80 years later: TWA Flight 277 crashes in Maine

On June 20, 1944, amid the turmoil of World War II, Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) Flight 277 embarked on a seemingly routine journey.

The C-54 Skymaster, a workhorse of the time, carried a crew of six civilians and a single United States Army Air Force passenger from Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Washington DC

However, a fateful encounter with severe weather would forever change the course of the flight and result in a tragic crash in the heart of Baxter State Park in Maine.

A doomed departure: bad weather and a disoriented pilot

As TWA Flight 277 departed Stephenville, the skies held an ominous promise.

Heavy rains, strong winds and thunderstorms have hit the region, creating treacherous flying conditions.

These weather conditions, particularly lightning, disrupted radio communications and hindered the crew's ability to maintain clear contact with air traffic control.

Photo from pinrest.

The brunt of this disorientation fell on pilot Roger “Rolley” Inman.

Blown off course by the strong winds, the aircraft deviated significantly from its intended flight path.

Crucially, Inman did not know this crucial detail.

The C-54, cruising at less than 4,000 feet, was dangerously close to the rising peaks of Maine's mountainous terrain.

A Collision in the Mountains: The Final Moments of TWA Flight 277

Unaware of the impending danger, Inman continued to fly through the storm.

The unforgiving landscape of Baxter State Park loomed unsuspectingly.

Unable to clear the treacherous ridges, the aircraft's starboard wing came into fatal contact with a cluster of boulders at an altitude of about 3,700 feet.

This initial impact sent the C-54 spiraling downward, where it eventually crashed and disintegrated upon impact with the ground.

Furthermore, the effects were devastating.

Bill Larkins, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

All seven souls on board died in the crash.

Casualties included the aforementioned six TWA crew members and the lone Army Air Force passenger.

Due to the remote location and persistent bad weather, it took several days to locate the wreckage scattered over a wide area.

Aftermath: Investigating the cause and honoring those lost

A thorough investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the crash.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the forerunner of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), carefully examined the wreckage and weather data.

Their results overwhelmingly indicated that severe weather conditions were a key factor.

Wind-induced disorientation and loss of radio communications due to lightning strikes were identified as major causes of the pilot's inability to maintain course and situational awareness.

This, coupled with the low altitude that brought the aircraft dangerously close to mountainous terrain, ultimately sealed the fate of TWA Flight 277.

The crash of TWA Flight 277 served as a stark reminder of the dangers of bad weather and the importance of maintaining clear communications during flight.

This incident highlighted the need for advances in aviation navigation and communications technology.

Today, a simple granite memorial stands at the foot of Fort Mountain, a silent testament to the lives lost in the crash.

It serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by those who take to the skies and the importance of constant vigilance and safety measures in aviation.

Although the precise details of the crew and passenger are lost to time, their memories and the lessons learned from this tragedy continue to shape the future of aviation safety.

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Anna Harden

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