This is a photo of Lockheed Super Constellation L-1049H, serial number N6915C, the aircraft that crashed on 24 December 1964. The picture was taken on 31 March 1962, as the aircraft was taking off from the U.S. Air Force Base at Tachikawa, Japan

The Crash of Flying Tiger Flight #282

Plus photos of U.S. Army Nike Missile Artillery Battery sites: SF-51L and SF-51C

On 24 December 1964, a Lockheed Super Constellation L-1049H, serial number N6915C, crashed at 12:31:30 a.m. The aircraft crashed 65 feet below the summit of Sweeney Ridge, just west of San Bruno, California, and approximately 4.3 miles west-southwest of San Francisco International Airport.

The aircraft was a freighter, and it carried a crew of three. It flew into San Francisco International Airport from Japan on 23 December 1964, carrying a full load of freight. The aircraft was then refueled, and there was a change of crew. Very early on 24 December 1964, Captain Jabez Albert Richard, age 49, First Officer Daniel White Hennessy, age 33, and Flight Engineer Paul M. Entz, age 37, taxied to runway 28L; their destination was John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.

When the aircraft taxied onto a runway for the last time, it weighed 142,073 pounds, within 27 pounds of the allowable takeoff gross weight. Surface weather charts for the evening of December 23 and the early morning hours of December 24 indicate that San Francisco was under the influence of a cold frontal system moving onshore. At the time of the accident rain, low cloudiness, and considerable fog were shown along virtually the entire Pacific coast.

At 30 minutes past midnight the aircraft became airborne. One minute and 30 seconds later the aircraft, with a full load of freight, and a full tank of fuel, slammed in to Sweeney Ridge at an elevation of approximately 860 feet, 65 feet below the ridge top. The three crew members were killed instantly.

The Civil Aeronautics Board found the following probable cause of the crash: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was that the pilot, for undetermined reasons, deviated from departure course into an area of rising terrain where downdraft activity and turbulence affected the climb capability of the aircraft sufficiently to prevent terrain clearance."

GO HERE if you want to read the comprehensive CAB Aircraft Accident Report about the crash (pdf file)

Hundreds of people, every week, can be found exercising on the popular Sweeney Ridge Trail. Few, if any, have knowledge of the tragedy that occured within scant feet of where they hike, bicycle ride, run, or walk.

When I first read about the plane crash, I remember thinking, how strange, I have hiked and run on that trail, and I have never seen anything to indicate that a plane crashed there. When I went to Sweeney Ridge a couple of years ago to look specifically for the crash site, it took me about an hour of slogging around through brush before I thought I found the site. I wasn't really sure if I located the crash site, but I felt fairly confident that I knew where it was.

I returned to the site a few times since, and located some very small pieces of debris that confirmed that I had located the crash site. I recently decided to document the crash site with photographs, and also document two U.S. Army Nike missile artillery battery sites that are both within two miles of the crash site.

Jef Poskanzer has a web site, which, among other interesting subjects, has very good information about the NIKE MISSILE SITES of the San Francisco Bay Area. The site of SF-51C is located on Sweeney Ridge, and the site of SF-51L is located on Milgara Ridge.

The Golden Gate Recreation Area authorities unfortunately have not seen the necessity to maintain these historically significant Cold War military sites, and they are all in a state of advanced decay.

Photographs taken on 24 March 2007 by Neil Mishalov with a Canon SD-700is camera

Copyright © Neil Mishalov


This photo was taken from the ridge top (elevation 925 feet) of Sweeney Ridge, about 65 feet above the point of impact. San Francisco Jail #3, the rectangular building, is visible. San Bruno Mountain is in the distance; the location of San Francisco Airport is denoted on the right side of this panoramic photo. Six separate digital photographs were "stitched together" to produce this panoramic image.

Scroll to the right to see the complete image ======>

Looking west from the Sweeney Ridge Trail. I am standing on the ridge top just above the crash site. A portion of the plane hurtled over the ridge top and landed on the western side of the ridge; just below where I am standing. Six separate digital photographs were "stitched together" to produce this panoramic image.

Scroll to the right to see the complete image ======>

Click on an image to see the full size picture

GO HERE to see photographs taken of the area before, and shortly after, the plane crashed

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The northern terminus of the Sweeney Ridge Trail is at Skyline College in San Bruno The California state flower, Eschscholtzia Californica (California Poppy)
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Ah yes, a beautiful example of Toxicodendron diversilobum. This plant is commonly know as Poison Oak. Beware! This is the site of the main operations building at USCG Radar Station-San Bruno. GO HERE to see the building in the 1940's.
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The road to the main operations building at USCG Radar Station-San Bruno I am standing at the location of the crash. GO HERE to see a picture of this location immediately after the crash The crash site
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There are still small items remaining from the plane. The crash site is full of Poison Oak This is part of an engine, probably the propeller gear box assembly. Thanks to D. Hawley for identifying this component
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This is the site of Coast Guard transmitting building #1 on the north side of the crash site. GO HERE to see the building at the time of the crash
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This is the site of Coast Guard transmitting building #2 on the south side of the crash site. GO HERE to see the building at the time of the crash The crash site area was the location of U.S. Coast Guard transmitting antennas. This is the remains of a wooden antenna mast About 2 miles south of the crash site are the remains of Nike missile artillery battery SF-51C. I believe this is the maintenance and repair building
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Inside the maintenance repair building. The roof has collapsed I believe this is the operations building, with a guard house in the front
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The operations building Inside the operations building Just west of the operations building is what I belive to be the officer's housing quarters
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Officer's housing Inside the officer's housing
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The bathroom One of the two launching pads The second launching pad. In the background is what I believe to be the enlisted man's housing quarters
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On the Sweeney Ridge Trail, looking north Cronologically, I hiked the Milagra Ridge trail prior to my hike on Sweeney Ridge U.S. Army Nike missile artillery battery SF-51L is located on Milagra Ridge above Pacifica. This is the south side of an underground operations facility. The steel doors are welded shut
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Although access is not possible, I took this picture through an slot in one of the doors The north entrance to the underground operations facility Looking down at the north entrance
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The fog is cold, and it is moving in fast This concrete bunker observation post is located above the north entrance of the underground operations facility
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At the top of the hill are two concrete pads This is the second pad.

Go to: Pictures of the crash site during the time of the crash

Go to: My Digital Photo Collection

Go to: Photos from Korea and Japan: 1968 and 1969

Go to: My Return to Korea: October 2003

Go to: Home Page

Go to: Medal of Honor Citation page

This page created on 25 March 2007. All photographs copyright 2007 by NEIL MISHALOV