About these pictures

I am an avid collector of intriguing old things including postcards, newspapers, photographs, advertising cards, souveniers, etc. All of the pictures in this blog are from my private collection. If you wish to enlarge any picture, simply click on it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beautiful Postcard, Tragic Ending

I've had this card in my collection for a while and decided to look up the tail number (N-Number) to find out if it was still flying. I am a private pilot and go to Oshkosh, Wisconsin almost every year for the world's largest fly-in. There are thousands of planes still flying that were built in the 1940's and I often see beautifully restored ones while at the show.

A frequent sight....trios of beautiful women playing guitar as I shuffle off of one flight and onto the next!

I was saddened when I Googled the tail number NC25684 and was directed to a plane crash website and found this:

• 1945 •

Date / Time: Wednesday, January 10, 1945 / 4:10 a.m.
Operator / Flight No.: American Airlines / Flight 6-001
Location: McClure Canyon, near Burbank, Calif.

Details and Probable Cause: “Flagship Douglas,” an American Airlines twin-engine Douglas DC-3 (NC25684), departed New York City on the morning of Tuesday, January 9, on a cross-country flight designated “The Sun Country Special” and bound for the Lockheed Air Terminal at Burbank, with stops along the way at Washington D.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas and El Paso, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona.

While the plane was en route, company ground personnel neglected to obtain and transmit regular weather updates to the pilot, which would have alerted him to the fact that conditions at Burbank were were varying between “marginal” and “below minimums” due to the dense fog and poor visibility present at the Lockheed Air Terminal.

Upon arrival over Burbank at 4:06 a.m. on the morning of January 10, the cockpit crew attempted an instrument approach to the airport that was unsuccessful due to the foggy conditions. The “missed approach” procedure for the runway the DC-3 was attempting to land on calls for an immediate, climbing right turn over the departure end of the runway and, upon reaching 3,500 feet, radioing a request for further instructions from the company ground station.

However, upon its missed approach, the plane overflew the runway, made a left turn, and vanished into the fog. The pilot in command then radioed controllers that he could not maintain visual ground contact and would be diverting to an alternate airfield to the north at Palmdale, where weather conditions were improved.

It was at this point in time that the captain apparently began the standard “missed approach” procedure -- but only after the plane had already made a left turn. By deviating from the prescribed standard “missed approach” procedure -- making a left turn first -- the subsequent right, climbing turn that the plane performed now put it directly on a course into the Verdugo Mountains that rise beyond Burbank.

Two minutes later, while flying blindly through the thick fog, the DC-3 crashed, exploded and burned on a ridge of McClure Canyon of the Verdugos, approximately 2-3/4 miles northeast of the Lockheed Air Terminal. All 21 passengers -- 17 U.S. Army members and four U.S. Navy personnel -- were killed, as was the aircraft’s crew of three: the pilot, first officer and stewardess. The plane remained overdue at Palmdale and missing until around 9:30 a.m. when the fog lifted and personnel with binoculars in the Burbank control tower sighted the wreckage on the distant mountain ridge approximately 1,034 feet above the elevation of the airport.

The Civil Aeronautics Board’s report on the accident noted that “the possibility of an accident became a potentiality” when American Airlines ground personnel failed to obtain and transmit important weather information to the pilot -- a situation that the board believed “constitutes negligence on the part of the company.”

But the board also felt that this factor did not relieve the pilot from his responsibility of conducting a safe flight even though it did place him in a disadvantageous position. In its final conclusion, the CAB found the probable cause of the accident to be “the pilot’s attempt to use the standard ‘missed approach’ procedure after having followed another course up to a point where it was impossible to apply this procedure safely.”

Actress Donna Reed, 23, narrowly avoided the same fate as those aboard the doomed plane. Reed, who had traveled to Juarez, Mexico, on January 8 to obtain a divorce from her husband, Hollywood makeup artist William Tuttle, was returning to California on the night of January 9 and had boarded the airliner when it made its scheduled stop across the border at El Paso, Texas. However, the actress was bumped from the flight just prior to takeoff to make room for a military officer holding a wartime-travel “priority” pass.

Fatalities: 24


I guess Donna Reed lucked out this time. So sad for those who lost their lives, they were all military men serving our country.

It is amazing that researching one little postcard can tie up an evening. Must be something wrong with me! I've been "From Here To Eternity".


  1. I've lost many an evening to postcard research too. They just sort of pull you in. This is certainly a riveting story, so sad and so preventable.

  2. That is indeed a very sad ending.

    Just an evening? .. try weekends, weeks, months, years! But it's not lost, it's gained - the old glass half-full story.

  3. Simply amazing. The back-stories that follow postcards can go really deep, can't they?

  4. Interesting and sad post. Great blog you have here - have just followed you.

  5. Just think, if Donna had been aboard this ill-fated flight, we would not have seen her in the most beautiful movie "It's a Wonderful Life" seen each year by millions during the Christmas holidays. Norm - Bridgewater, MA

  6. My Dad's brother, Lt. Byron W. Fisher, died in the crash of this airplane. He had completed 25 missions over occupied Europe as the co-pilot of a B-17 in the fall of 1943, and was assigned to ferrying new bombers from the factories in Long Beach to England. He would fly one over, then return by transport and commercial flight to the California to get another bomber and do it again. He had a war time priority pass. He had flown as far as Texas the day before, and stayed there a day longer than planned as he was concerned about the weather. He then boarded this ill-fated flight as a passenger, and was probably the officer that bumped Donna Reed. Quite ironic what he went through flying planes himself, only to die as a passenger.

  7. katiemacdon2016@gmail.comMarch 18, 2016 at 7:37 PM

    A very interesting bit of history. My immediate question as I read the account of the aircraft departure and crash was "I wonder if that pilot was dyslexic? In 1945 not much was known about dyslexia." As a researcher years ago I had occasion to go through hundreds of aircraft accidents and at that time I noted a number of them had the common occurrence of crew mis-reading procedures or confusing procedures. A visit with family members or friends of all those who lost their lives as well as those otherwise involved could pull a touching essay and bring heartfelt closure couldn't it?