The Crash of a DC-6 in San Mateo County, California

The Last Flight of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-6: Serial No. 43125, Flight 304/44

Built in 1948; crashed on 29 October 1953.

Photos by Neil Mishalov

Thursday, 29 October 1953. A four engine DC-6 is heading for a landing at San Francisco International Airport. The plane is almost at the conclusion of the last leg of its journey from Sydney, Australia. It took off on its last flight from Honolulu, Hawaii at 10:59 p.m. on 28 October 1953 with eleven passengers and a crew of eight. As the plane was approaching the west coast of the United States it encountered a fog bank. The plane was given clearance to continue on its flight path, which required that the crew maintain at least 500 feet elevation above the fog/cloud cover. Sadly, the flight did not maintain at least 500 feet on top of the fog/cloud cover, and descended in weather conditions which precluded visual reference to the ground.

At 8:44 a.m. the plane's wings sheared off the tops of Redwood trees at an elevation of 2,020 feet, and the plane's fuselage then slammed into the west side of a forested and steep mountain area at an elevation of 1,950 feet one-fourth mile to the north. All of the crew and passengers perished. The United States Civil Aeronautics Board released an ACCIDENT REPORT (pdf format) on 15 June 1954. The report stated that "the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the crew to follow prescribed procedures for an instrument approach."

I had read about this plane crash in the past, but was unaware of the location of the crash site. Denis B. Dineen and I were talking on the telephone recently, and he was able to provide me with addition information regarding the crash site.

On 2 July 2005, Lucie and I did an 7.25 mile hike at EL CORTE de MADERA CREEK OPEN SPACE PRESERVE which is part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Our intention was to hike to the crash site. We did see and photograph some of the plane debris, but we were unable to locate all of the debris because of the steep terrain and brush cover.

My thanks also to Peter Donohue, who subsequently provided me with information regarding the location of additional debris. I will have to return to the site and look at the locations that Peter suggested that I reconnoiter.

The OBITUARY of Arthur Raymond, the designer of the DC-6

All photographs were taken with a Canon 20D camera and a Canon EFS 18-55mm lens

Topographic Map of the Area with a GPS Tracked Route Superimposed

Hike data gathered with a Garmin 60C GPS RECEIVER

Topographic mapping program for Macintosh OSX by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Satellite Photo Map of the Area with a GPS Tracked Route Superimposed

TerraBrowser satellite mapping program for Macintosh OSX by CHIMOOSOFT

GPS track converter by GPSBABEL

Click on an image to see the full size picture
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We started this 7.25 mile hike at Skeggs Point in El Corte De Madera Creek Open Space Preserve The site of a large Tafoni formation. These are formed by a physical process called cavernous weathering, which starts when water brings dissolved minerals to the rock surface. When the water dries, the minerals forms crystals that force small particles to flake off the rock Lucie in a large Tafoni pit
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Heading towards the DC-6 Resolution crash site The northern end of the Resolution Trail. This trail was built to access the DC-6 debris fields
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Debris. This DC-6 crashed on Thursday 29 October 1953. All 19 people on the plane were killed. 11 passengers and 8 crew members The plane was heading for San Francisco Internation Airport. It was on the final leg of a flight from Sydney, Australia The last leg of the flight departed from Honolulu Internation Airport at 10:59 p.m. and crashed near Half Moon Bay, California at 8:44 a.m.
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The cause of the crash was attributed to pilot error We looked for additional debris fields, but were unable to locate additional debris Lucie examining part of the plane
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May all of the 19 souls Rest in Peace An old growth Redwood tree with significant burn scars
I'm not sure what type of mushrooms are pictured here

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This page created on 3 July 2005. All photographs copyright 2007 by NEIL MISHALOV