Sunday, 7 February 2010

Operation Mike: The disappearance of a USAF C-54 Skymaster over the Yukon; 44 souls lost

RT @Northern_Clips: 1950 disappearance of a Douglas C-54 Skymaster over #Yukon Canadian #arctic's great mysteries 44 souls lost

"... In the late afternoon of Jan. 26, 1950, the C-54 Skymaster designated as USAF Flight #2469 disappeared somewhere over the Yukon Territory. Despite one of the largest joint Canadian-U. S. searches in history, the plane, and its human cargo of 44 passengers and crew, was never found.

The Skymaster was scheduled to pass over Whitehorse. Two hours after takeoff, the aircraft crossed the Yukon/Alaskan border. The flight crew, commanded by Maj. Gerald Brittain, sent their last message at 3:09 p.m. just as it flew over Snag, a small community 400 km northwest of Whitehorse. Nothing else was heard from the flight. After it failed to show up at Great Falls that evening, a massive land and air search was immediately launched.

Planes with spotters aboard crisscrossed the vast wilderness of the Yukon and northern British Columbia (the flight path followed the Alaska highway). Search efforts were hampered by heavy ice conditions and snowstorms which prevented many aircraft from lifting off.


So what happened to the Skymaster? Did she go down where the last radio message was sent near Snag? Or did the crew become disoriented and flew further south, giving the wrong location? If the plane landed on a frozen lake (in either the Yukon or in the Rocky Mountains as some contend), there may have been survivors who held out hope that they would be rescued. They may have even dispatched a group to go and find help, not realizing how isolated they were. When the lake's ice thawed in the spring, the plane simply sank to the bottom. If this is the case, the C-54 may never be found.

There's every chance the aircraft is on land. Over the past few decades, so-called airplane archeologists have searched for the Skymaster. Crashed airplanes dating back to the 1930s dot the arctic landscape and lost flights have been found. For example, on Nov. 19, 1943, a U.S. Coast Guard Grumman disappeared during a wartime patrol over Alaska. In 1987, the plane was found, and her four crew members recovered, on Kodiak Island some 500 km west of Anchorage.

In the 60 years since that fateful flight, the story of the Skymaster has taken on mythical proportions. In wilds of British Columbia, the lost C-54 and the disappearance of 44 American citizens is legendary among loggers, hikers and outdoorsmen with many claiming to know the location of its final resting place.

The loss of the Skymaster remains one of the Canadian arctic's great mysteries but it's one that could be solved. One day, someone will stumble upon the wrecked C-54 and thus bring closure to 44 grieving families...."

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