NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Site

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chumley
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NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Site

Post by chumley » Apr 30 2014 9:04 pm

As many know, on June 30, 1956 a TWA Super Constellation carrying 70 people and a United DC-7 carrying 58 people collided over the eastern Grand Canyon. All 128 souls on board were lost.

The wreckage of each plane fell at different locations about a mile apart, with the TWA ship hitting near the river northeast of Temple Butte, and the United aircraft striking the side of Chuar Butte and falling to a resting place at least 1000 feet above the river.

Investigative teams were able to reach the TWA site by helicopter the following day, but a special mountain-climbing team from Switzerland was brought in to reach the United wreckage.

30 bodies of the 70 on the TWA flight were recovered. Only 3 were identified. There is a common grave and memorial to these victims in Flagstaff. None of the bodies from the United flight were recovered. A memorial to those victims stands in the Grand Canyon Pioneers Cemetery on the South Rim.

On April 23, 2014, the National Park Service designated the crash site a National Historic Landmark. It spans 1.5 square miles, and though it has been closed to backpackers since the 1950s, the new designation will task the NPS with preserving it further.

The application for historic landmark status is heavily redacted, preventing public disclosure of exactly where this landmark is. A highly unusual (if not unprecedented) act for a historic landmark. The public is not permitted to visit this site.

Some interesting reading on the recent landmark designation and the history of the whole event in links below:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/a ... rk/361183/
http://grandcanyonhistory.clas.asu.edu/ ... crash.html

Based on the photography in the NAU Kline Library, I've marked the approximate locations of the two main impact sites on this map (+/- hundreds of yards and feet of elevation!).
http://hikearizona.com/map.php?QX=3383
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Dave1
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by Dave1 » May 01 2014 12:35 am

Similarly, 1960 saw a mid-air collision over NYC involving a United Airlines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation, killing all 128 passengers and crew (plus 6 on the ground).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960_New_Y ... _collision

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steelfrog
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by steelfrog » May 01 2014 1:38 pm

So, do you think the wreckage could be seen by hiking over there to Cape Solitude with some decent binocs?

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azbackpackr
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by azbackpackr » May 01 2014 2:08 pm

Pretty sure there's a place along the river (my memory is not that good, and I don't have my river atlas here in Calif.) where you can see a glimmer of wreckage on the side of the butte. I'll ask someone I know and get back to you.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
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AZWanderingBear
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by AZWanderingBear » May 01 2014 3:10 pm

Just got off a 12-day River trip. About a mile below the confluence of the Little Colorado and before you reach Carbon Canyon it is possible to see quite a bit of wreckage still up on Temple. It is visible with the naked eye, depending on sun angles, and is easily viewed with good optics. The debris pattern is widely spread and smaller pieces of wreckage are slowly "eroding" down the slopes. This accident was the genesis of the modern (or once was anyway) FAA and air traffic control system.
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chumley
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by chumley » May 01 2014 4:10 pm

@steelfrog
That's a good question and one that I thought about last night when I was researching all this. I was out on Cape Solitude in 2012 and we discussed the plane crash while out there. But at that time I didn't have the knowledge about it that I do now. Nor did I have binoculars with me.

I did search through some of the photos I had taken, but didn't come up with anything. I suspect that some pieces of wreckage would be possible from there though. Next time...
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paulhubbard
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by paulhubbard » May 02 2014 6:06 am

It's been many years since I've been to Cape Solitude, but I do remember seeing pieces of the wreckage with binocluars.
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Hippy
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by Hippy » May 02 2014 2:21 pm

I wish we'd had our binocs on our 2012 Cape Solitude trip, i remember 9L or someone telling the story of the crash on the drive up north.
Pretty awesome to have it designated as Historic Landmark so many years later...

But why would we not be allowed to visit exactly? I have read many triplogs about excursions to the site, finding seatbelt buckles back in the 70s and in the 80s or 90s someone snapped a photo of a tiny melted baby doll of some sort in a bush...so it's not exactly a secret to where it is...
plus you have to really put some effort into getting there so why ban it? Just wondering not trying to be rebellious, just curious!

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azbackpackr
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by azbackpackr » May 02 2014 2:37 pm

Hippy wrote:I wish we'd had our binocs on our 2012 Cape Solitude trip, i remember 9L or someone telling the story of the crash on the drive up north.
Pretty awesome to have it designated as Historic Landmark so many years later...

But why would we not be allowed to visit exactly? I have read many triplogs about excursions to the site, finding seatbelt buckles back in the 70s and in the 80s or 90s someone snapped a photo of a tiny melted baby doll of some sort in a bush...so it's not exactly a secret to where it is...
plus you have to really put some effort into getting there so why ban it? Just wondering not trying to be rebellious, just curious!
I'd have to guess it's out of respect for the dead who were never found. Their relatives probably don't want us tramping around, picking through artifacts (which the things have become), etc.

Or, if you want to hear something a bit more cynical, to quote a friend of mine, (an occasional HAZzer): "Why does the government do what it does? Because it CAN!"

Okay, on another note, if you enjoy light reading, mystery fiction, there is a Tony Hillerman novel which features the crash site. It's quite fanciful, but a fun read. He's the author of all those mysteries where the Navajo Tribal policemen are the detectives. The book is Skeleton Man. It came out 10 years ago. Here's a review. Hillerman died a couple of years ago. http://bookpage.com/interviews/8280-ton ... 2QPxPldW-0
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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JimmyLyding
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by JimmyLyding » May 02 2014 7:42 pm

My best guess as to why people aren't allowed to visit the sites is also out of respect for the departed. My second guess would be that it's due to safety. I envision a government bureaucrat thinking that trying to carry off a piece of the wreckage as a souvenir could be hazardous, and it may very well be. It could be something mundane like the notion that reaching the crash sites is hazardous enough to warrant the restriction.

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Hippy
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by Hippy » May 02 2014 11:08 pm

@Jim Lyding and yet people have been doing it for years. True though, In my opinion most anyone who actually puts time, effort, planning and can physically complete the hike...I Dont think they would desecrate the grounds. But government does what it wants I suppose...when will they learn that if the ban, restrict or prohibit something they're pretty much telling people to go out and do it? *shrug*

Rest in peace historic landmark, I won't disturb you.

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chumley
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Re: NPS Designates Historic Landmark Status to Air Crash Sit

Post by chumley » May 02 2014 11:11 pm

It has been prohibited to visit the site for over 50 years. Which doesn't mean people haven't done it. It is still prohibited now and will be going forward. Which doesn't mean people won't still do it. But the historic landmark status will give them additional resources to enforce the prohibition.
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