Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West
During the 1930’s two USAAC Martin B-10/B-12 bombers went down over the High Sierras. YB-12A #33-171 was lost NE of Mammoth Lakes on 10/3/34 (see photo archive section) with the loss of three lives. One crewman observed the aileron flutter in severe turbulence and bailed out thus saving his life. The other loss occurred during a formation flight of B-10’s and B-12’s over Sequoia National Park on 5/28/35. Weather was not a factor in this accident, but the accidental disruption of the flight controls by a civilian passenger is thought to have caused the crash.
#33-165 was flown by 2nd Lt. Edgar W. Root of the 31st Bomb Sq based at Hamilton Field, he was accompanied by Pvt. Guy C. Porter as his radio operator and two Movietone News Reel cameramen. The accident investigation indicates that one of the cameramen situated in the aft cockpit/gunners position accidentally fouled the flight controls as he moved about in the process of filming the formation flight of Martin bombers over the High Sierras. The B-10/B-12 was unique in that flight controls were situated in the aft gunner station as there was no copilot position provided in this Martin design. In case of emergency it was thought that the gunner might be able fly the aircraft and even land it in case of emergency. The movement or jamming of the controls caused #33-165 to chandelle and enter a flat spin from which the pilot could not recover.
The crash site is located in the dense forests of Sequoia National Park in Silliman Pass near Cahoon Meadow. #33-165 came down virtually intact, but the ensuing fire destroyed most of the center section and inner wing panels. Most of the remaining wreckage was packed out, but several hundred pounds of material was buried at the crash site where it remains to this day. The Martin B-10/B-12 series were virtually identical and differed only in the type of engines fitted. Special thanks to Craig Fuller of AAIR for providing the accident report for this story.
On 8/8/07 my wife and I hiked from the Wusachi Lodge 3.5 miles through beautiful
forest to reach the crash site of Martin B-12A #33-165 near Cahoon Meadow on the
Twin Lakes Trail. We spent 1.5 hours at the crash site and examined more than
one-hundred small shards and metal fragments of the once mighty Martin Bomber.
Today less than one percent of the B-12A remains. In the past few years NPS
personnel have recovered one landing gear and some assorted wing structure which
I photographed during a June 2007 visit to Sequoia National Park. I hope that
the recovered parts will not be dumped in a landfill as they are worthy of
permanent historical preservation and display.