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Author Topic: Disappearance of a U.S. Navy C-47, BUNR 17254, in Chile on August 4, 1969  (Read 26679 times)

Brad Burris

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The purpose of this post, albeit out of the ordinary, is to
generate interest in and request a renewed search effort concerning a missing U.S. Navy
C-47 Aircraft, BUNR 17254, which is presumed to have crashed and was lost on
August 4, 1969 in Chile, South America. It has Never been located.

The loss of this aircraft is an unsolved mystery even to this day. This
incident hardly received any newsworthy attention in 1969 and during the
subsequent years that passed. There are very few archived news releases
about this incident which has practically become a forgotten occurrence. 

The only detailed information I have been able to locate to date regarding
any U.S. Military investigative documentation on the disappearance of the
U.S. Navy C-47 is available at the Webpage for the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate
General's Corps, JAG Manual Investigations:
Once at this webpage you can access the rather lengthy investigative
documentation by clicking on "Download" for the following description:

1969 04 AUG MISSING AIRCRAFT BUNO 17254 Download
According to the investigative report, the U.S. Navy aircraft was on a
scheduled maintenance flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina and on board were 16
passengers comprised of U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force service members along
with several spouses.

Radio contact with the U.S. Navy aircraft was lost after the aircraft was
approximately 27 miles south of the capital city of Santiago----some 20
minutes after departure---- somewhere between Rancagua, Chile and Angostura,
Chile according to the report findings.

The flight path appears initially to have been one that flew along the
Chilean side of the Andes mountain range until it was to reach a more
southern point at Curico, Chile and then take a flight path East through an
approved mountain pass through the Andes mountains towards Buenos Aires.

The lost radio contact happened at least 15 minutes before the aircraft was
even scheduled to reach the southern beacon point at Curico, Chile to access
the southern mountain pass.

The August timeframe is during the winter season in Chile and Argentina
---essentially the reverse of our seasons here in the U.S.--- and the
weather conditions were apparently very poor. Although a somewhat intensive
search was conducted at the time by Chilean military and civilian personnel
along with some American military aircraft support, severe weather was a
factor and the search ended on August 14, 1969. References were made to
continuing the search later during their warmer season but I have not been
able to confirm that this ever really took place.

This unresolved and mysterious tragedy was overshadowed and subsequently
forgotten due in part to the extreme weather conditions at the time and
quite possibly because on July 24, 1969 the Apollo 11 Astronauts had just
returned from the first successful moon landing.

Realistically, I understand that the chances are remote that any evidence of
wreckage will ever be located, but then again, technology has advanced since
then, and there is always a chance that a renewed search might turn up
something. Surely, high resolution satellite imagery and digital analysis
could play a big part in discovering the wreckage of the aircraft. In order
for there to be any attention given to this unsolved tragedy, it needs to be
brought to the attention of our government, the Chilean government and
anyone else that might have expertise in finding and recovering lost and
missing aircraft.

My hope is that this lost aircraft mystery will spur interest in the public
and government sector to begin a renewed effort to help locate the

I believe what prompted me to finally express this request is my having come
across a blog site addressing aircraft crashes at:
On this Blog site there are posts from at least two individuals whose
parents were passengers on the ill-fated aircraft. They are still hoping
that the wreckage site will be found one day.

Georgia (USA)

Chris Johnson

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Well it could be that the plane flew head first into a mountain and became buried in snow much like the BSAA Star Dust in 1947

Wreck found by climber

what is interesting is this comment by the UK Foreign Office
A telegram to the Foreign Office two days after the plane disappeared read: "Cause of disaster may never be known and in the light of former accidents in the Andes, aircraft may not be found for years, if ever."

Further info from Wikipedia

It mentions the bodies and body parts and I vividly remember a photo in the press of the 'manicured hand' in the snow.


Brad Burris

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One would think that this most likely happened.  The big difference here is that the aircraft had only taken off from Santiago a short time before (1650 HRS) and the last audible radio transmissino was at 1716 HRS. The last reported position was near Angostura, Chile, some 27 miles south of Santiago. With the flight path to Curico, Chile (still a little further South), before then continuing East and resuming the flight path through a designated pass through the Andes Mountains to Buenos Aires, one could logically assume that the aircraft went down on the Chile side of the Andes.  And in addition, if weather conditions were as bad as described, it would make sense for the pilot to fly alongside the Andes mountain range (on the Chile side) before ever venturing inward into the Andes.  That  would not make sense, especially for a seasoned pilot, given the weather and the danger inherent in flying in and around the Andes Mountains.  Their flight path essentially would have followed the route from Santiago to Curico where they then would have continued their route through the mountain pass.  Somewhere along their flight path between approximately 27 to some 90 miles South of Santiago, and at an altitude of some 12,000 feet give or take a sudden rise or drop of 2,000 feet I would guess, unless they were dramatically and suddenly blown off course by strong winds to the East, there is probably still some evident signs of wreckage, even if just wheels or other aircraft sections. 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 04:30:49 PM by Brad Burris »

David Bro

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I am a news photographer and writer in Orange County, California working freelance.

Generally, because of family, I spend about 3 to 4 months a year in Chile and other Latin American countries.  This missing C-47 in Chile from 1969 came across my alerts yesterday and in reviewing it, the effort to end the mystery of what took place seems an honorable and good thing to do so I would like to help out and in addition from a news perspective, the story is very compelling.

I cannot say what will happen but from my experience in Chile over the years, finding the C-47, seems very doable.  My guess is that it will take between 2 and 4 years to locate if not more.

My priority would be to first find the wreckage and then, in a news fashion, chronicle the work efforts to locate the C-47 and its recovery.  Sometimes there is a story there which in this case I believe there is but then sometimes there isn't so it's best to see how it unfolds.

I will be in Chile beginning in mid April 2012 for about 2 months or so and would ask that anyone with information contact me via my email so we can talk and co-ordinate what ever information you might have as it would be great to have something to start with right away.

David Bro

Chris Johnson

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What is the terraine like?

Mt post was about a crash in the high Andes.  Is this more wooded?

David Bro

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The area would be barren of any trees with the only vegetation being boggy areas in occasional flat areas where ravines would empty out their snowmelt and you would find a very low growing tough grass at best.

In addition, the terrain would be medium brown, gray and red in color when not covered in snow with a very dry volcanic sandy consistency that generally forms a hard crust on the surface that turns soft underneath when broken up----but would not be so much so that a human walking would sink in more than above the height of a hiking boot.  Traditional round river type rocks would not be the norm whereas very large singe granite type rock formations would be the norm along with the volcanic earth mentioned above.  There would be a lot of sharp hard edged large gravel and fist sized to bigger to maybe a volleyball size on the surface.   Deep and very steep ravines work themselves in every direction with no real regular and predictable direction except the eventual course to the ocean.  Wider flat areas about the size of several football fields would not be uncommon where over the years snowmelt has brought down or evacuated loose earth to clear out an area or fill an area up.

No one lives in these areas and anyone passing through would be infrequent if at all.  Natural barriers like rivers and ravines would not encourage anyone for any reason to risk their lives to get from one side to the other.  To say the area is rugged, rough and wild would be an understatement.

It would be very common that over a winter season a hundred to several hundred feet of snow could be recorded as I think the average is 150 feet per year.  Storms in winter pass through every 3 or 4 days in the high Andes leaving on average of 1 to 3 meters of snow.  I have seen it be a bright and sunny winter day with no clouds and then a storm is raging less than 20 minutes later.  You could easily find a ravine filled with 500 to 700 feet of snow over the winter and then have little to nothing by the end of summer.

There are a couple glaciers in the area that never melt but are very slow moving and not aggressive like what you would think.  This is the same general area where the Uruguayan rugby team crashed in October of 1972 with several surviving until their eventual rescue in December.  The flight plans of both aircraft indicated crossing over at the same pass although the Uruguayan Air Force plane was found about 100 or 80 miles north of where it should have crossed over.

Generally rivers run in late spring to mid summer and generally very deep and narrow.  There are permanent lakes in the high Andes that could easily be up to a mile or more deep and yet not even a mile across in any direction.

Please note that this occurred in what would be the early Spring for Chile so corresponding to in or around April 4th in the Northern Hemisphere.


« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 04:33:36 PM by David Bro »
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