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Falcon Connie

Lockheed Super Constellation
Photo courtesy of Werner Fischdick. this picture was taken in Anchorage, 1972, three years before she crashed
Actual plane, three years before her demise

Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975:
This proud, former Dutch KLM Flying Dutchman L-1049H airliner went down on Mother’s Day about a mile north-northeast of Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona killing all 6 on board.  Probable cause was apparent mismanagement of the ADI fluid by the flight engineer and pilot during take-off causing power loss to all four engines.

ADI (Anti-Detonation Fluid), an alcohol/water mix, is injected into the engine to avoid knocking and acts as a coolant especially in hot weather leaning the fuel mixture for increased power in take-off settings.  Large amounts of ADI are used to keep detonation under control and to lower head temperatures. 

The green-striped aircraft barely missed a playground, hit a tree with a tree-house where children had just been playing at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home and belly-landed in open, rocky desert. 

Witnesses said it exploded 4 or 5 times after it hit the ground.  The Super Connie had been converted by Helitec Corp/Aircraft Specialties into a crop duster/fire fighter.  It was fully loaded with 3,500 gallons of fuel for a ferry flight to Canada via Kansas City.  The plane was seen trailing black smoke as it took off.  The pilot declared an emergency and attempted to circle back to Falcon Field for an emergency landing on the same runway he had taken off from following (first) the failure of the left inboard engine (the prop was feathered already at this point), but he was too low. He lost power on all four engines.  The airplane was engulfed in flames when it impacted and the fire extended far out in front of the ship.  It is believed the pilot deliberately attempted to avoid going down in a large trailer park east of the airport. 

A witness stated, “…I could see the plane clearly.  It was about 75 feet up.  I could see a man in the cockpit working and the motor on the left was on fire.  The pilot kept the nose up and the tail hit the ground first then the whole plane exploded.”

Firemen at the scene stated that all 6 crewmen appeared to have survived the crash landing.  At least one made it out of the wreck but could not escape the flames.  Others died trying to get out of the front of the plane.  The pilot was the only one still strapped into his seat, burned beyond recognition.  One crewmember was curled up in a ball behind the melted cockpit after being unable to face the intense heat all around him.

The crash site, when we visited in 2002, was being heavily dug out for a public works project (extension of the 202 Freeway east).  Numerous, large Connie parts were poking out of layers of bulldozed dirt – too many to count. 

The wreckage that is strewn up a small hill behind a private home remains intact and will probably survive development.  A small cross had been fashioned by someone out of fuel line and some old plastic flowers and a candle were present at the memorial.  Hundreds of parts were all over the desert.


Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975, Dutch KLM Flying Dutchman L-1049H airliner went down on Mother’s Day about a mile north-northeast of Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona plane crashes, arizona wreck, arizona aricraft crashes
A very tragic Connie crash montage
Killed on board were the following crew members:
Alan Moseley, pilot, of Litchfield Park, Arizona
Harold Julien, co-pilot, of Tempe, Arizona
Charles Lynn Jr., flight engineer, of Long Beach, California
Basil Baker, mechanic, of Peoria, Arizona
Earl Black, mechanic, of Chandler, Arizona
Sam Frasier, alternate co-pilot, of Glendale, Arizona

Thanks to Mike Wright, Jim Dover and Doug Pelley for information on this tragic accident.  Thanks also to Brad Gray for the unforgettable collage image of this Connie crash (when you look at the pictures and read the eyewitness reports it makes you realize what dangers these aviators face every day).

Links to accident report details:

http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=48782&key=0

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19750511-1
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Connie, fully engulfed in flames
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Super Connie
A photo of the horrific crash scene. Photo credit: Robert Bombiadi
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Phx Gazette photo
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Connie pieces everywhere
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Small pieces of the Connie
Another photo of the Constellation crash scene provided by Robert Bombiadi
After the fire was put out... Photo submitted to us by Robert Bombiadi
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Development: The Connie site is almost gone
Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Scene of the tragedy
Independent, Press Telegram, Long Beach, CA., Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Independent, Press Telegram, Long Beach, CA.
Pasadena Star News, Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Pasadena Star News
Yuma Daily Sun, Lockheed Super Constellation N45516 crashed 11 May 1975
Yuma Daily Sun
 
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