Washington’s Deadliest Aviation Disaster Happened Just North of Tri-Cities
It was a cold morning on December 20, 1952, at Larson Airfield (5 miles north of Moses Lake). The C-124A Globemaster built by the Douglas Corporation was carrying 105 servicemen, and 10 crew members when it lifted off into the eastern Washington sky at 6:27 a.m.
Passengers on the plane were part of a lottery to come home for the holidays
During the Korean War, the Air Force gave servicemen the opportunity to fly home for the holidays as part of a program dubbed, “Operation Sleigh Ride”. It was a lottery of sorts – to get a seat on the plane military personnel were drawn by a lot number. Unfortunately, those who won a seat on this plane lost their life or had their life changed forever.
The C-124A Globemaster aircraft was a massive airplane
The plane was massive and could carry large vehicles such as buses, jeeps, and other military vehicles and equipment with more room for up to 200 servicemen and crew. It had two decks and enormous engines with 3500 hp. At the time, it was a very expensive aircraft to build - $1.8 million.
On the day of the accident, a passenger who was scheduled to depart on the flight overslept. He was able to find a ride and was rushed to the airport. He arrived just in time but since he was one of the last to board the plane he was forced to sit in the tail section. His tardiness saved his life. The aircraft lifted off and within a few minutes lost control and crashed killing 87 passengers, he was one of the 26 survivors (most of whom were in the tail section).
At the time of the accident, it was the world’s worst aviation accident. The crash is still listed as Washington’s deadliest aviation disaster. Investigators later determined the pilot failed to remove the rudder locking pin prior to departure.
Douglas C-124A (51-99) Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Boise, Idaho in 1952 by Bill Larkins / CC BY-SA 2.0 (Indicate if changes were made here, otherwise put 'No Changes Made')
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