Page:Aviation Accident Report, Western Air Lines Flight 1.pdf/9

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Both sides of the landing gear were badly crushed and the tail wheel was folded up underneath the fuselage. The main gear was found to have been in its retracted position at the time of impact.

Both engine nacelles were broken off at the engine mounts and were resting on the ground in an inverted position underneath the leading edge of the wing. The engines proper sustained damage upon impact with the ground. The throttles were found in the two-thirds open position and both magnet switches were in the "on" position, which tends to indicate that both engines were operating at the time of impact with the ground. Both propellers were fastened to their shafts and all blades were in the hubs. In both instances, two of the three propeller blades were bent considerably. Although no definite conclusions could be reached from their condition as to whether or not power was being developed at the time of impact, it is possible that due to the high rate of descent, the relative slow forward speed and the flat attitude with which the airplane struck the ground, the propellers might have been stopped almost instantaneously without damaging the third blades.

Most of the instruments in the pilots' compartment were damaged to the extent that their readings had no significance.

A review of the aircraft's history indicated that no repairs had been made which could have had any adverse effect on the airworthiness of the airplane. No signs of weakening of any other parts of the airplane were found.

The barograph card recovered from the plane showed a normal rate of ascent to an altitude of 10,200 feet in approximately 15 minutes. It is indicated also that very shortly thereafter a rapid descent began from this altitude to approximately 8400 feet. At this point there was noticed a break in the graph, then a resumption of descent from about 8700 feet after an indicated lapse of 6 minutes. The descent continued an an increased rate until the airplane hit the ground (5000 feet above sea level). Since the interruption of the descent graph was evidenced by a complete discontinuity of the line, it is assumed that this was the result of lag or jarring of the instrument, or both, and that the descent from 10,200 feet to the ground actually was without major interruption. It should be noted also that no statement was made by Lieutenant Gardner which would indicate that there was any such interruption. The time scale on the barograph card was too small to make accurate measurements of the rate of descent. Furthermore, it appears that considerable instrument lag existed which would also affect the interpretation of the card. Therefore any measurements made from the barograph card must be considered a rough estimate only. The average rate of descent was thus estimated to have been around 2000 feet per minute.

Testimony of C. A. A. inspectors, who assisted in removing the bodies, indicated that First Officer Lee had occupied the captain's seat on the left side at the time of impact; Copilot-Trainee Soule had occupied the first officer's seat on the right; while Captain Loeffler had been in the companion-way, either on the jump seat or standing. This indicates that either the first officer or the copilot-trainee was piloting the aircraft at the time of the accident.