On 12/20/10, the twin-engine Aero Commander 680FL N316KW was on a VFR flight from Palm Springs, California to Chino, California departing at approximately 9:30 a.m. The pilot was communicating with air traffic controllers at March Air Reserve Base when his airplane abruptly dropped off their radar at 10:05 a.m. A relative of the pilot reported the plane overdue when it failed to arrive at Chino by 11:00 a.m. The pilot’s mobile phone remained active after the crash, and emergency officials were able to pinged it to get a fix on his location, which they traced to a hillside in the Lake Perris State Recreation Area. Park rangers searching a section of the area inaccessible to vehicles discovered the wreckage of the aircraft just after 3:00 p.m. The Aero Commander impacted a ridge line about twenty feet from the top. At the time of the crash, the area was under overcast skies and scattered rain. The pilot who was the only person on broad was killed in the accident.
I unexpectedly came upon the wreckage of the Aero Commander 680FL N316KW while searching for the crash site of a B-24J that crashed on 5/16/44.
On the search for the crash site of the Consolidated B-24J #42-73387 that crashed into rising terrain southeast of March Field, Riverside, California while practicing night landings. Killed in the accident were, the pilot; 2Lt. Joseph W. Shaw, co-pilot; 2Lt. Herman Minden, bombardier; F/O Jaime V. Gama, navigator: 2Lt. Robert S. Bingham, engineer; Cpl. Albert M. Benefiel, radio operator; Cpl. Kenneth B. Wettstein, engineer instructor; Cpl. George Kovich.
This is the first clear day after raining for about a week.
Didn't take long before I starting finding pieces from the B-24J.
Hiking farther up the hill, I found this group of pieces. I was only finding pieces made from steel, all the aluminum was recovered long ago.
Looks like a piece from one of the engine mounts.
Valve stem from one of the engines with the guide and spring still attached.
Looks like this might be another piece from an engine.
I was finding a lot of small pieces of wreckage scattered on the side of the hill, but couldn't find any as I neared the top. Decided to climb to the peak and see if it was possible to get a photo of March Air Field (now March Air Reserve Base). The place the B-24 was practicing night landings.
When I reached the top, I was surprised to see what I first thought was the tail of a sailplane.
Off to the right, I saw scattered pieces of wreckage and the yellow caution tape and figured out that it was a airplane that recently crashed. Turns out it crashed four days before, but due to the heavy rains that just ended, the investigation and recovery must have been delayed.
The Aero Commander's wreckage was scattered along an old dirt road, just northwest of the peak.
I was able to locate initial point of impact which was less than twenty feet below the top of the ridge. This is looking at the direction of flight. Most of the wreckage continued over to the other side.
Aluminum imbedded in a rock at the initial point of impact.
The left wing tip. The NTSB report stated that " The initial point of impact was identified by the debris of the left wing tip and red glass position light lens fragments".
A twisted propeller blade.
The remainder of the prop was nearby.
A view of the other side.
Prop hub showing where the one blade broke off.
The label on the prop. I cleared away a little bit of dirt to get a shot of the label. It was the only thing that I touched at the site. Didn't want to disturb anything and my nerves were rattled having come upon the site so soon after the accident.
A cover from one of the engine nacelles.
Standing on the high point looking down at the debris field. March Air Reserve Base can be seen in the background.
Looking back at the high point of the hill as I head down to the large pieces of wreckage.
The main wreckage was in three pieces. The tail, the wing on the left, and the forward fuselage section seen above the tail.
Looking down on the tail section that looked in fairly good condition.
The tips of the horizontal stabilizer were both bent upwards.
View of the damage on the right stab.
Walking around to the front, I could see a place where electrical equipment was mounted.
Two of the equipment boxes must have been removed, the mounts didn't look damaged.
Another view from behind as I walk around to get photos of the other side.
The plane's registration number can be seen on this side.
Better view of the plane's registration number.
The fin and rudder showed no sign of damage.
Bottom side of the left stab tip.
Stab root section with the elevator and trim tab. There was a small tag attached to the fuselage below the stab.
Close up of the tag with the plane's model and serial numbers.
The wing came to rest on the remains of an old dirt road.
Another view of the wing showing the missing left outboard section just beyond the engine nacelle. Both engines were torn free.
About fifty feet down the road from the wing was what remained of the cabin area of the fuselage. A door and one of the engines can be seen in the foreground.
View of the wing and fuselage as I make my way towards them.
A piece from the rear of the right engine nacelle.
Another engine nacelle cover. There was a lot of smaller pieces scattered in the area.
Not sure what this was, maybe a small refrigerator.
Up on the road looking at the trailing edge of the wing.
Rear view of the left engine nacelle and landing gear.
A control cable pulley can be seen on the spar at the wings center section.
Rear view of the right wing.
Most of the right engine nacelle was missing. The upper section of the landing gear can be seen. Also one of the engines laying on the road at the top of the photo.
Gas filler cap. Due to the heavy rains at the time of the accident, there wasn't a post crash fire. There wasn't even the smell of gas in the area even though I found pieces from a fuel cell.
Damage on the left wing where the outboard section was torn off.
The front section of the left engine nacelle still had the prop in place even tough the engine is missing.
Front view of the same piece of wreckage.
Front view of the wing showing the two control cables coming from the trailing edge between the right nacelle and the wing's center section.
The cables were still attached to the upside down cabin section of the fuselage. The top of the nose landing gear can be seen in the center of the wreckage, also the windshield on the left.
Another view of the fuselage.
All of the flight instruments were still in the wreckage.
The throttle quadrant and part of the instrument panel.
Another part of the instrument panel.
Another set of instruments.
Rudder pedals. The tail and wing can be seen in the background.
One of the control columns.
One of the passenger seats. When I was at the site, had bad feelings wondering how many people had lost their lives here. While it's sad that the pilot lost his life, I was somewhat relieved when I found out that he was the only one onboard.
Looking back towards the initial point of impact, just over the top.
Another view of the fuselage.
One of the engines. The Aero Commander was powered by two supercharged, fuel-injected 380hp Lycoming IGSO-540-B1C engines.
This view shows the induction system and fuel injection lines.
Closer view showing the cylinders, heads and sparkplugs with the attachment points for intake and fuel injectors.
The supercharger on the rear of the engine.
Farther down found a piece from the other engine.
It was the section with the supercharger.
This looks like one of the magnetos. I never found the second engine, only parts from it.
Looking up at the crash site from the bottom of the debris field which is about five hundred feet from the initial point of impact.
Looking down on the wing, fuselage and engine.
The tail with the engine nacelle and wing in the foreground.
An overall view of most of the wreckage at the site. This excerpt from the NTSB report describes the scene.
"The empennage and tail section had been separated from the main cabin, and the entire wing span, minus the outboard section of left wing, had also separated from the fuselage. The left wing outboard section was located 140 feet to the north of the initial point of impact. The cockpit area was located about 20 yards downhill from the wing, and was observed in an inverted orientation, and exposed to the environment".
Standing on the peak looking back at the crash site. The initial point of impact is on the right where a few pieces of wreckage can be seen. If the airplane was just twenty feet higher, it would have cleared the top, unfortunately that's not what happened.
As I starting climbing down off the peak, a police helicopter arrived and started circling low over the crash site. Was happy to see them there. Most of the time that I was at the site, a couple guys were standing around looking like they were waiting for me to leave. Had a feeling that they planed on taking something from the site.