On 7/2/47, a North American AT-6D with the US Army Air Force Reserve while on a flight from Long Beach Army airfield crashed in the San Gabriel Mountains, north of Pasadena, California. The accident started a 90 acre forest fire which prevented the rescue party from reaching the crash site until fire crews were able to get the flames under control. The accident occurred in bad weather killing the pilot 1st Lieutenant Edward F. Bickford of Altadena, CA.
My hike to the crash site started here. It took me three hikes to be able to find all the remaining wreckage. These photos are combined from those three hikes.
Following the trail that leads down into the canyon. This photo shows how steep and rugged the mountains are in this area.
I could have followed the road up and then dropped down into the canyon, but decided to follow the canyon up to the site then take the road back down to the car.
This canyon has a lot of remains of old water pipe and pieces from the old mining operations that started over a hundred years ago.
This piece of tin roofing made me stop and check it out. From a disance it looked like an airplane piece.
This flat head engine is in the stream bed below the Dawn Mine.
Water pump outside the Dawn Mine. This mine was started in 1895 and was worked on and off till the early 1950s. Like most mines in the San Gabriels, it produced more sweat than gold.
Just a short way past the Dawn Mine, I saw something that caught my eye. I been seeing a lot of things that looked like aluminum but decided to check it out. Soon as I got close, I could tell it was a piece from an airplane.
Taking a close look at the piece, I found a part number with the 58 prefix. The 58 indicates that it came from a North American BT-14. This piece is about a mile from where I finally found the crash site. Wondering if this piece is from another plane, or it was used on the AT-6?
About 3/4 of a mile from the first piece, I came upon a piece of wreckage stuck in some trees just above the streambed.
Closer look at the piece. Looks like it was put there so it wouldn't get washed away.
The other side. Think that it's part of one of the wings, but not sure.
Have no idea what this is.
One last look. This is as far as I hiked the first time. I spent a couple of hours searching this area thinking that the crash site must be close by before giving up.
On the second hike I went farther up the canyon and spent over an hour searching this area. Decided that it wasn't here and moved over into other section of the canyon.
Got lucky and found this piece.
Another view of the same piece. Looks like it might be a part of the engine.
A short way up the canyon found another piece. Starting to think that I'll be able to find the main site this time.
Same piece turned over. Looks like it's from the wing.
Further up the canyon found what looks like the crash site.
This is a ten foot section from one of the wings. Most of it is buried in the stream bed.
Another view of the same piece.
When I got home, mactched up these covers with the photos of the underside of AT-6 wings.
View of some of the structure on the same piece.
Looking underneath. Someone put a stick to hold it up.
Just upstream of the wing was the fuselage frame.
Most of the frame was buried.
Looks like most of the frame is here, from the firewall to where the rear section of the fuselage attaches to it.
There was a few is these attached to the frame.
Joint on the frame where seven tubes come together.
Closeup of the joint showing the reinforcing plate.
This part was attached on the rear of the frame. Think that it is one of the fittings that attaches the rear fuselage section to the frame.
Last look at the site. I was a disappointed that I couldn't find the large wing section that should be at this site, but it's time to head out.
It's been four and a half years since the last hike, but I returned to search for the wing that I missed. Starting from the area where I found the fuselage frame I climbed up a steep slope hoping to find the wing. Didn't take long till I found this piece, looks like I'm heading in the right direction.
Climbing further up the slope found another small piece.
Following a trail of pieces.
This piece is about four feet long.
Another view of the same piece, it's a piece from the wing and split flap.
Part of the exhaust manifold. The exhaust pipe is about seven inches in diameter.
Looking farther up the steep slope, I spotted what I was searching for, the large wing section.
Looking up at the leading edge. The slope is really steep here, the tree is keeping the wing from sliding down.
A view of the wing joint that attaches the outer section to the center section. The outer section was fairly complete, but the remaining center section was badly damaged. This turned out the be the right wing.
On the center section, there was the pivot for the right landing gear and just above it, the fitting which locks the gear in the down position. Looks like after someone removed the landing gear, they replaced the nut on the pivot shaft.
A view of the wing attaching bolts. The engine mount can be seen on the right.
Better view of the engine mount.
No idea what this linkage is from.
Opening for the landing light.
Looking out towards the wing tip. It was hard getting good photos of the complete wing due to it being under the tree. I was holding up branches while taking this shot.
Landing gear mount from the rear. The linkage in the bottom of the photo is connected to the gear lock fitting.
Fire damage on the center section.
Looking from the tip towards the center section. The aileron was missing.
On the hike back to the car. I was glad that I decided to take the road which is closed to vehicles back down. Today was a really clear day, I could see the coastline to the south.
Zoomed in looking over the buildings in downtown Los Angeles. The ridgeline in the distance on the left, is the north end of Catalina Island.
Farther to the west, three ships can be seen just offshore and beyond is Santa Barbara Island about seventy miles from my location. Picked a nice day to do this hike.
I'm happy that I was able to locate the wing on this hike. Don't have any plans on returning to this area anytime soon.