Gillam Survey

The location and condition of the wreckage is consistent with contemporary accounts of the crash landing by survivors. Lockheed Electra aircraft wrecks that were not consumed by post-crash fires are extremely rare. Save for absence of some components, most notably the engines, propellers, rudders and control wheels, and the inverted position of the right wing and resulting crushed fuselage, NC14915 lies in situ most likely where it came to rest on January 5, 1943.

In the 1980s, salvors in association with the Tongass Historical Society visited the site to recover artifacts for preservation and exhibition. One engine cylinder and the right rudder were recovered in 1981. The right engine, complete with its propeller, and left rudder (now on exhibit at the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks) were recovered in 1984 by helicopter airlift.19

The left engine, although unknown at the time of this survey, remains buried on the south side of the drainage just forward of the left wing.20 While two cylinders, one oil cooler and two sections of exhaust manifold from an engine were located during the survey, no other engine parts were noted.21 The extremely rugged terrain, dense forest and limited time available on site did not allow for the investigation of a larger area in which additional artifacts might be recorded. Neither could the initial impact site be ascertained due to these limitations.

The rudders and three of the four propeller blades are currently in the possession of Randy Acord of the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks and Don “Bucky” Dawson of Ketchikan, being held for the Tongass Historical Society.22 The right engine propeller is complete and remains attached to the engine; now on exhibit in Fairbanks. Mr. Dawson, who has visited the wreckage on five occasions and participated in the salvage operations, has informed TIGHAR that he is storing one cylinder and one propeller blade from the left engine for the Tongass Historical Society, and that the other propeller blade remains at the wreck site.23 The TIGHAR/USFS survey team was unable to locate this remaining blade in situ.

The missing control wheels are most likely the result of previous salvage or looting. Mr. Dawson indicated that the wheels were missing at the time of his first visit to the site.24 In the summer of 1943, a salvage crew from Ellis Airlines visited the wreckage and obtained usable engine parts, a radio and flight instruments.25 Others have visited the site over the years, motivated to the arduous trek by need for parts, want of souvenirs or curiosity.26

Both TIGHAR and the United States Forest Service agree that the exact location of the wreckage must be kept strictly confidential in order to protect the site from additional salvage and looting. Thus, this report contains no GPS coordinates nor anything other than a general description of the area. While remote and in rugged wilderness country, it is possible that curio seekers visiting the site may cause further loss of integrity. Since the designation of Misty Fjords as a National Wilderness Area, helicopters are not allowed to land in the area, thus challenging the unauthorized recovery of major wreckage components.

19 Don “Bucky” Dawson interview, February 1, 2005.
20 Ibid.
21 Don “Bucky” Dawson believes these two cylinders may have been removed from the left engine in 1943 by Civil Aeronautics Administration investigator E.S. “Gene” Gull in an attempt to determine the cause of the left engine’s failure. However, the official CAA report does not address the cause of the engine failure.
22 Randy Acord, Telephone interview by TIGHAR Deputy Project Archaeologist Gary Quigg, January 19, 2005.
23 Dawson interview, February 1, 2005.
24 Ibid.
25 Ken Eichner, Nine Lives of an Alaska Bush Pilot (Bellingham, WA: Taylor Press, 2002), 35-38.
26 Dawson e-mail, February 13, 2005.

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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