B-17C Crash at Tells Creek, 1941
Tells Creek is located off Ice House Road in El Dorado County, where the remains of the B-17C have been protected by the U.S. Forest Service. (Latitude: 38.89778, Longitude: -120.37583).On October 31st, 1941, a B-17C, Tail No. 40-2047, also known as the "Flying Fortress," started a routine flight for a change of their No. 3 engine from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sacramento, CA. After a two day stopover in Reno due to bad weather to the west, they departed late on the morning of November 2, 1941 on an instrument flight to their destination. (based on the weather observations of a United Airlines pilot flying in the area) There was no Command Set installed on this aircraft during this flight, so the flight crew relied on their Compass Set radio to navigate to the airfield in Sacramento. After passing Lake Tahoe, the plane entered into the overcast sky. Then, after several minutes, the radio begun to static, and communications were down to the point where they were unable to check it at Donner Summit. Attributing the loss of radio functions to a temporary static condition, the pilot, 1st Lieutenant Leo M. H. Walker, continued on the Sacramento via a more southerly route. Then, at that moment, the No.1 supercharger began to have problems maintaining pressure. With the vehicle in a climb towards 14,000 feet, the co-pilot, 2nd Lieutenant John R. Mode, attempted to manipulate the supercharger controls to add additional pressure to it. Being partially successfully, the pressure continued to change, but not lost entirely, the flight continued onward. Then, after 45 minutes of flight, the flight indicators all ceased working. With the vacuum pumps having problems, and the pilot tube heat being turned on, no clear cause could be determined for this difficulty. The pilot and co-pilot decided to head back to Reno. Throttling up the engine RPM to climb to 18,000 feet, the aircraft pulled to right. The flight crew, trying to hold the B-17 in a straight line of flight, cut the engine power to try again. After a more successfully attempt, the pilot and co-pilot realized they were having serious troubles controlling the airplane, the pilot ordered the crew to don parachutes as a precaution, and be ready to bail out of the ailing aircraft. With their bank-and-turn instrument being the only functioning guide, the aircraft seemed to be handling fine. Then, the nose rose slightly, the pilot compensated by pushed the controls downward. Lt. Walker, attempting to level off the aircraft's descent, realized that flight controls had been lost. He attempted to pull the controls back to regain attitude, but the aircraft then rolled over onto its back, righted itself for a brief moment, and then plummeted into a spin. Of the nine-person crew, eight survived. Only the plane's pilot failed to escape. This crash site is actively protected by the U.S. Forest Service. Please take only pictures and leave only footprints.
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Source: Color Photos courtesy of Katie Thorne Published with permission by http://www.check-six.com/ Offering Aviation History and Adventure First-Hand!