Hawaii April 11, 2018
The Terrifying, Deadly Plane Crash In Hawaii That Will Never Be Forgotten
While airplanes have been proven to be the safest method of travel, it doesn’t remove the anxiety many people have about air travel. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, and the deadliest plane crash in Hawaiian history is one that will never be forgotten.
Just a few years before Hawaii became an official American State, in 1955, a United States Navy airplane carrying 66 crew members and passengers crashed in Oahu’s Waianae Mountains on March 22, 1955, killing everyone on board and lighting up the sky with a fiery explosion.
The R6D-1 was operating a Military Air Transport Service flight from Tokyo, Japan to Travis Air Force Base in California, with a stop at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.
Onboard the aircraft were nine U.S. Navy crew members as well as 57 passengers, 55 of which were servicemen — 17 members of the U.S. Air Force, 22 soldiers, 12 marines, and four U.S. Navy personnel — and two civilians, the wife and three-year-old daughter of one of the military passengers.
After making its scheduled stop at Hickam, the aircraft took off at 6:06 p.m. local time on March 21, 1955, en route to California. The crew began to experience radio problems, and nearly four and a half hours into the flight decided to return to Hickam.
Flying into a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the night as it descended to land at Hickam, the plane crashed into the 3,098-foot Pali Kea Peak of the Waianae Mountains at approximately 2 a.m. local time.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the pilots turning his landing lights on just before striking the mountain, and presumably seeing the mountain, banked sharply to avoid it. But the maneuver was too late, and the R6D-1 struck a sheer cliff approximately 200 feet below the summit and exploded.
The explosion was so loud that witnesses five miles away believed it was a thunderclap. During the crash, the wings separated from the airplane’s fuselage, which fell ablaze to the bottom of a gully below. The fire was hot enough that rescuers were unable to approach the wreckage for several hours, but when they did, no survivors were found. All 66 persons aboard the airplane had perished.
The post-crash investigation concluded that the R6D-1’s crew had made a navigational error that placed the aircraft nearly eight miles off course. The plane, therefore, strayed into the Waianae Mountain Range without realizing it due to the storm and didn’t realize their error until it was too late and the plane flew into the mountain peak.
At the time, it was the worst crash involving any version of the Douglas DC-6 airliner, and the second worst aviation accident in United States History. It remains the worst air disaster in the history of Hawaii.
Speaking of tragic events, have you read about
the terrifying, deadly storm that struck Hawaii in 1992?