A Survey of the Harold Gillam
Lockheed Electra Airplane Crash Site
Ketchikan/Misty Fjords Ranger District
Tongass National Forest, Alaska
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
May 03, 2005
View of wreck
An overview of the crash site. TIGHAR photo.

On January 5, 1943 noted bush pilot Harold Gillam crash landed a Lockheed Electra 10B twin engine aircraft on a mountainside approximately thirty miles southeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. The plane, built in 1934 as serial number 1021,1 was registered as NC14915 and owned by Morrison-Knudsen, a construction company building airports throughout Alaska.2 Five passengers were aboard the flight enroute from Seattle, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska via a fuel stop at Annette Island.3 The disregard of a strong storm warning, icing conditions, an outdated aeronautical chart, misinterpreted radio navigation signals and ultimately the failure of the left engine resulted in the accident.4

All aboard the aircraft survived the initial crash, but a young woman died of injuries two days later. Six days after the accident Gillam left the passengers in an attempt to find help. His body was found almost a month later. The remaining survivors set up camps first at the wreckage and later down close to the base of the mountain where chances of being seen from the air were improved. Thirty-three days after the accident, all were rescued by U.S. Coast Guard personnel and members of the Alaskan Territorial Guard arriving on scene aboard the cutter McLane.5

On August 2 – 5, 2004, a seven person team composed of members of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and personnel from the Ketchikan/Misty Fjords Ranger District of the Tongass National Forest relocated the wreck site and briefly documented its character by surface survey. Several artifacts were recovered from the site for study purposes with the permission of the United States Forest Service (USFS). This is the report of TIGHAR’s archaeological fieldwork.6

1 Don “Bucky” Dawson, Personal communication and interview by Tongass National Forest Archaeologist John T. Autrey, March 3, 2004.
2 “Report of the Civil Aeronautics Board on the Investigation of an Accident Involving Aircraft in a Cross-Country Commercial Flight,” File Number 1299-43, (Washington DC: CAA, August 25, 1943), 1. Steven C. Levi, Cowboys of the Sky: The Story of Alaska’s Bush Pilots (New York: Walker, 1996), 62.
3 Report of the Civil Aeronautics Board, 1.
4 G.P. Liefer, Broken Wings: Tragedy and Disaster in Alaska Civil Aviation (Blaine, WA: Hancock House, 2003), 43-44. Jim Gill, “The Gillam Plane Crash,” U.S. Coast Guard Stories.
5 Robert Gebo and Ethel Dassow, “The Gillam Plane Was Missing,” The Alaska Sportsman, Vol. IX, no. 7 (1943), 16-18, 21-22.
6 TIGHAR’s work was carried out under a letter permit from the Ketchikan/Misty Fjords Ranger District.

Introduction Purpose Background Research Fieldwork Site Description Aircraft Parts Recovered Interpretation Research Results
Eligibility for National Register Acknowledgements Bibliography Appendix 1: Site Map Appendix 2: Lockheed Electra Appendix 3: Putative Heat Shield Appendix 4: Putative Heat Shield/Lockheed 10B Appendix 5: NC-14915 & WSC-146

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