And we're back to our regularly scheduled programming after taking a month off to focus on Amelia Earhart's world flight, as this year marked the 85th anniversary. Today we'll be taking a look, from where we left off, at the history of Electra 1008.
At the end of December 1934, Lockheed delivered a brand new Electra 10C, 1008, to Aerovias Reformas, in Mexico, with the registration XA-BEP. After serving with the airline for a least a year or two the Electra was given to Pan Am and the registration changed to NC16080.
In 1937 Pan Am placed the Electra, now with registration PP-PAS, in the Panair do Brasil system where it served for four to five years before it was sold to VARIG in 1943 and the registration changed once again to PP-VAQ.
At 10 o'clock on the morning of June 20, 1944, PP-VAQ took off from Pelotas with two crew and nine passengers aboard bound for Porto Alegre. The weather in Porto Alegre was fair; however, a cold front was expected to come through at some point. As the Electra began its descent the front closed in on the aircraft bringing thunderstorms along with it. Flying at a low altitude, with heavy turbulence, and no visual reference Pilot Ricardo Lau was too late to prevent a collision and PP-VAQ crashed into the Guaiba River, breaking apart. The only site to mark the disaster was the tail bobbing in the river.
The following day officials visited the scene of the crash, breaking out one of the rear windows and viewing the interior confirmed that no one had survived the accident. The bodies were removed and the wreck was hoisted out by crane, Captain Lau was the last body to be removed from the aircraft. The victims were as follows: Captain Ricardo Lau, co-pilot Frederick Hochwart, Jose Rafael Azeredo, Col. Zeferino Costa (Federalist chief, Revolutionary of 1893 and 1924), Adelino Rosa, Hugo Richter, Edmundo Novais, Newton Silva, Jaime Pulstinic and Jose Ferraz Viana.
Two days following the accident VARIG released an official statement which said that the airport had not been closed because there had been ample time for the flight to land and that the weather had not hit until 15 minutes after the scheduled time of arrival. The weather had been pointed out to Captain Lau and that it was his decision to continue the journey; VARIG stated that it was possible, but unlikely, that the downpour could have blinded the pilots and tricked them into thinking the rain was actually the river water. In the end it was the weather that was deemed to be the culprit; both crew and machine were fit and ready to fly the day of the accident.
The accident of June 20, 1944, was the only fatality among the eight Electras VARIG had in its fleet from 1943 to 1950.
(Information from the accident was taken from O Rastro da Bruxa: Historia da Aviacao Comercial Brasileira no Secula XX atraves de sues acidentes: 1928 - 1996 by Carlos Ari Cesar Germano da Silva, which translates to: "The Witch's Trail: History of Brazilian Commercial Aviation in the twentieth century through its accidents: 1928-1996)
1008, while serving for Panair do Brasil
PP-PAS in flight
PP-VAQ taken from (O Rastro da Bruxa...)