberger horsey@earthlink.net [25JUN98]

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