28th of March 2002
A 1940 built Boeing S.307 Stratoliner had been fully restored to flying condition and was "rolled out" on the 23rd of June 2001, in Seattle, it was painted in the Pan American Livery of the first half of the 20th century. On this day in aviation history, in 2002, it took fo from Boeing Field at approximately 12.30 for a series of practice take-offs and landings. Onboard two pilots, a flight engineer and a mechanic. Each one of the pilots was scheduled to perform 3 take off's and 3 landings. Based on the indicated quantity of fuel onboard the endurance of the aircraft was calculated to be 2 hours. The fuel tank quantities were not verified by a dip check.
The aircraft partly sunk (©Timothy M. Davis)
After the initial take off the crew headed for Everett-Paine field and carried out a full stop landing there. On the subsequent take-off, the #3 engine (right-hand inboard) had a momentary Overspeed. The crew decided to return to Boeing Field. On the approach to Boeing Field, with the landing gear selected down, the left main landing gear did not indicate down and locked.
The approach was aborted and, while the aircraft circled in the vicinity of the airport, the flight mechanic hand-cranked the landing gear down. With the gears indicating down and locked another approach was initiated. At 6 miles from the runway the #3 engine fuel pressure dropped below the minimum value, switching on the boost pump did not help and the engine failed. The #4 engine fuel low-pressure light then came on, and the captain ordered the flight engineer to switch the fuel feed to another tank. TO which the flight engineer responded; "There is no other tank, we are out of fuel".
The captain then pushed the throttles forward and asked for the #3 engine to be feathered. While pushing the throttles forward there was the unmistakable sound of surging engines on the flight deck. And all engines lost power. The aircraft partly sunk
Unable to reach the runway the aircraft was (source the Billings Gazette © unknown) ditched in Elliot Bay, where the aircraft initially remained afloat while the crew safely evacuated the aircraft. The police towed the aircraft towards the shore, where it partially sank. The next day the aircraft was recovered from the water. The flight had lasted 1 hour and 19 minutes, the total time since restoration was 39 hours. Total time since the aircraft's first flight in 1940, 20577 flight hours. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and in their report (available by clicking here), they stated the following probable cause;
"Loss of all engine power due to fuel exhaustion that resulted from the flight crew's failure to accurately determine onboard fuel during the pre-flight inspection. A factor contributing to the accident was a lack of adequate crew communication regarding the fuel status."
The aircraft was in better shape before to the accident