The crash of Fairchild C-82 N208M

by Pilot Flying, Tom Hird


The crash, survival and rescue of crew near Beaver, Alaska

Following was written by Tom Hird and sent to me 09Dec2009:

A friend pointed out your online photos of various wrecks and crashes.
While flying for Interior Airways in 1965 I was one of the pilots involved in the crash of Fairchild C-82, N208M.

We started out at a location north of the Brooks range and made it to Fort Yukon, Alaska arriving on the 13th of Jan. 1965. The diversion was made as a result of Fairbanks (FAI) weather and a mechanical problem. The temperature at Fort Yukon was colder than minus 50 degrees F, which kept us grounded and slowed down the mechanical work.
On the 15th of January, our mechanic was confident he had the problem fixed. On the 16th, the temperature warmed up to about -50 degrees F and after a weather briefing by the inbound crew of a Wien C-46, we decided it was time to go.
Engine start and pre-takeoff checks were normal. The takeoff was normal, both engines developing full power. Upon the pilots command 'Gear Up', I placed the landing gear switch to the UP position. A few seconds later we experienced a total electrical failure! No lighting, no gear movement
And no runway to be seen to land on, as the takeoff had created an ice fog condition, blanking out visibility of the runway.
No radios, and since the date is January 16 and Fort Yukon is North of the Attic circle - thus it is dark!
We took all known measurers to resolve the problem with no success.

We turned to the dead reckoning heading for Fairbanks and continued to climb - as I recall somewhere around 8,000 to 9,000 feet - during the climb I pointed out to the Captain that he was following a failing horizon.
Think stone age instruments, no flags or whatever.
At this time I took over the flying duties, as I had a vacuum horizon and DG.
Somewhere shortly thereafter I proceeded to fly two triangular patterns with two minute legs. This was a signal to anyone watching their radar screen that a plane was declaring an emergency with no communications capability. At least thatís the way I remember it.

With no notice at all,the left engine barked once or twice and quit
Remember - no electrical power equals no feathering pump to action.
The resultant aerodynamic behavior was something akin to a falling brick!
The C-82 needed all the power two functioning engine can produce to climb.
So now I am flying a C-82 with the gear down and one wind milling propeller.
While plummeting towards the earth I located a clear area and turned towards it. The only problem was Mr. Fairchild's flying machine was determined to quit at what I would guess to be about a mile short....
As I concluded that contact with the earth was eminent, I attempted to arrest our sink rate and snapped the control column back with great vigor. The resulting impact snapped the booms and broke off both outer wing panels. Fuel was leaking but no ignition occurred...

I can assure you I was the first one out of the plane and covered the greatest distance from it with all deliberate speed, with my emergency gear bag in hand. Upon concluding that there would be no fire from the discharged 130/145 avgas. we all assembled and my two partners took refuge in my sleeping bag. Would you believe that they were wearing street shoes, combined with imported Canadian fur lined, rubberized cold weather boots!
No one was injured, other than their pride. We had lots of fire wood from all the trees we ground up during our short field landing.

We spent 3 days awaiting signs of a rescue plane. I hiked out to the clear area to the South of the wreck and stomped out an S O S in the snow of the clearing.
A USAF C-123 from Eielson AFB was first to locate us and he directed a USAF helicopter to retrieve us. We were taken back to Fort Yukon and changed planes, riding back to Fairbanks in the C-123 who located us. The Air Force LTCOL flying informed me that he was serving his 3rd tour in Alaska and we were the first survivors he ever heard of living through a C-82 crash!
Pointing out the 'Flying Boxcar' was often spoken of as the 'Flying Coffin'.

Some notes on our survival.
We reduced snow to water over our ongoing fire, thus dehydration was no problem. We chose not to eat much, consuming one candy bar each during the 3 days it took to be picked up.
Based on weather reports in the surrounding areas, the temperatures stayed in the -50 F area during our entire ordeal.
My mentor pilot upon arrival in Fairbanks was Sig Krogstad, who had been flying in Alaska about 30+ years, and he educated me in the art of Arctic survival. In Sigs words, if you can't survive with the clothes on your back, you will die in the bush... Accordingly I took him at his word and always had one of the village ladies make my boots and other clothing, along with Eddie Bauer down underwear I was set to survive.

The day following our arrival in Fairbanks we spoke with Interiors Airways owner Jim Magoffin and the FAA. We did the paperwork, and took the rest of the day off. The next day I flew a trip with Jim Magoffin. He asked me how I felt, I said fine, he said you are back on the schedule.
One fine gentleman and a great company to work for. It was more like family in those days. I used to bowl with his wife Dot.

Sometime in the mid-1990's, I was training a former Everts' Air Service DC-6 pilot, who brought out a Hamilton Standard propeller blade from a wrecked C-82 near Beaver. The expression on his face, when I told him I was one of the pilots on its last flight, was priceless

Tom Hird
Yelm, WA


The item from my page Abandoned Wrecks of the Arctic North:

Karl Hayes wrote me in January 2009 with a nice challenge...:
"On your website (the bookspage) you mention the book "Triumph over Turbulence" by Jim Magoffin, which is about Interior Airways of Alaska, which was founded by Mr Magoffin. I read this book over the Christmas and it was a great read. He mentions two crashes which may be of interest for your 'Abandoned Aircraft of the North' department. I carried out some more research, and they are as follows."
(The above mentioned research culminated in an excellent article about Interior Airways in Air Britain's quarterly magazine 'Aviation World', issue June 2009).

Fairchild C-82 N208M.
"Mr Magoffin mentions that as he was looking for more aircraft to fly cargo in Alaska, he became aware that an oil company in Guatemala had two C-82s for sale and he bought these, and they became N208M and N209M. In his book he mentions that N208M was on a flight from Northern Alaska back to base at Fairbanks when it had engine failure. It force landed at Yukon Flats about 100 miles north of Fairbanks and was just left there. It landed in the bush and none of the crew were injured. It was just too remote a crash site to retrieve the aircraft. He does not give a date but the crash is on the NTSB site and the date was 16th January 1965. Presumably the C-82 is still lying there out in the bush?" SEE BELOW!!!
(A photo of sistership N209M was sent to me by John Stewart, see Photos by Friends & Guests - page 20)

Chaz Harris wrote me in June 2009: "Just wanted to know I decided to look for the legendary N208M C-82A of Interior Airways today, AND FOUND IT IN 5 MINUTES!
I have a cropped Google Earth picture that I would like you to put up to confirm it's existance:"
C-82A N208M Interior Airways
IDENTITY CONFIRMATION & BETTER PHOTOS WELCOMED !!!

This is what I found on www.c82packet.com
Date: 16 January, 1965
Operator: Interior Airways Inc. / N208M
s/n / msn: 45-57793 / 10163
Location: near Beaver, Yukon Flats, Alaska
For some reason this crash seems to have slipped past wreck-hunters for many years as it has only just recently come to light. An Interior Airways C-82, N208M was returning to Fairbanks from Northern Alaska when engine trouble forced it down in remote regions about 100 miles north of Fairbanks in the vicinity of a small outpost called Beaver. The crew walked away but the wreck has since been forgotten about.
Google Earth searches have turned up nothing as yet but if anyone out there has any further information please drop me a line via the home-page.
Beaver airstrip: N66 21.44 / W147 24.02 / elev. 106m. (Dave Robertson provided a Google Earth attachment with which one can zoom in on N208M, but I don't expect everybody uses GE, so I made a Google Maps link too.

Report on Aviation Safety Network

 

Tom Seaton wrote me in May 2010-
"I looked at the N208M crashsite today, while looking for black bears.
The leading edges of the wings are really beat up, along with the nose of the fuse. The engines are still there. Overall, its quite intact as far as wrecks go, but I'm not sure if there are many usable parts
remaining.
You can still see a swath through the trees where it slid to a stop..."

 

Jim Magoffin's book 'Triumph over Turbulence' is a good book to read up on post-WW2 Alaska flying; for details see
MyBooks page. A photo of this book is shared below-
C-82 of Interior Airways

 

 


Created: 09-dec-09 Updated: 09-dec-09