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My father and I have chartered a plane for late August to search for the remains of my grandfather's B-18a bomber, which crashed in the summer of 1942 in Mt. Redoubt Alaska.

I am specifically interested in advice from pilots who have flow around Mt. Redoubt:

A Saturday Evening Post article mentions the accident site is at 7500 feet MSL, on the southwest side of the mountain. The accident report OTH, says the southeast side. Questions:

  • What is the terrain/glacier situation at this location?
  • Is landing possible at this location?
  • Has anyone seen an accident site at this location?

I've posted additional details and pertinent material in this blog post.

Also, I would think the USAAF would have more detailed records of the rescue, which again, is detailed in the Saturday evening post article. Perhaps even a dispatch to the rescue crew with a specific location. Does anyone know where I might find such records?

Update, July 21st, 2017 (One month till departure)

Since I've offered a bounty, I guess I should iterate what I've done so far:

  • I've posted this to an Alaska bush pilot's forum. I was surprised to not get a better response from this.
  • I've ordered (and received) a full sized topo map of the area from mytopo.com. The detail is pretty darn good.
  • I've scoured over multiple satellite photos. Note, the obvious photos on google maps/earth are pretty iffy. I found the photos at zoom.earth to be better.
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a question here? Please don't make people go to another site to read a long post if you have a specific question. This site is not a discussion forum, we tend to need specific questions with factual answers. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jun 16 '17 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough...will update. $\endgroup$ – bclarkreston Jun 16 '17 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ @bclarkreston - if you put links in like http:// www.xyz.com (note the space in there), someone will come along and fix them up for you so they're actual links. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 16 '17 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ For the location of the crash, I'd trust the accident report over a newspaper report any day of the week. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jun 19 '17 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ With eruptions in 1962, 1989/1990 (converting brand new 747 into a glider) and 2009, I think Mount Redoubt has covered the remains of the B-18A airframe in volcanic ash and fresh snow by now. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Jun 19 '17 at 13:48
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What is the terrain/glacier situation [on the southeast side of Mt Redoubt]?

The southeast side is all glacier, forming in the valleys formed by previous formative eruptions, which have deepened significantly due to glacier flow. These glaciers do move and churn, so unless the plane crashed on top of one of the prominent ridges then the position of the plane's remains is changed, and they are likely mixed/buried within the glacier.

It's been 75 years though, and while the glaciers sped up during eruptive periods (or melted, as on the north face during the 1989 eruption), the average annual glacier speed is 20 meters per year. So the wreckage would have moved at least 1.5km down the mountain slope over time, buried under new snow (and occasional ash), and always moving down into the drift glacier.

These reports on Mt. Redoubt's glaciers should provide significant help in determining the location, thickness, and movement of each glacier present:

https://pubs.usgs.gov/wri/1997/4187/report.pdf

https://www.igsoc.org/journal/32/112/igs_journal_vol32_issue112_pg355-362.pdf

In a normal crash if you have the location to within 100 meters it can be found with a simple search, even decades later, even though the plane may have undergone environmental extremes. In this situation, though, not only will the wreckage have been moved, but it will have been torn apart and spread over a much larger area than the original crash.

Is landing possible at this location?

You can land on glaciers in general, and these are no exception, but you can't land on the side of Mt. Redoubt any easier than any other mountain. You may be able to land at the base of the mountain, but you'd have to decide which glacier flow to land on, and as explained below it's unlikely that you will find anything to help you decide which one.

The pilot will have to make the final decision, though, as conditions may vary, not just in the weather, but on the glacier itself.

Has anyone seen an accident site at this location?

Only the rescuers would have. Once consumed by the snow and glacier over years it would have remained only as small parts of the whole. Any pieces remaining visible to the eye would also act as solar collectors - they would melt the snow beneath them, sinking lower into the glacier, and then be covered by another fresh layer of snow.

I commend you and your father for your dedication to this aspect of your family history, and wish you luck!

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