Stephen Whitaker wrote me in Jan.2008, requesting help for solving the mystery of DC-3 ECT-025.
This Douglas DC-3 / C-47 vanished without a trace on 03Oct1980, north of Palma de Mallorca (the Mediterranean).
A posting on various fora remained without result.
Googling provided no photographs of ECT-025
The book Spanish & Portugese Military Aviation by John M.Andrade (Midland Counties Publications, 1977) offered the following information on the Spanish DC-3s:
The identity of T.3-25 led to a report on the Aviation Safety Network, however this quotes a date of accident of 02oct1973. The report quotes T.3-25 as c/n 9037, but has no details nor a location of the accident. It does report the aircraft was written off as result of the accident.
Air-Britain's book Douglas DC-3, the First Seventy Years (2006) provided the following information of c/n 9037:
The webpage of AviationSafety Network has the bare minimum on the 1980 disappearance, but without the aircraft's identity. It lists the operator as Kurfiss Aviation and the routing Madrid-Barajas - Perpignan,France.
This is where the trail seems to stop...
Notes to the above:
Peter-Michael Gerhardt also added on the Ju-52:
[Stephen wrote me in March 2009: "A clarification may be in order here, the Junkers JU-52 and the third plane may not have been owned by
Peter-Michael Gerhardt followed this up with a posting on the AB-IX forum (08Feb.2008):
So the last posting would mean that "T3-67 > N8041C nothing more heard of..." could be the sought after ECT-025...
More information welcomed.
P.M. Gerhardt wrote me this in Dec.2009, on the multiple use of registration N569R:
Jacques Hémet sent me a FAA repairform of N569R, dated 03May1963; Monsieur Hémet was the last owner of this DC-3. PHOTO OF FAA FORM
"Since Peter-Michael Gerhardt applied his research and deduction to the problem, it seems evident to me that the mystery aircraft must be:
Jacques Hémet wrote me in Oct.2009 on this:
"Here is a photo of my Dad, the pilot:
This was taken at my sisters wedding just two weeks prior to the disappearance. He would have been 89 years old now.The co-pilot Major Lawrence 'Larry' Eckmann was only 35 at the time. He would now be nearly 65."
Lothar Grim sent me this and wrote:
Stephen's reply to this:
Here is an article published in a magazine called Halo, on 18Oct1980, where Wal Davis -film director- recounts the last hours of the two DC-3 pilots who disappeared... Article in Acrobat Reader (.pdf) format
Technical Report, by Spanish Authorities on the disappearance DC-3 ECT-025 (03Oct1980). The report is concluded by the words "..disappearance of aircraft are surrounded by the mystery that results from the lack of data. In the case of ECT-025, no one knows what occurred after take off from the Cuatro Vientos airport, and as a result no probable cause of an accident can be determined".
|I found your website during a web search for information on the disappearance of the DC-3 ECT-025..
The copilot of the plane, Maj. Lawrence Eckmann, was my closest friend.
Upon learning of his disappearance in the early 1980's, I've tried to find information about the circumstances. A recent post on a US Army veteran group's site has given me my first solild lead, which in turn led me to you.
Stephen wrote in Nov.2009:
My reply was:
|'Greg' wrote me (Oct.2009), explaining his memories on copilot Larry Eckmann and shares what he knows on the disappearance of DC-3 ECT-025:
"Larry Eckmann, the copilot of the DC-3, was my closest friend in highschool. He was also my brother's best friend.
I understand that Stephen's father was the pilot, and it is his search that has finally allowed me to get some information about the disappearance of the flight. (We've seen the news article and Spanish accident report.) At the time, all we knew was that he went down. I had lost contact with his parents, and was unsuccessful in locating them. Many Google and military records searches later, your efforts pitched up on the computer. I must admit, I feel a bit like a treasure hunter who has finally found something valuable."
"I've often wondered what motivated Larry to deliver the plane, and who he was with, since it wasn't a military assignment he was on. How did he team up with Stephen's dad? Who was Wal Davis?
It appears that the plane was barely airworthy, having had many of its instruments stripped...
They were delayed, I gather, and speculate that they were pressed for time since Larry was on leave. You may be able to fill in the blanks and end my speculation."
"Larry was a fine fellow. We lifeguarded together and sang in a folk music group in Japan. All of us were military brats, the sons of Air Force officers. He entered the Army as an enlisted man, went thru jump school, and flight training. Flew Hueys as a warrant officer, and then went to OCS. He was a fast burner as an officer apparently, making major after a tour in Viet Nam. He had been in seminary at one point and left it. It was a good decision; he had a bit of larceny in his soul.
He married a woman from Panama, and as I recall, they were married in a cathedral in Columbia, but that could be incorrect. I only met her once. She already had children, and I believe they had more together. I've learned that his son, Lawrence, is now an Army officer."
Peter-Michael Gerhardt contributed the following in Dec.2009:
"Following a public auction at Cuatro Vientos Kurfiss bought 3 DC-3 and one Casa 352L aircraft on 10.07.79, all former Spanish Air Force ones.
Harold William Whitaker - Aircraft Commander on 03Oct80
Lawrence Jerome Eckmann
Maj. US Army - Co-Pilot on 3 Oct 80
Born in 1945 at Andrews AFB
Age in 1980: 35
Enlisted US Army 8 Oct 1965
Lawrence Jerome Eckmann-
DECORATIONS AND AWARDS: National Defense Service Medal; Parachutist Badge; Army Aviator Badge; Vietnam Service Medal; Air Medal w/Numeral 14; Bronze Star Medal w/l OLC; Army Commendation Medal; Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal; Good Conduct Medal; Expert Infantryman Badge; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/Device "1960"; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm.
Further research by Peter Gerhardt resulted in his following email (Jan.2010) to Stephen Whitaker:
"Your father is quoted to have ferried two DC-3s from Zagreb to Frankfurt. That reminded me to delve into my files once more and I found a card saying that the following C-47s/DC-3s
"Today I received a response to my Freedom of Information request of
the United States Central intelligence Agency.
--"In accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 12958, as
amended, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or
nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact of the
existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and
properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods
information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA
Act of 1949, as amended."--
I note that my father's plane disappeared just two weeks after the
Sandanista's FMLN reportedly assassinated Samoza who had been exiled
to Paraguay. The CIA was ramping up its Central American covert
operations for support of the Contra 'Rebels'. That project later
involved Ollie North and his crew!
I suspect that, even if my Dad is dead by now, the likelihood is that the co-pilot Eckmann is not and therefore they cannot disclose where they went, working for who...."
|This email arrived 27Nov2015:
My name is Sophie Soria, I was born Salhab and I am a French national.
My father Alain Salhab (co-pilot) disappeared on DC-3 F-BJBY (company: Hemet) on 21st of April 1981.
I contact you because Stephen Whitaker explains his search for DC 3 ECT-025 and makes a link with F-BJBY. Maybe you can help us to contact each other to explain him every details of my search.
Thks a lot for your help ,
In Sep.2017 Stephen wrote me the following update, including several documents in PDF.format
"My FOIA effort to discover where my dad disappeared to may have hit a dead end. Thankfully, Harold William Whitaker would certainly not have lived to be 98 years old in 2017. Lawrence Eckmann may well still be alive.
"The small airport that houses what some here call Smithfield’s 'dirty secret' lies just beyond the town’s outskirts, where tobacco warehouses and car dealerships give way to pine forests and then, abruptly, an imposing 10-foot-high fence.
The other articles sent:
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