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Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 18, 1939

March 18, 1939

As many of you know, the blogger gets inspiration for the subject matter of the blogs from many sources, walks, books I’m reading, pictures, and so forth.  This blog originate when I came across a “In Memory of card”.  The only information was a list of ten men.  Would I be able to add some background story to this card?  Well, the search was on…

All I had were the names of ten men  …  But fortunately for me, or for anyone doing research, the internet came to my rescue.  No need to spend hour after hour in a library searching through encyclopedias, State newspapers for 1939, or other forms of materials.

What follows is what I discovered, and the resources where the answers were found.


Their report was last updated on 21 December 2016 with a Final Status on a Boeing S.307 Stratoliner prototype which broke up during a test flight.  All ten men aboard were killed. 

There were only 10 Boeing S.307 planes built and this was the worst accident at the time; and as of the date of this report, the 4th worst accident currently for this type plane; but for the USA, is was the 8th worst accident at the time, the 331st worst accident currently.

“The aircraft took off from Boeing Field, Seattle at 12:57 on test flight no. 19. The captain occupied the left hand cockpit seat, Mr. von Baumhauer occupied the right hand seat. Mr. von Baumhauer held a private pilot's license and his total flying time as pilot amounted to 116 hours. He had no experience as pilot or co-pilot of four-engine aircraft, but had been observer in trial flights of four engine Fokker F.22 and F.36 aircraft.”

“After takeoff the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 11000 feet. At this altitude longitudinal stability tests were made. The next tests, as outlined by the flight plan, were side-slip tests.
The aircraft went into an inadvertent spin subsequent to a stall at an altitude of approximately 11000 feet. It made two to three turns in the spin, during which the engines were used to aid recovery. In recovering from the dive subsequent to the spin, the wings and horizontal tail surfaces failed upward apparently due to air loads in excess of those for which the aircraft was designed.

It goes on to tell us  the probable cause stated as:  "Structural failure of the wings and horizontal tail surfaces due to the imposition of loads thereon in excess of those for which they were designed, the failure occurring in an abrupt pull-out from a dive following recovery from an inadvertent spin."

Eatonville to Rainier, A History of Eatonville, Alder, Ashford and Elbe has an article which was published on August 20, 2014 and submitted by dimettler.  Following his posting the article, he received an email from a Ronald Dijkstra, a researcher in Holland writing a book on Albert von Baumhauer.

So, perhaps we should pause here while I attempt to reconstruct the accident for you.

On March 18, 1939 Albert G. von Baumhauer was test co-pilot on this S.307 Boeing Stratoliner prototype when it broke up during the flight over Alder, Mt. Rainier, WA.  All those aboard were killed in the crash.

The aircraft was being tested for the Dutch Air Ministry even though they (Holland) did not enter World War II until August 1939..

Von Baumhauer held a private pilot’s license with only a total 116 flying hours, few than commercial pilots were required to have.  He was also inexperienced in handle this large of a plane, and as it went into a spin during the maneuvers, he was unable to handle the aircraft.  Other factors that hindered von Baumhauer were most likely the sensitivity of the elevator and rudder control system, possible elevator flutter, and insufficient vertical tail surfaces to give adequate control to the craft under all conditions of flight.  These might even be a potential problem for an experienced pilot but for someone without experience as pilot or co-pilot of a four-engine aircraft…

The Sandusky Register, Ohio reported the accident in an article posted by the AP (Associated Press).    “STRATO’ PLANE CRASHES KILLING TEN.  LINER FALLS TO GROUND ON TEST FLIGHT.  2 OFFICIALS OF DUTCH FIRM PASSENGERS ON GIANT SHIP.
Alder, Wash., March 19 (AP) — At least ten persons were killed, including two officials of Dutch Airlines, when a four-motored, 33 passenger airplane, designed to operate through sub-stratosphere plunged to earth near here today during a test flight.
Witnesses said the plane appeared suddenly out of the clouds and that the sound of its motors died down momentarily.
The motors then seemed to speed up and the plane began a long, crazy spin earthward.  The tail assembly apparently broke away during the fall.  It stuck in a narrow ravine in logged-off land.
“It traveled toward the earth at tremendous speed,” said Mrs. L. W. Gilbert of LaGrande.  “There was an exceptionally loyd noise, not like an explosion but more like a roar.”

“It was terrible to stand there and watch it fall.  The noise was terrific, even though we were some distance away.”

Seattle headquarters of the Boeing Airplane Co., which built the $500,000 “Stratoliner.: ($8,447,321.43 in 2016)

The victims of the crash are:
JULIUS BARR, Boeing Test Pilot
EARL A. FERGUSEN, Boeing test pilot
JOHN KYLSTRA, Boeing Engineer
RALPH L. CRAM, Boeing flight engineer and aerodynamics expert
WILLIAM DOYLE
HARRY WEST, Boeing flight engineer
BEN PEARSON,
P. GIULONARD, assistant general manager of Royal Dutch Airlines
A. G. Baumauer, Dutch KLM line
HARLAN HULL, chief test pilot for Transcontinental and Western Airways
The company said an 11th man, E. R. KINNEMAN, may have been aboard the plane. The stratoliner was the first four-engined transport designed and equipped with cabins and facilities for high altitude, operation 20,000 feet or higher, above storms on the earth’s surface.
It was to carry 33 passengers by day or 25 in luxurious night accommodations, with a crew of four or five, and had a capacity of two tons of mail and air express.
This plane was the first of ten to be built.  It had a wing span of 107 feet, length of 74 feet and overall height of 17 feet, three inches.
One of its innovations was a “super-charged cabin,” to provide passengers and crew with “sea-level” air pressure while flying 20,000 feet in the air.  This was a sealed cabin, into which air was pumped, creating and automatically maintaining air pressure comparable to that at sea level.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2230 provides us with another essay on the crash as written by David Wilma, posted on 1/01/2000.  This article explains some of the miscalculations of the test flight that von Baumhauer wanted to try.  The maneuver the inexperienced co-pilot, von Baumhauer wanted to try was “to test the Stratoliner at low speed with the engines on one side shut down.”  It goes on to say “According to the findings of the accident investigation, the aircraft was at 10,000 feet when the maneuver was attempted.  The airplane stalled and went into a spin.”  “…Boeing test pilot Julius Barr and von Baumhauer attempted to recover from the spin, but their struggle against the control column resulted in the wings and tail section separating from the fuselage.

And so back to our card “In Memory of …

Julius Augustus Barr
1906 - 1939

Albert G. von Baumhauer
1891 - 1939

Ralph L. Cram
1906 - 1939

William C. Doyle
1911 - 1939

Earl A. Ferguson
1908 - 1939

Pieter Guillonard
1896 - 1939

Harlan Hull
1906 - 1939

John Kylstra
1896 - 1939

Benjamin J. Pearson
1906 - 1939

Harry T. West
1903 - 1939


Note:  Benjamin J. Pearson was the son of Oliver Warren Pearson and Mary Pearson.  He is buried at the Cromwell Cemetery.  Ben was employed as an Engineer at Boeing, in Seattle, WA

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