Date: October 24, 1947
Operator: United Airlines
Where: Bryce Canyon, Utah
Report No.: -
Report Date: -
This is not an accident investigation report.
United Airlines DC-6 Crashed on 24th October 1947 at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah,
due to fuel leakage into the cabin heaters causing an onboard fire. It was discovered that fuel could spill when it was being transfered from tank to tank while in flight. The vapour from the spill could then be set alight by the electric coils of the cabin heating system
The procedures developed as a result of this disaster make this crash
As a result of the disaster the entire fleet of 80 aircraft including the Presidents plane,
which was a sister ship, were recalled. Design changes that were made
thereafter still stand today.
It was the first time that a plane was reconstructed from the
They loaded the pieces of wreakage onto trucks and hauled them to Douglas in
California. There the plane was reassembled. This is now a standard procedure.
Accounts of the pilot Capt. McMillion say: He saw the landing strip at Bryce
Canyon AirPort. He called on
the radio "I think we will make it now" then 30 seconds before the
landing, he was passing over the Canyon, as the plane passed over the
messa, 1500 yards from the air strip, the wind curling around from down
on the canyon floor and up the side of the messa, sucked his crippled
aircraft down to the ground. He was only 10 feet off the ground when he went
over the messa. He flew the plane which was on fire for eleven minutes. Ground
observers reported that people were throwing things out the door
over the canyon in an attempt to lighten the load.
"The plane looked like a comet" fire on the tail. When it hit, it
was like a "bomb" locals said. A large column of smoke and then silence.
On March 7,1948 the US CAA gave the
go-ahead for Douglas DC-6 airliners to resume flying as soon as
modifications were completed to prevent a repeat of the two in-flight
fires which were caused by fuel leaking into the cabin heaters.
The first fire broke out on the United Airlines airplane which crashed
in Utah killing 52, as reported at the time. More recent records now show 53 fatalities.
The second was an American Airlines plane, but the airliner was able to
Further detailed information on the Utah DC-6 Disaster can be obtained from "Project Angels" - Nancy Boonstra at: