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Probe Fails to Reveal Cause of Plane Crash.
Government Ends Investigation Of Accident Which Took Twelve Lives.
Modesto Bee And News-Herald | Wednesday, January 6, 1937.
Los Angeles, Jan. 5 — (UP) What caused a giant United Airline transport to crash December 27th with a loss of twelve lives remained a mystery today after a hearing by the bureau of air commerce at which dozens of experts testified.
Major R.W. Schroeder, chief of the air commerce investigation service, had no comment to make as he prepared to leave for Seattle where he will conduct an investigation of a Northwest Airlines plane crash which took two lives.
Evidence gathered in the United Airlines disaster, he said, would be forwarded to Washington this week for consideration by the department's accident board.
TELL OF STATIC
Witnesses at yesterday's hearing brought out that radio communication with the plane piloted by Edwin Blom had been interrupted by intermittent static, especially in the Saugus area.
The plane was reported mechanically perfect, however, and instruments were faultless in operation.
Men who had flown with Blom as co-pilots reported he was a conservative pilot who never took chances with the weather and would sooner turn a plane back than try to fly through dangerous (sic) weather areas.
On the basis of physical evidence available, H.O. West, superintendent of engineering for United Airlines and a leading expert on plane crashes, reconstructed the last minutes of the tragic flight for the board of inquiry.
West said the pilot apparently wheeled the plane into a "slow bank," which indicated he was not trying to avoid any obstruction. The movement indicated Blom was trying to bring his ship over the mountains preparatory to the direct run from Saugus to the air terminal, less than ten minutes flying time distant.
West said the direction of the plane at the time of the crash was revealed to him by skid marks on the ridge near Saugus. He said also that lowered landing gear indicated Blom was ready to make a routine landing shortly.
The witness was unable to explain why the plane apparently was flying at less than 500 feet above the mountains, a violation of company rules.
Investigators said that if the cause of the crash remains a mystery, it could be blamed to souvenir hunters who looted valuable instruments from the wreckage. Many pertinent facts might have been learned if the instruments were found, they said.
Witnesses also said the plane had plenty of fuel, sufficient for several more hours of flying. The plane also showed no evidence of structural failure which might have caused the crash. They reported both motors were running at the time of the crash.
An examination of radio equipment indicated the instruments were set for the Van Nuys radio beam which would have directed the plane to Union Air Terminal here.
News story courtesy of Lauren Parker.