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Last updated: 19 June 2019
Status:
Date:Saturday 18 May 1935
Time:18:35
Type:Silhouette image of generic TRIM model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor
Operator:Knowles Flying Service
Registration: NC7864
C/n / msn: 4-AT-49
First flight: 1928-10-26 (6 years 7 months)
Engines: 3 Wright J-5 Whirlwind
Crew:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Passengers:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 10
Total:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 12
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:Flint-Bishop Airport, MI (FNT) (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Flint-Bishop Airport, MI (FNT/KFNT), United States of America
Destination airport:Flint-Bishop Airport, MI (FNT/KFNT), United States of America
Narrative:
A Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor, NC7864, crash-landed at Flint-Bishop Airport, MI (FNT), killing one passenger and a pilot. The other pilot and eight passengers survived the accident.
The airplane was used throughout the day for local flights during dedication celebrations of Flint-Bishop Airport.
On take-off for one of these flights, the right outboard engine was misfiring and just after clearing the north boundary of the airport and at an altitude of approximately 75 feet, this engine stopped entirely. The pilot immediately made a 90 degree turn to the right and flew parallel with the airport until reaching the northeast corner. Evidence indicates that the center engine stopped at this time, leaving only the left outboard engine functioning. The altitude of the plane was then between 100 and 150 feet. The pilot at this point attempted a right downwind turn in an effort to effect a landing on the airport but due to loss of flying speed and the pull of the left outboard engine, the plane stalled, started a spin to the right and struck the ground with the right wing and then bounced over on its nose and left wing, finally coming to rest with the nose in the ground and the tail up in the air.

An inspection disclosed that there were 22 gallons of fuel remaining, 11 in each of the two tanks. This would be sufficient to keep the three engines running while flying in level position but is not sufficient when the plane is in a climb.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Carelessness and negligence on the part of the pilot for not replenishing his fuel supply before it got dangerously low and poor judgement on his part for attempting to return to the airport when there was open terrain ahead of him."

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Accident number: Final report
Download report: Final report

Classification:
Fuel starvation
Loss of control

Sources:
» The Ford Tri-Motor 1926-1992 / William T. Larkins
» St. Petersburg Times - May 19, 1935


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This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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