ASN Aircraft accident Sikorsky S-42A NC15376 San Juan harbor
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Sunday 19 February 1939
Type:Silhouette image of generic s42 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Sikorsky S-42A
Operator:Pan American Airways (Pan Am)
Registration: NC15376
MSN: 4206
First flight: 1936
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney R-1690-S1EG Hornet
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 7
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 23
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 30
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Repaired
Location:San Juan harbor (   Puerto Rico)
Phase: Landing (LDG)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:San Pedro de Macorís Seaplane Base, Dominican Republic
Destination airport:San Juan-Isla Grande Airport (SIG/TJIG), Puerto Rico
The Sikorsky S-42A "Dominican Clipper" originated in Miami, FL and was bound for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with en route stops at Antilla, Port-au-Prince, San Pedro de Macorís, San Juan, Port of Spain, Paramaribo, Belem, Camacin, Recife, Salvadore and Victoria.
During the leg from Macoris to San Juan the airplane encountered head winds which resulted in a trip that took 1 hour and 40 minutes longer than planned. Naval surface boats and aircraft were anchored at San Juan harbor, preventing the use of the regular landing area. During the night landing outside the harbor the airplane porpoised and it struck a swell, causing the plane to rise. Just as power was applied, the left pontoon struck the water. The nose then struck the water and the S-42 waterlooped, coming to rest in a partially submerged position.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Porpoising of the aircraft off the water in a stalled attitude from which recovery was not accomplished."

Contributing factors:
1. Congested condition of the San Juan harbor which necessitated a landing outside of the protected area.
2. Unforeseen change in wind direction subsequent to departure of the trip from Macoris and the change in sea conditions as the trip neared San Juan, at which time there was insufficient fuel on board the aircraft to return to Macoris.
3. An attempted landing during darkness under adverse weather and sea conditions and with limited facilities for night operation.
4. Failure if Pan American World Airways, Inc seaplane tender crew to transmit information to the pilot of the aircraft concerning the steadily increasing amplitude and intensity of the swells in the landing area.
5. Lag in communication between the flight crew and the San Juan ground station due to the inherent slowness of radio telegraph transmissions and reception.

Loss of control


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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 Pedro de Macorís Seaplane Base to San Juan-Isla Grande Airport as the crow flies is 337 km (211 miles).

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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