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The Crash of the C-45F on Mt. Diablo
April 8, 1946

Mount Diablo rises 3,849 feet from the San Francisco Bay Area's geography like a monolith.  From it's summit, you can view many miles of the beautiful Bay, the Central Valley, out to sea, and beyond.  Given it's proximity to such a large metropolitan area, it is surprising that more aircraft have NOT embedded themselves on it's slopes.  However, here is the story of one aircraft that was not so lucky.
The following is from the U.S. Army Air Force Mishap Report regarding the loss the C-45F 44-87062.
On the morning on April 8th, 1946, Lt. Woodrow W. Davis of the U.S. Army Air Corps departed from the airfield in Oakland on a flight to Los Angeles aboard Beech C-45F 44-87062.  With him on this flight was Major William J. Kettler who was listed as a passenger on the Flight Plan.  Lt. Davis' request for a Contact Flight Plan was denied due to poor weather conditions. Instead, he was issued an Instrument Flight Plan from Air Traffic Control with the following clearance, "Oakland Airways Traffic Control clears you to the Los Angeles tower. Take off west, climb on the northwest course of the Oakland Range, cross Fairfield at 3,000 feet, climb southwest on the southwest course of Fairfield range, southwest bound to 500 on top. Descend in accordance with contact flight rules to Los Angeles, or maintain 500 on top if not possible–remain 500 on top and advise–Over"
Lt. Davis' read back made sure the instructions were correct and was then he was told that he had to depart by 11:05 a.m. In other words, he had just seconds to think about and understand the clearance, then get into the air.
Once airborne, he made a right turn out as he was instructed. At 11:15, his aircraft, Army 7062, reported it's position and stated that he was at 3,000 feet on the northeast leg of the Oakland range. It appeared that Lt. Davis had misunderstood his flight clearance and turned in the wrong direction. This was the last radio contact with Army 7062.  At 11:20, fifteen minutes after takeoff, Lt. Davis and Major Kettler flew their C-45F into the north side of Mount Diablo and were killed instantly, hurled out of their aircraft onto the hillside.  
According to the report, after the Army failed to hear from the pilot, they sent up planes to search the Bay Area.  The wreckage was located late that afternoon in the dense April fog. The Army sent two rescue parties, along with an oil worker from Martinez who heard about the crash, to the mountainside that evening only to discover the fatal nature of the mishap.  At this point, their task became not rescue, but retrieval. 
The accident investigation concluded the pilot, after take-off, drifted off-course as a result of being unfamiliar with the aircraft.  After realizing his mistake, the investigators assumed he attempted to contact the tower at Oakland, but he had already tuned his radio to the Fairfield air traffic control.  It is believed the pilot attempted to correct his situation, but was unaware of the presence of the 3849-foot Mount Diablo in his path.
After the accident board was completed, the remains of the aircraft, instead of being removed and cleaned up like many others, were dynamited.  Having been to the site, you would understand as to why.  There is no easy access to it, especially for a motor vehicle. In fact, the Civil Air Patrol used this crash site to train its cadets and searchers in techniques to reach a crash site.  But in regards to access for the average hiker…  Well, to find the site is an adventure unto itself. 

 

The Crash Site Today

In Spring of 2003, nearly all of the historic wreckage of this aircraft was removed under the direction of the State Park system.  It was donated to a local aviation museum whom, in turn, disposed of it.  

This webpage is the one of the last places you can see this.

Looking from the east towards Ransom Point, the debris field lies below the point hidden by oaks in very steep terrain. Over the years, parts that haven't been stopped by trees are slowly moving down the slope.

Towards the top of the debris filed is this wing section.

This engine is one the pieces farthest down the hill and nothing seems to be in it's way to keep it from sliding another 100 feet or so.

 
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This page last updated Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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