Narrative:The fully laden Curtiss C-46, which was 258 pounds in excess of the mtow, departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 17:24 for Wilmington. Approx. 21:45 the crew noticed that the indicated right engine oil quantity had fallen from 32 gallons to 20. Immediately after this was observed, the left engine backfired and lost power. Application of carburetor heat and adjustment of fuel mixture and other engine controls were ineffectual, so the left propeller was feathered. The aircraft was headed toward Nassau, the closest island with an adequate landing field. Power settings for the right engine were increased to 2400 rpm and 30 in manifold pressure. The cruising altitude of 6,500 feet was maintained for about five minutes. Shortly afterwards the crew observed that the indicated oil quantity for the right engine had fallen from 20 to 15 gallons. At about the same time the crew also observed that the right engine was overheating with an indicated cylinder head temperature of nearly 300 degrees centigrade. Because of this condition, the Captain began a voluntary descent to ditch before complete right engine failure occurred. An attempt was made to hold altitude at 200 feet above the water until shore stations could obtain radio bearings. The right engine speed decreased from 2400 to 2250 rpm and could not he increased. Airspeed was then reduced to between 100 and 110 mph by retarding the right throttle, and the aircraft was ditched about 20 minutes after the malfunctioning of the left engine began. The wing flaps and landing lights were not used. At the time, the weather was clear and the wind was from the southwest at approximately 10 miles per hour.
As soon as the aircraft came to rest in the water, the crew entered the cabin where they opened the main cabin door and the emergency exits. The emergency exits were not opened prior to the ditching as prescribed in the company's Operation Manual. Some of the passengers then climbed out onto the wings, and others jumped into the sea. All seven of the 10-man life rafts were thrown overboard, five floated away in the darkness because their retaining ropes were not held, two were inflated The three crew members and 34 of the 62 passengers were able to swim to and board the two life rafts. During the night five flares were fired at intervals but were not observed. A company C-46, which had remained in the search area, reported at 23:21, one hour and eighteen minutes after the ditching, that they saw a blinking light on the water. A fix was established and the following morning a Coast Guard aircraft located the survivors, and shortly afterwards the USS Saufley, a US Navy destroyer, drew alongside and rescued those in the two life rafts. The position of the rescue was 27 degrees 51'north latitude and 75 degrees 22'west longitude.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The malfunctioning of both engines from causes unknown."
» CAB File No. 1-0093
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not
display the exact flight path.
Distance from San Juan-Isla Grande Airport to Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC as the crow flies is 2099 km (1312 miles).