Ice Cap Recovery of Aircraft 57-490





By Earl Huddleston


In May of l969, I was called into the office of Colonel Kenneth Bethe, Accident Investigation Board President, and was told that ski aircraft 57-490 had crash-landed on the Greenland Ice Cap, following the failure of two engines.  Contrary to the procedure followed when I had been placed in charge of the recovery of ski aircraft 57-492 six months earlier, he then said, “Who do you want to take with you this time?”  I asked for most of the men that had worked for me before; however, some of them were not available, so I ended with some replacements. 


Since the aircraft crash had to be investigated, our departure for Sondrestrom was expedited, with only a limited number of replacement parts and equipment on board the aircraft.  Shortly after we arrived at Sondrestrom, we boarded another ski aircraft and flew out to the crash site.  As we flew over the crashed aircraft, it appeared to be in almost the same position as ski aircraft 57-492 had been six months earlier, sitting partially upright, with the let wingtip down in the snow.

After landing, a check of the damaged aircraft showed the numbers one and two propellers to be missing from the engines, although we found the number one propeller lying where the aircraft had touched down. The GTC compartment was damaged, as was the leading edge of the wing and the left main ski.  A tear approximately two feet wide and six feet long in a vertical plane was located just forward of the GTC compartment.  In addition, the two left main landing gear jackscrews had been pulled loose at the upper ends, with the left landing gear fairing pulled loose at the aft end.    As before, the left wing was resting on the left pylon fuel tank






After talking to the flight crew and viewing the damage, we were able to determine what had happened.  Following take-off from Dye III, an Early Warning site at 8700 feet elevation, and during climb-out, a severe vibration of the aircraft was experienced, along with a severe fogging of the interior of the aircraft and the loss of torque for the numbers one and two engines.  Both engines were immediately shut down.  A visual inspection showed the number one propeller to be stuck in the wing leading edge between the number one and two engines and a huge gash to have been torn on the left side of the fuselage just forward of the left main landing gear wheel well.  

Photographs courtesy of Earl Huddleston

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