ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-3-178 NC16017 Palm Springs, CA
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Friday 23 October 1942
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas DC-3-178
Operator:American Airlines
Registration: NC16017
MSN: 1555
First flight: 1936
Engines: 2 Wright R-1820-G102
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 9 / Occupants: 9
Total:Fatalities: 12 / Occupants: 12
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:5 km (3.1 mls) N of Palm Springs, CA (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Hollywood-Lockheed Air Terminal, CA (BUR/KBUR), United States of America
Destination airport:Phoenix (unknown airport), AZ, United States of America
American Airlines Trip 28 was a regular service from Burbank, California, with New York, as its final destination. It departed from Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, at 16:36, having been cleared in accordance with company procedure to Phoenix, Arizona. The flight was carried out by a Douglas DC-3 (NC16017, msn 1555).
At 17:02 the pilot of the aircraft gave his position by radio to Burbank as over Riverside, California, at 9000 feet, and estimated his arrival over the Indio, California, intersection at 17:22 at 9000 feet.
Meanwhile a Lockheed B-34 Ventura IIA bomber (41-38116, msn 137-4772), operated by the Ferrying Command of the U. S. Army Air Forces had taken off from Long Beach, California at 16:26 hours, bound for Palm Springs.
The pilot proceeded to a point north and west of March Field near Riverside, California, at an altitude of about 4000 feet. Here he made two wide circles and instructed his copilot to be on the lookout for the DC-3. Upon sighting the aircraft, he proceeded in a climb toward the San Gorgonia Pass. Upon reaching an altitude of about 9000 feet in the vicinity of March Field, he passed about one and one half to two miles to the left of the DC-3. As they passed the pilot rocked the wings of the B-34 to identify himself to the first officer in the DC-3. The B-34 pilot, then well ahead, crossed the line of flight of the DC-3 and throttled back, waiting for it to overtake him on him left. The DC-3 next overtook the B-34 on a parallel course to the left. The pilot, feeling that he was still too far from the DC-3 to recognize his friend, turned his plane to the left to approach closer. Following this change of course he realized he was coming closer to the DC-3 than he had anticipated and he immediately made a right turn to avoid it. While in this right bank the impact occurred.
The copilot of the B-34 stated that at the moment of the impact he saw the DC-3, which was then immediately below and ahead of them. He said he observed that the rudder of the DC-3 had been hit by the propeller of the B-34 and about three-fourths of the rudder was gone. He stated further that the DC-3 appeared to rise about ten feet above them, hover momentarily, fell off to the left and disappeared.
The DC-3 impacted terrain, killing all 12 on board. The B-34 landed safely at Palm Springs Army Airport.
It appeared that the pilot of the B-34 was a friend of First Officer on Trip 28. They had met the previous evening and during their conversation it was revealed that there was a possibility of both of them departing the following afternoon at about the same time. They had trained together several months previously in small type aircraft and thought it would be pleasant to see each other in the air.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Reckless and irresponsible conduct of Lt. [name] in deliberately maneuvering a bomber in dangerous proximity to an airliner in an unjustifiable attempt to attract the attention of the first officer (copilot) of the latter plane."

Accident investigation:

Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Accident number: final report
Download report: Final report

Mid air collision
Loss of control


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This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Douglas DC-3

  • ca 13.000 built
  • 73rd loss
  • 32nd fatal accident
  • 10th worst accident (at the time)
  • 441st worst accident (currently)
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