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A Plane Plunges into Puget Sound
A late 1940s Hamilton Boulton.
Believe it or not, my dad was on the below flight in the ‘50’s. (Editor’s note: Northwest Orient Flight 2)
Wreckage of N74608 (Courtesy of the CAB / Wikipedia)
The co-pilot had flown in on a different plane the night before. Turns out that at the time, the cowl flap setting was the opposite on the Stratocruiser, one switch was up when engaged, on the other plane he had flown in on it was down (or vice versa).
So, during pre-flight, the co-pilot confirmed the incorrect setting, which led to major buffeting and loss of control after takeoff. When the pilot couldn’t gain control, he opted to ditch into Puget Sound outside of Seattle.
The flight steward was lost in the landing. He was in the belly of the plane retrieving wine for First Class passengers (in my dad’s re-telling) and the area he was in sheared off when they hit the water. I believe the others were lost to hypothermia, given the water temperature in Puget Sound in April.
Amazingly, it was his second airplane crash. The first was a troop training flight in Florida during WWII. Also ditched in the water. Surprisingly, he suffered no injuries in either crash. Although he later realized the feeling in his hands had been affected—major sensitivity to cold weather for the rest of his life.
I still wear the Hamilton daily that he had on when they crashed. I had it restored by a local craftsman after he had passed away.
Inscription on the back (my Dad’s nickname was Von and my Mom’s name was Margaret.)
Yep, 1950 and it still runs like a charm. Despite its jaunt into salt water.
Even more surprisingly (at least to me!) I had never heard the story of this previous crash until I was visiting him and my mom when I was about 22 years old.
A friend and I had flown down to visit for the weekend in Portland where they were living at the time. My friend had a dad who was a pilot and, as a result, was interested in anything about planes and flying. I was telling him the story on the flight, and he started peppering me with questions. I told him that I didn’t know all the details (my dad was both German and a child of the depression era—pretty stoic, and information was rarely volunteered), but that he could ask him when we got there.
We get to my folks’ place and George tells my dad he wants to hear all about his plane crash. My dad’s getting us a couple of beers out of the fridge and without turning around says “Oh, which one?” I’m like: which one!?!? He proceeds to tell me he didn’t really count the first one since it was in warm water and fairly shallow.
Quite a guy. He used to tell people when he flew after all those experiences that they were on the safest flight they’d ever take… That there was no way he could be in three plane crashes.
Not sure how that information might have landed with the recipient.
—Casual Time #2 by Carl Vonder Haar
Photos of the ticket, baggage claim check, and gate pass.
Carl notes: “Mementos. Sadly now just photos. The originals were lost somewhere between Covid and selling our home and moving.”
Further Reading on the crash
The Other Maury Island Incident by Bruce Haulman
Airborne Shipwreck, An Interview with Al Kearl by Ronald and Constance Burke
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