15 August, 1944
Above flight dispatched from Bruning AAB, Bruning, Nebraska 1907 CWT (7:07PM CST) August 3, 1944 for purpose of transporting above fighter pilots to Pierre AAB for gunnery school. Pilot Capt. Meadows was briefed on weather for the route and was reported to have flown this route several times. On reaching the thunderstorm area approximately one hour and eighteen minutes from Burning and in the vicinity of the Niobrara River Valley south of Naper, Nebraska, flight encountered typical frontal activity with surface winds variable from 25 to 45 MPH from WNW and accompanying turbulence, hail and rain showers with cloud to ground lightning.
Although not definitely determined, it is indicated from careful inspection of the wreckage that (the) right wing tip, right wing, both horizontal stabilizer surfaces and right engine were torn from the airplane around 1,000 feet above ground; the balance of the airplane remaining more or less intact and proceeded in direction of flight for another 300 yards horizontal distance before impact (apparently inverted...dh) with the ground, where subsequent fire destroyed remaining portions with the exception of the left wing and left engine.
It is indicated that failure of any of occupants to abandon the airplane may have been due to the sudden loss of the right wing which would have caused (the) airplane and prevent escape at the low altitude indicated.
Almost all of the 29 occupants were thrown free of the fire, although bodies were within 40 feet of the main wreckage. It was evident all occupants were instantly killed.
1. As Accurately as can be determined, the accident occurred twenty two (22) minutes prior to the estimated arrival time at destination although (the) airplane crashed 110 miles short of that point. Although "on course" some time may have been expended in dodging (confirmed by visual sighting of Leo Brotskey...dh) thundershowers in that vicinity before structural failure occurred.
2. A check of loading data at Bruning shows gross take-off weight was 29,127 pounds. (Numbers underlined)
3. Pilot reported (underlined) to have had about 30 hours time on this type and considered by his supervisory officers to be well qualified.
4. Pilot possessed white instrument card and was considered a good instrument pilot.
5. Pilot thoroughly briefed on weather (see attached Form 23 and statement of Lt. Gianos, Weather Officer) (not included in the Naper Report).
6. Time of accident indicated by clock with time showing 8:25 and found in wreckage.
7. Examination of aileron edge of right wing indicates failure of top surface in tension (last two words underlined). The wing tip section of this wing was bent vertical to the span and concave on the underside. This would indicate terrific overloading on the upper surface of the sing and it is believed the plane was inverted when in the cloud and encountered a violent updraft in this position. The condition of other failed parts such as horizontal stabilizers and ailerons indicate plane disintegrated due to turbulence in the storm cloud.
1. The appearance of the wreckage which was strewn for one mile along the westerly flight path appear to bear out Mr. Helenbolt's statement that parts fell from the airplane while in flight and that (the) plane descended at about a 45 degree angle and rolling around the longitudinal axis prior to impact. History of tornado type storms indicates that under conditions existing in the vicinity, it is possible for sudden and violent tornadic storms to develop and pass overhead without extending downward to the terrain.
2. Attention is invited ot Form 23 showing 8 hours fuel supply for a flight of 1 hour and 45 minute duration.
PROBABLE CAUSE: Structural failure of right wing and part of tail section.
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS: Failure of pilot to avoid known turbulence. Gross loading of airplane at 29,127 pounds.
A. Pilots of C-47A and similar types be advised of necessity for avoiding turbulent frontal areas. If impossible to avoid such area, the following precautions be taken.
1. Extend landing gear.
2. Reduce power to bring indicated air speed to maximum of 130 MPH.
3. Pilots of C-47A and similar types acquire minimum of 50 hours first pilot time before being permitted to transport personnel.
SIGNATURE: Glen W. Neel, Major Air Corps
Regional Safety Officer