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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 24849
Last updated: 12 December 2017
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Date:18-FEB-1943
Time:12:26
Type:Silhouette image of generic B29 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing XB-29 Superfortress
Owner/operator:Boeing Aircraft Company
Registration: 41-0003
C/n / msn: 2481
Fatalities:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 8
Other fatalities:20
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:3 miles from Boeing Field, Seattle, WA -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Seattle, WA
Destination airport:
Narrative:
41-0003 was the second (of three) Boeing XB-29 prototypes. Crashed into Frye slaughterhouse and meat processsing plant in Seattle. WA, Feb 18, 1943 after inflight fire. Boeing Chief Test pilot Eddie Allen, Bob Dansfield, 9 other crew, 22 in building and one city fireman were killed.

The primary objectives of the February 18, 1943 flight were to measure climb and level flight performance and get engine cooling data with 4 and 2 engines operating. Maximum altitude would be limited to 25,000 feet because of the excessive trouble that had been encountered with low engine nose oil pressures above that altitude. The effectiveness of fixes for some of the past problems would also be evaluated. Takeoff would be at the normal design gross weight of 105,000 pounds with full fuel tanks — 5,410 gallons of gasoline.

Eight minutes after that 12:09 PM takeoff to the south, while climbing through 5,000 feet with rated power, a fire was reported in the #1 engine. Mixture and fuel to #1 were cut off, propeller was feathered, cowl flaps were closed, a CO2 fire extinguisher bottle was discharged and a descent and return to Boeing Field was initiated. Since the fire appeared to have been put out and everything seemed under control, Eddie elected to make a normal landing pattern and land form the north on runway 13 (128 magnetic) to the SSE into the 5 MPH wind rather than making a downwind laning on the 5,200 foot runway with a heavy airplane. At 12:24 PM the radio operator routinely reported altitude at 1,500 feet at a point 4 miles NE of the field. They were on the downwind leg, headed NNW and starting a left turn onto base leg. No one suspected the drastic change that would take place in the next 2 minutes. At 12:25 they had just completed turning onto base leg, had just crossed the heavily populated west shore of Lake Washington about 5 miles NNE of the field, were at about 1,200 feet altitude and were heading SW approaching the commercial and industrial south side of downtown Seattle. At that point ground witnesses heard an explosion that sounded like a loud backfire and a piece of metal fell from the airplane. About that time the radio operator, who could see into the forward bomb bay and the wing center section front spar, was overheard by the Boeing tower on an open microphone to say "Allen, better get this thing down in a hurry. The wing spar is burning badly." He told Boeing Radio on a different frequency "Have fire equipment ready. Am coming in with a wing on fire." About a mile down the flight part from the explosion, burned parts of a deicer valve, hose clamps, and instrumentation tubing were later found. The had come from an area normally inside the wing leading edge, ahead of the front spar, and just outboard of the #2 nacelle near the #2 fuel tank filler neck which was rubber like the self sealing fuel cell. The airplane now turned south on an oblique final approach in a desperate effort to reach Boeing Field just 4 miles away. Eddie was about 250 feet high and ground witnesses later reported that part of the wing leading edge between #1 and #2 engines was missing. In the next mile the flight engineer's data sheet was found and three of the forward compartment crew members left the airplane — too low for their parachutes to open.

At 12:26 PM, only 3 miles from Boeing Field, the #2 XB-29 crashed into the Frye Meat Packing Plant killing pilots Eddie Allen, Bob Dansfield, and the other 6 crew members on board. The crash and resulting fire killed an additional 20 people on the ground and destroyed much of the airplane and the plant. There was clear evidence that fire and dense smoke had gone through the bomb bay into the cockpit in the last moments before impact. Burns on the bodies and clothing of the 3 crew members bailed out just before impact were a part of that evidence. Eddie Allen and his crew died service their country the best way they knew how. In 1 minute the fire had gone from undetectable to catastrophic.

At 12:26 PM on the 18th day of February, 1943, the saga of Eddie Allen ended. However, not so his legacy which has continued to this day to benefit his fellow men for whom he always showed such great respect.

The scientific flight testing methods which Eddie Allen developed continued to serve his country well throughout the war. And they have continued to this day to evolve and improve and keep pace with technology and to serve man—just as Eddie Allen would have wanted.

The flight test team that Eddie has assembled and trained was decimated, devastated and demoralized. Some of its members would probably never completely get over his loss — but they did put the pieces back together and continued to "fight the battles" and get the answers as Eddie would expect them to.

On April 23, 1946, three years after Eddie Allen's death in the February 18th crash of #2 XB-29, he was posthumously awarded the Air Medal — an honor rarely bestowed upon a civilian — by direction of the President of the United States.

Sources:

http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1941_1.html
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2574
http://www.avweb.com/news/profiles/182933-1.html


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Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
27-Sep-2008 01:00 ASN archive Added
14-Apr-2013 20:04 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Total occupants, Total fatalities, Other fatalities, Location, Phase, Nature, Source, Narrative]

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