Fifty seven years and counting . . . . .

FLASH FACTS on the demise of Flying Tiger 923

September 23, 1962

Nearly fifty eight years after the crash of Flying Tiger 923, it is still astonishing to see how little was known by the survivors of the event that very nearly took their lives or as in too many cases took the lives of loved ones. No one had an opportunity to see all of the local news stories. Actually there were very few stories outside of England and Ireland and virtually none in the United States after the initial incident.

The editor of this site considers the untimely demise of Flying Tiger 923 to be unusual in many ways. The facts surrounding the event give some indication of  the unusual nature of the incident:

* A total of 76 men, woman and children were on board the aircraft – 48 lived, 28 died. Three of those died in the life raft or during the rescue. On this particular flight some 20 freshly trained combat paratroopers had been added to the manifest at the last minute to speed their assignment to strategic locations in Germany during a heating up of the Cold War.

* Of eight crew members (included in the 76 total above) only three survived. They were the captain, navigator and one stewardess.

* The crash was initiated as an intentional, controlled water landing (a ditching) of a crippled air liner. It occurred some 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland at night during a raging storm. Impact was roughly at the latitude west of Galway, Ireland, and approximately in the same area as the final destruction of the Spanish Armada of 1588 .

* The aircraft was NOT a military plane. It was a civilian plane chartered by the Military Air Transport System (MATS). It was intended to serve the needs of military officers and higher ranking non-commissioned officers and their families of all branches of service

* The aircraft broke apart on impact, losing its left wing, tearing a hole in the left side of the plane and sinking within 7 to 12 minutes.

* Only ONE 25-man rubber life raft out of the five total that were supposed to be on board was usable, and had to hold all 51 who reached it.  Three persons died on the raft before reaching the safety of the rescue ship.

* Tragically the ONE usable life raft inflated UPSIDE DOWN, putting the safety lights and the emergency medical supplies underneath, making them unreachable in the pitch-black water.

* Only ONE flashlight, snatched from the cockpit of the aircraft by the captain, was available for emergency signaling during that six-hour drift.

* In the six hours from impact to rescue, gale-force winds drove the overloaded raft 22 miles through the raging waves and swells.

* The wind-whipped, white-capped waves ranged from 10 to 12 feet high and ocean swells were reported as being up to 35 feet high.

* The first aircraft to locate the crash site, within minutes of impact, was a US Air Force C-119. That aircraft circled the area of the survivors for nearly six hours, dropping spotting flares, until it ran dangerously low on fuel.

* The rescue ship was the Swiss freighter, MS Celerina. It was 492 feet long, had a crew of 35, and was loaded with wheat grain from Canada headed toward Belgium. The ship’s crew gave survivors their sleeping rooms and clothing and as much comfort as possible.

* The storm that ravaged the survivors in the lone life raft, raged on for three more days, making a major evacuation of injured by helicopter nearly impossible.

* When the storm cleared, 17 of the most seriously injured were helicoptered off the ship at the rendezvous location near Galley Head lighthouse, and taken to Cork, Ireland hospitals.

* Two days later, the remaining survivors disembarked from the ship at Antwerp, Belgium.

* The aircraft was known as the “Queen of the Atlantic,” for its being one of the first aircraft to be used successfully to transport commercial passengers over the Atlantic. It was a four-engine Lockheed Super Constellation 1049H. It had the registration number of N6923C.

* The last reported position of the aircraft, only minutes before the ditching (according to the Civil Aeronautics Board “Aircraft Accident Report” released on September 13, 1963), was reported as being 54 degrees 10 seconds north latitude, and 25 degrees 30 seconds west longitude.  The time of the message was 21;42 (9:42 p.m.) on September 23, 1962 (9/23/62).

There are of course hundreds of details and situations not listed here. The stories found in this memorial site include many of them. (Find more than 120 stories using the menu above. Mouse over the subjects to see what is recorded in this site.)

Regarding the availability of little or no information, it is worth noting that the 20 or so combat Army paratroopers who survived were sent directly to their assignments with no medical or family leave or briefings on what really transpired. None had written orders or instructions relating to their unexpected change of plans. Other passengers, virtually all related to the military, went on their way, knowing only what they experienced. Even the handful of those who were selected to attend and participate in the Civil Aeronautics Board hearing held in New York City, nearly one year after the crash, learned little beyond the bureaucratic, technical details that focused on the performance of the aircraft and crew. There was more to know.

{Compiled, written and posted by Fred Caruso}

About Fred Caruso

Survivor of the crash of Flying Tiger 923. at night, at sea, 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland, with 28 deaths and 48 survivors, September 23, 1962.
This entry was posted in flight crew, new combat troopers, passengers, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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