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(moved) Just bad luck everywhere, Connie


Mission, TX
Many years ago, an Alaska based carrier (at the time) was operating Connies on some of their routes. On one specific flight from Anchorage to Kotzebue, the weather went sour on them with solid overcast and tops at 1,000 foot and nearly zero visibility with fog when they got over head at Kotzebue. With tower permission (actually flight service station), they went into a very lax holding pattern in VFR on top nearly right overhead and just sat back and waited. The passengers were all used to this happening so were not worried at all. After all, most lived there and saw it every day. They had pulled the power back, dropped some flaps but left the gear up. Soon, they got tired of listening to the gear horn so popped the breaker. This went on for well over an hour when all of a sudden a big hole opened up and they could see the ground. The crew immediately dove through the hole and were very lucky that they were almost directly in line with the active. More flaps were added real fast and a perfect flare was made but right at the last minute came the most famous words that every pilot hopes to never use. OH S..T. Yep, gear up and no time to power up. Witnesses said it was a perfect belly landing and one flight crew member commented what a strange sound it is to hear each blade hit the surface as it settled down. From the air, a photo showed it looked like the aircraft was not even damaged other than the bent props. Somehow they got it raised, with air bags as I recall, lowered and pinned the gear and towed it off the runway. I might add that within one hour after the landing, the airline name was painted out. By the way, the gravel strip was snow packed so very little chance of fire. I had heard, but not sure, the crew hit the master power cutoff just as contact was made.

Did anyone reading this think check list?

After a complete inspection of the aircraft, it was determined all 4 engines were gone, wings were gone and several bad cracks in the fuselage were found and of course the flap system was shot. The insurance company and/or airline wrote it off as non repairable. All removable parts such as all gauges and radios and losts of other items were removed and sent to the maintenance hanger. As I recall, they pulled the damaged engines too but not positive on that.

They put the hull up for sale and some guy from Kotzebue bought it for something like $7,000. Later, the airline remembered they forgot one item they needed and had to buy it back for $1,000.

The guy had the aircraft towed outside of the town city limits about 6 miles to a great spot right on the beach of Kotzebue Sound, part of the Bering Straight between the US and Russia, and set it up on a big pedestal of gravel (gear up) on the side of the road to the DEW radar site just south of town. Next thing that was done was to paint "The Flying Martini" on the side and to build two sets of steps, one forward and one aft and with little pitch so if anyone fell down coming out, they wouldn't get hurt (hopefully). The entire aircraft was repainted to cover up the airline colors, a requirement for the sale.

Sounds real good right? Wrong. Not long after all this was done and while finishing up the final work, the town of Kotzebue voted itself dry and no alcohol could be sold. Talk about lack of luck and bad timing. When it comes to restricting laws such as a dry town, the restrictions extend to seven miles beyond city limits in most places. The Flying Martini was only 6 miles outside of town and therefore, not a drink was ever sold there. Sure was a beautiful setup for a while before it was trashed by residents from town.

Now this part I did not see so consider it hearsay but I trust my sources.
That same captain was assigned to the airline C-130 cargo operation world wide and while doing some work for an oil company in South America, he got his 130 stuck in some mud. He got a bunch of locals together and had a ramp dug ahead of the mains and laid down some planking to taxi out on. Good idea, right? Everything looked good so they boarded and lit it up. As the aircraft started up the ramp with lots of power, noise and vibration, the muddy ground under the planking shifted and one plank poked up enough to catch a prop which shattered and part of a blade was sent flying into the other engine on that side which than caught fire from a severed fuel line outside the fire bottle system. Needless to say, the entire aircraft and load burned up since in that remote area, there was no fire fighting equipment.
I never did hear what happened to that captain after that.
moved from another area

AlaskaAV said:
Just bad luck everywhere
Many years ago, an Alaska based carrier (at the time) was operating 749 Connies on some of their routes.


Was the carrier Pacific Northern Airlines?... I have a cousin and also a good friend that drove Connies for PNA (later Western/Delta)...

When Pigs Fly said:
AlaskaAV said:
Just bad luck everywhere
Many years ago, an Alaska based carrier (at the time) was operating 749 Connies on some of their routes.


Was the carrier Pacific Northern Airlines?... I have a cousin and also a good friend that drove Connies for PNA (later Western/Delta)...

Sorry, the name of the carrier would not change the story. Regardless of of which carrier it was, I have lots of respect for PNA (and their belly pods on the connies) and Art Kelly of Western treated me almost like a son at times, business wise. Alaska is not an easy area for a commercial carrier to operate in, especially on the chain and southeast both of which Wien did not operate in other than Juneau.

Again, sorry, but Lita and I both agreed that within reason, we would not name flight crews and airlines other than Wien. Naming them would not change the stories.

Really appreciate your interest.


Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe OTZ voted itself "damp" along about 1988.

Prior to that time, at least for the previous 15 years I can vouch that OTZ was very VERY WET. Ergo, unless you are referring to a time PRIOR to 1973 OTZ was never DRY.

Also Connie in question was about 1 mile south of R/W 08-26 across from the town dump, and (post 1973, again I am talking) was NEVER actually refurbished to serve as a bar, although I was aware that there once had been a plan to do so.

It did serve nicely however as a source of spare parts for Twin Beeches, T-Bones, Aztecs, and many other bush machines until it was "parted out", so to speak.