Aviation Accident Report: TWA Flight 6/Conduct of Investigation



An accident involving aircraft NC 17315 while operating in scheduled air carrier service between Los Angeles, California, and New York, New York, as Trip 6 of Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc., (hereinafter referred to as "TWA") occurred in the vicinity of Robertson, Missouri, on January 23, 1941, about 4:13 a.m. (CST). The accident resulted in the destruction of the airplane, fatal injuries to one passenger and one member of the crew, serious injuries to four passengers and one member of the crew, and minor injuries to six passengers and one member of the crew. The accident was reported to the Kansas City, Missouri, office of the Civil Aeronautics Board (hereinafter referred to as the "Board") about 4:45 a.m., January 23, by a representative of TWA.

Inspection and Preservation of Wreckage

Immediately after receiving this notification the Board initiated an investigation of the accident in accordance with the provisions of Section 702 (a) (2) of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 as amended. An accident investigator of the Board arrived at the Lambert-St. Louis Airport early on the morning of January 23, 1941, and immediately proceeded to the scene of the accident. In accordance with the instructions of the Board, the damaged airplane had been placed under guard and had not been disturbed except for the damage necessarily incurred in removing some of the passengers from the cabin. Additional investigators of the Board arrived that afternoon and a thorough examination of the wreckage was started.

The engines, propellers, radio equipment and certain other accessories of the airplane were removed from the scene of the accident to the TWA maintenance shop at Kansas City, Missouri, in order that a more adequate inspection might be made. During the transportation of this equipment it was constantly in the custody of an investigator of the Board. The disassembly and inspection of the engines and other equipment were made under the direct supervision of the Board's power plant engineer.

The inspection of all parts of the aircraft was completed by the Board on February 1, 1941, and aircraft NC 17315 was accordingly released to TWA.

Public Hearing

In connection with the investigation of the accident, a public hearing was held at St. Louis, Missouri, beginning on January 30, and continuing through February 1, 1940. G. Grant Mason, Jr., of the five Members of the Board, was designated by the Board to preside at the hearing. He was assisted by Robert W. Chrisp, Attorney of the Board, who acted as Associate Examiner; Jerome Lederer, Director of the Safety Bureau of the Board; Frank E. Caldwell, Chief, Investigation Division of the Safety Bureau; and Paul A. Gareau, Air Safety Specialist in Meteorology of the Safety Bureau.

At the hearing all the evidence then available to the Board was presented, 72 exhibits were introduced, and 39 witnesses testified including witnesses from the vicinity of the accident and experts in various technical subjects involved in the investigation. Depositions of five passengers on board the airplane at the time of accident and the two surviving members of the crew were read into the record at the hearing.

While the Examiners and the representatives of the Safety Bureau were the only ones designated to ask questions directly of any witnesses, the Presiding examiner, acting under instructions of the Board, announced at the opening of the hearing that any person who had any evidence, questions, or suggestions to present for consideration in the proceeding, might submit them to the Examiners. Forty-seven questions were submitted and at the close of the hearing the Presiding Examiner announced that every question submitted had been asked unless the subject matter of the question had previously been covered by the testimony.

Upon the basis of all the evidence accumulated in the investigation and hearing, the Board now makes its report in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, as amended.