The NC14935: Evidence of a 1936 Airplane Crash
Near Kellogg, Idaho
Interpretation

The parts of the NC 14935 aircraft represented appear to be from the forward section including the cockpit, engines, landing gear, and adjacent portions of the wings. The after part of the fuselage and tail section are notable by their absence.

As noted above, contemporary news accounts indicate that the engines were embedded in the earth upslope of the main body of wreckage, and that the front end of the aircraft burned while the after section migrated downslope. Today, there is abundant evidence of the burning of the forward part of the plane, but the engines are now downstream from the burn area, in the ravine together with cowling and wing parts.

We think it most likely that NC14935 struck the mountain at or a bit above what we interpret as a burn area, scattering glass upslope,14 and embedding the engines either both on the north side of the ravine or one on each side, together with their cowlings and adjoining wing segments. The forward section of the plane burned in place, creating the apparent burn area we see today, while the after section slid down the ravine.

Over the decades since the crash, it appears that the engines and their associated cowling and wing parts have lost major components and washed down from their points of impact into the ravine, and with the rest of the aircraft parts are slowly migrating downslope.

But what happened to the fuselage aft of the part that burned? There seem to be only two plausible possibilities: either it washed on downstream, or it was removed by someone.

TIGHAR’s search of the ravine and its slopes downslope from the wreckage extended to the junction of the snowmelt-fed wash with a larger creek. It revealed only one fragment of aluminum and one ceramic electrical component. The lower part of the wash is densely vegetated and contains a good deal of deadfall; it is not impossible that the fuselage and tail, crushed and flattened, lie hidden there, but the team members who surveyed there regard this as unlikely based on their observations. They also regard it as unlikely that substantial pieces of wreckage have passed through this densely overgrown area into the larger creek.

The near-complete dearth of wreckage along the wash downstream from the last cluster of wreckage (the engine and exhaust system pieces) suggests to us that the alternative explanation is more likely to be correct – that the fuselage and tail were salvaged. This explanation would be consistent with the experience of party member Craig Fuller, who has visited and documented some 200 wreck sites and found that they have almost universally been subjected to salvage, however remote and rugged their locations. Discreet inquiries revealed that the NC 14935 wreck site is known to local residents; aside from the sheer difficulty of doing so, there is nothing to keep people from dragging substantial pieces of wreckage up out of (or down through) the wash.

Two companies that specialize in aluminum products – Kaiser and Alcoa – have (or until recently had) plants near Spokane. Kaiser’s at least was in place during the 1940s. It may well be that aluminum wreckage was salvaged from the site during World War II to be sold to the plant for scrap. Valuable components like engine parts, gauges and radio gear may have been salvaged early on, when they possessed market value, and pieces may have been harvested at any time as souvenirs. Inquiries are being made by both TIGHAR and the Forest Service to assess the possibility that components may still be found in local private collections.


14 Although Lockheed specifications in TIGHAR’s possession are incomplete and partially illegible, the 1/8″ glass appears consistent with the Electra’s windshield, while the 3/32″ fragments appear consistent with the cabin windows. The 1/16″ glass found farther down the wash may be from an instrument lens. Lockheed specifications indicate a shift to “shatterproof” glass, which we take to mean plexiglass, in February 1935, but the absence of plexiglass on the site suggests that the plane was equipped with the earlier type of glass windows.

Introduction & Purpose Background Research Fieldwork Site Description Aircraft Parts Noted Interpretation
Research Results; Eligibility for National Register; Acknowledgements Bibliography Appendix 1: Advertisement for LUX Airplane Fire System

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