1931 Jinan air crash

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1931 Jinan Air Crash
Stinson SM-1F NC8468 with Inter-City Air Line AL77C-038 (14541100063).jpg
A Stinson Detroiter, similar type to the one involved in the crash. The crashed one had a chinese character "郵" painted on its side.
Accident
Date November 19, 1931
Summary Controlled flight into terrain due to pilot error, bad weather conditions
Site near Kaishan County, in Jinan, Shandong Province, China
36°33′5.43″N 116°51′31.78″E / 36.5515083°N 116.8588278°E / 36.5515083; 116.8588278Coordinates: 36°33′5.43″N 116°51′31.78″E / 36.5515083°N 116.8588278°E / 36.5515083; 116.8588278
Aircraft type Stinson Detroiter SM-1F
Aircraft name Jinan
Operator China Airways Federal
Registration unknown
Flight origin Ming Gugong Airport, Nanking,  Republic of China
Stopover Xu Zhou Airport, Xu Zhou,  Republic of China[1]
Destination Nanyuan Airport, Beiping,  Republic of China
Passengers 1
Crew 2
Fatalities 3
Injuries 0
Survivors 0

1931 Jinan Air Crash occurred on November 19, 1931, when a Stinson Detroiter mail plane carrying one passenger and two pilots crashed into a mountainous area in Jinan, Shandong Province, China. All 3 people on board, including the only passenger, the famous Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, died in the crash.

The aircraft was operated by China Airways Federal in the Republic of China and was contracted by Chunghwa Post.[2] It departed from Ming Gugong Airport in Nanking, heading to Nanyuan Airport in Beiping (now Beijing). The passenger, Xu Zhimo, was intending to attend an architectural lecture given by the well-known architect Lin Huiyin in Beiping.[3] Because of Xu's fame as a poet, the crash shocked the literary community in China.

Background

Xu Zhimo's schedule

Xu Zhimo

Xu Zhimo was going to present an architectural lecture in Beiping, which was given by the famous architect Lin Huiyin. It was widely believed that Xu was determined to attend the lecture because Lin was romantically related to Xu.[4] He went to be a member of the claques for her. Although Xu was warned that the weather en route to Beiping was changeable, he insisted on flying there, since it is much faster by air and the weather had been fair before the aircraft took off.

The aircraft and pilots

External image
"A China Airways Federal Detroiter"
External image
"Another Detroiter mailplane of China Airways Federal"

The aircraft was a Stinson Detroiter SM-1F operated by China Airways Federal in Republic of China and was contracted by Chunghwa Post. It was originally General Zhang Xueliang's private airplane, and Xu took the lift free.[5] The aircraft was also carrying 500 lbs of mail. It had a nickname of Jinan.

The captain of the flight was Wang Guanyi (Chinese: 王贯一), and the first officer was Liang Bitang (Chinese: 梁璧堂), both 36 years old. They were experienced pilots graduated from Nanyuan Aviation School.

Crash

The Stinson Detroiter got airborne at near 8:00 am (UTC 0:00 am). It cruised over the path of the Jing Pu Railway, which directed the flight to Beiping. The weather was fine during the first part of the flight. The plane landed at Xu Zhou Airport for brief refueling at near 10:00am, and took off again 10 minutes later. This time first officer Liang was at the controls, as Captain Wang handed the flight over and moved to the passenger's seat. It then flew into Jinan airspace. The aircraft encountered severe fog and began flying off course. The pilot lost the railway in his sights, so he kept on heading for the nearest Wujiapu Airport, which would help him go back on course again. However, the plane started to descend. After the plane passed the waypoint Kaishan County, the pilot headed to the northwest for the target airport. Seconds later, the aircraft hit the peak of what is now called West Mountain below the summit, about six kilometers from Dangjiazhuang Railway Station, and broke off its right wing. This put the plane into a rapidly descending spiral almost unrecoverable, despite the fuselage remaining relatively intact in mid-air. The Detroiter crashed into the valley below and disintegrated, resulting in a series of fire and explosions, killing two of three on board instantly.

Crash site

External image
"Exact locations of each landmarks near the crash site; the blue pin points the exact location of where the plane crashed."

The exact location of where the Stinson Detroiter crashed was controversial. The Government of the Republic of China claimed that the aircraft crashed into Mount Beida, where they set a tomb to commemorate Xu. Popular descriptions of the crash site include West Mountain, East Mountain, North Mountain (later research showed that the three names were for the same mountain), Mount Kai, and Mount Baima.

In 2013, investigators deduced the final location of the wreckage according to the documents in the archive.[6] With the help of a modern electronic rangefinder, they followed Jing Pu Railway from Dangjiazhuang Station to six kilometers north, to a village called Chaomidian, which is north of the crash site. Ranging 1 kilometer from the village, the investigator found the valley, which was identical to eyewitnesses' description.

The investigation established that the crash site of the Stinson Detroiter was at West Mountain, which is in the east of Kaishan County in southwest Jinan and one kilometer from the railway, at an elevation of 150 meters.

Search and rescue

A patrol police witnessed the crash of the Detroiter. He immediately rushed to the scene to rescue the crews along with some local residents. Meanwhile, Xu's friend, Liang Sicheng, was told to pick Xu up at Nanyuan Airport at around 3:00 pm. He never saw Xu arrive. Liang foreboded that Xu might have crashed and called local police at around 4:30 pm.

When the rescuers managed to find the wreckage, they discovered the bodies of the passenger and captain, with debris engulfed in flames. Xu, though not seriously burnt, had suffered from fatal cerebral trauma as well as fractured legs and several cuts on his body.[7][8] Another Xu's friend, Yu Gengyu (Chinese: 于赓虞), described his corpse afterward as:

On his slightly swelled face were some white and red scars, probably because of the rinse on his face after he was found. The two eyes were not completely closed and opened a little, as if he was staring obsessively at someone. Through the glass (of the coffin), the body looked no difference from alive ...

Next to Xu, carbonic remains of captain Wang's body was also found, scarcely recognizable. Rescuers also discovered the first officer, who lay a meter from the two corpses. He received burns all over his body, yet remained conscious. They rushed the first officer to the hospital, but he died en route. The other two on board was generally considered to have been died at the scene of the crash, probably killed instantly.

The three bodies were later carried back to Jinan, and Xu's was eventually buried at Mount Beida, where the local government had mistaken it as the crash site.

Investigation

The first thing investigators identified was a piece of the aircraft's right wing few meters from the mountain peak. That was the first part that came off. This chilled them, as in the same year, a Fokker F-10 had crashed in Kansas in the United States due to a structural failure of the aircraft's wing. Investigators suspected that this crash might be a similar case. But after scrutinizing the debris carefully, the theory was ruled out.

Because at that time there were no black boxes, the investigators could only search for clues either at the crash scene or by reappearing the crash according to the eyewitnesses' accounts. Witnesses reported that the plane was flying dangerously lower than usual and was circling in the air seconds from the crash, which indicated investigators that the pilots might have had difficulty finding their route.

Investigators also learnt a weird fact that there were two pilots commanding the Detroiter, whose cockpit is designed only for one captain. They inferred that only the first officer was at control in the light of the positions of the bodies of three people.

Based on the evidence, they hypothesized that the pilot descended the aircraft beneath the minimum safety altitude while attempting to seek their target, Wujiapu airport. The visibility was bad when the plane flew into the fog, and the crews could only use compass heading to navigate. After the plane flew via Dangjiazhuang Railway Station, the first officer gradually lost the directing railway in his sight due to poor visibility. That occasion spoiled the flight plan. The first officer could look for the airport lights only visually, failed to recognize the terrain. Runway lights were blocked by the mountains surrounding Jinan. But instead, the pilot in control considered that it was simply caused by thick fog and misjudged the situation. Thus, he continued descending until the plane flew too close to the mountain. There were no ground proximity warning systems on aircraft at that time, so when the terrain abruptly appeared in front of the windshields, it was too late for the pilot to divert the plane.

The investigators also concluded that lack of conversation between both pilots also played a major factor of the crash. They believe that the accident could have been avoided if the captain, sitting in the passenger's seat, had reminded the pilot at control that the flight was dangerously close to the terrain.

Another theory suggested that both the pilots were disoriented and failed to notice the plane was descending slowly. Therefore, the pilot could not know his exact altitude, which led to the crash.

The investigation of the Jinan air crash also reveals deficiencies in early aviation regulations. The crews of that Detroiter flight should have cancel the plan due to foregone possible severe meteorologic conditions. The reason why the two pilots, along with Xu Zhimo, all insisted on getting airborne that day will never be found out.

Conspiracy theories

Some believed that the air crash was a murder arranged by Xu Zhimo's rivals in love,[9][10] and the most suspicious suspect was Wang Geng (Chinese: 王赓), who was Lu Xiaoman's (Xu's wife) former husband.

A popular version of the crash pointed out that just at the night before the crash, the Northeast Army of Republic of China, in which Wang Geng had served, received a secret telegram which instructed the special agents to destroy a mail plane leaving from Nanking for Beiping. The mission was accomplished. It was a coincidence that the Detroiter planned to share the same route with the plane of their target, meaning that the plane was either shot down or blew up by spies. Investigators authenticated the theory through documents of Northeast Army, but confirmed it was untrue. There were no any records of this special "instruction".

Legacy

断肠人琴感未消,此心久已寄云峤。
年来更识荒寒味,写到湖山总寂寥。

——Written by Xu's wife Lu Xiaoman, 1933

The literary community in China went into mourning when they heard the death of the poet. Being overwhelmed by sadness, Lin Huiyin collected a piece of wreckage from the crash scene. She preserved it at her bedside in memory of Xu throughout the rest of her life.[11]

Xu's memorial park was built in 1932, a year after the crash.

view from the side
view from front
the tomb

Similar accidents

References

  1. ^ "徐志摩纪念公园(附照片)-L'eau est moi!-搜狐博客". sohu.com. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Stinson Detroiter - Gregory Crouch". gregcrouch.com. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin, CNTV English, CCTV News".
  4. ^ http://www.83133.com/doc/22411.html
  5. ^ https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/578740862.html
  6. ^ "Search for the crash site of 1931 Jinan Air Crash".
  7. ^ 13465, ck. "揭秘徐志摩坠机后遗容:两眼没有闭合露着眼珠_新闻频道_中华网". china.com. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  8. ^ "徐志摩济南开山坠机始末_百度文库". baidu.com. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  9. ^ "徐志摩的死是意外吗_百度知道". baidu.com. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  10. ^ "徐志摩之死_上帝的左手_新浪博客". sina.com.cn. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  11. ^ http://js.ifeng.com/humanity/detail_2014_03/24/2027082_0.shtml
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