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The end of an Alaska workhorse, C-46 4860V


Mission, TX
I have talked about a C-46 Super, 60V (sixty volts everyone called her) and her last days of flying. This is what happened to it at Prudhoe Bay one winter day some 30 years ago.

She was on a drummed fuel haul for an oil company support operation into the Deadhorse airport at Prudhoe Bay. The weather was real good but everything was very white but not actually a white out so depth perception was not very good. On approach from the west, they did what looked like a normal approach. On the slope, all runways, drill pads and roads are built up off the tundra over insulation and covered with crushed gravel to a height of 5 or 6 foot. Keeps the permafrost from melting and it also lets the wind blow the snow off instead of drifting. Never any snow berms along the sides. At Barrow, the runway is actually painted so it is not so black which would make it absorb all the 24 hour daylight heat in the summer. Also the animals have found that standing on the roads lets them get to the wind to help keep the terrible swarms of mosquitos away and the caribou really like it. Most people driving the roads on the North Slope have a hard decision to make. Do they hit the mosquitos or the caribou? The caribou would probably do less damage to the pickup but almost the same as hitting a moose or big elk if they hit a mosquito.

Anyway, 60V came in a little low and hit the end of the frozen runway about two foot below the surface where the right main gear was yanked off but the left gear held. The flight crew had a few seconds to get things back flying. The captain told me he thought he remembered the props hitting the ground but they didn't show it. He immediately sucked the gear up not knowing the right gear was gone and tried to gain altitude and than all of a sudden the right engine quit within a few seconds. When the gear went away, it took the fuel line with it. So here she goes with a load of probably 13,000 pounds of drummed fuel and the right prop just going into feather and gasping for more altitude. She flew the entire length of the runway about 10 foot or less off the surface. Needless to say, she made it so the crew kept it in a low holding pattern and made several passes while they thought things over and had us look at the gear. He had time to ask the tower at the ARCO strip about 7 miles away to have their fire trucks sent over. Once the crew felt everything was set up right for them, he brought it in and made a great belly landing. He kept power until just before contact before he shut it down since he could care less about that good engine. He did have time to set the prop position right though. The gravel runway was packed snow covered so she just kept sliding right down the red dye centerline and ended up with just a slight crab to the left. Kind of like landing of foam. An oil company crew was sent over to offload the aircraft and two cranes were sent to lift the aircraft up, set it on a sled and pull it off the runway. Actually, it didn't take long either probably because everyone seemed to know just what to do even though they were used to oil company work.

They spotted the aircraft right next to our terminal on the ground while the company decided what to do with her. Finally, they sent two, right, only two mechanics and tools up to stiff leg her and get her ready to fly out. This all done in the winter outside with very little light and no heat with temperatures always below zero. (There will be other stories about those unbelievable aviation mechanics that flew to the bush to repair and return many of our aircraft) It took them almost all the rest of the winter to get it ready to fly but finally they sent a flight crew up to make that one last flight to the wild blue yonder (Fairbanks in this case) where all good aircraft must go when they can no longer fly and where she now sits, unable to ever fly again. What a history that aircraft must have had. I suspect all adults that lived in the bush before 1970 will remember that aircraft. Although she always competed fairly with our good old 92853
C-46A, she could fly circles around us. I always knew we had the better flight crews though. :wink:

By the way, I refer to this aircraft as a Her simply because she was so beautiful, if you can call a C-46 beautiful, in her day.
I am sure some get tired of me talking about good old C-46s 92853 and 4860V. I ran into a really great site that just happened to have some photos of good old 60 volts as she sits today in Fairbanks, AK.
http://www.ruudleeuw.com/fairbanks03.htm Just scroll down and look for a rather robbed blue and while C-46.

While you are at it, take a look at the entire site. The information is some, if not the best, aviation history I have ever seen put together about the early days of flying in Alaska.


Ernie- Enjoyed your story about 60V. I frost bit my ears on cool day in SCC when I walked over and looked at the resulting landing before she was returned to FAI.