What happened to Flight 293?

Jun 4, 2016, 11:21 PM | Updated: Nov 28, 2016, 8:32 am
Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas pictured in the collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museu...
Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas pictured in the collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. (A.Davey/Creative Commons)
(A.Davey/Creative Commons)

“Because of a lack of evidence the Board is unable to determine the cause of this accident.”

That was the final word from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) on Northwest Airlines Flight 293.

Flight 293 was a DC-7C charter carrying 101 people that left McChord Air Force Base (now part of JBLM) around 8:30 am on June 3, 1963, 53 years ago this week. The plane was headed for Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, but it never arrived.

Something apparently went wrong about two-and-a-half hours out of Tacoma. The four-engine propeller plane plunged from 14,000 feet and crashed into the Pacific Ocean 116 miles south-southwest of Annette Island, Alaska. No survivors were ever located. Searchers recovered only minimal human remains and about 1,500 pounds of floating wreckage. Like more recent disappearances over water of jetliners from Europe and Asia, the mystery of what happened to Flight 293 has never been solved.

In the CAB’s Aircraft Accident Report, the Northwest Airlines crew members on Flight 293 were listed as Captain Albert F. Olsen; First Officer Donald R. Wenger; Flight Engineer Kenneth A. Larson; Steward Donald K. Schaap; Stewardess Joan V. Morris; and Stewardess Patricia L. Moran.

In the 53 years since Flight 293 disappeared, little has been written about the crash or about the passengers and crew who were lost, many of whom had connections to the Pacific Northwest. The passengers on the flight were mostly Army and Air Force personnel and their dependents, heading to new assignments in Alaska.

Oddly enough, a similar Northwest Airlines charter flight, also known as Flight 293, had been forced to ditch near Sitka, Alaska in October 1962. All 102 people aboard that plane survived.

KIRO Radio is working on a story about Flight 293, and looking to speak with family members and friends of those who were lost in June 1963, and to survivors (or relatives of the survivors) of the October 1962 ditching.

If you have personal and/or professional connections to either Flight 293, please send email to KIRO Radio’s historian Feliks Banel.

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