Better Days: Wrecked bomber
On the evening of Tuesday, February 25, 1941 this twin-engined B-18 bomber was part of a group of four aircraft on a night training mission. They had started out from Hickam Field on Oahu. Not far from Hilo the plane lost its port engine when a bearing failed. The pilot decided to try and reach Suiter Field (now known as Upolu Airport) at the island’s northern tip. It was not to be. Flying on only one engine, the plane lost altitude. The crew thought they were over the sea, but suddenly a mountain appeared in front of them. The pilot yanked on the flight yoke wheel and the plane stalled and flopped into the trees around 10 p.m.. Incredibly only one crewman was slightly injured.
Search aircraft from Hickam Field found the plane the next morning around 9 a.m.. The nose of the plane was hanging over a 75-foot deep ravine about 3,500 feet up on the northern side of Kohala Mountain. It was one of the most inaccessible places on the island. A rescue operation was started, but it was Thursday noon before it reached the crew.
Over the years, the aircraft has slid into the ravine which is where it rests today. As these photos show, the plane’s condition has deteriorated and it is increasingly being engulfed by trees. But it is still quite easily spotted from the air. On the ground, it remains one of the most inaccessible spots on the island.
It’s also worth noting that just nine months after this crash, almost all the B-18 bombers based at Hickam Field were destroyed on the ground during the attack on Pearl Harbor. 77 years on, this B-18, in its remote resting place, is one of only a handful remaining in existence.
For more information about this aircraft and the crash, search online for Big Island Bomber – hiavps.com or go to pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-18/36-446.html.