Flashback Friday: Remembering a remarkable ditching

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser similar to Pam Am Flight 6 | Wikimedia commons

On Saturday a brief ceremony near New York City will honour two of the 31 people involved in an extraordinary aviation survival story.

Flight engineer Frank Garcia and flight attendant Mary Ellen Daniels were crew members of Pan Am Flight 6, which ditched in the Pacific Ocean in October 1956 after dual engine failure. All on board the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser survived.

Flight 6 had just passed the point of equal distance on its flight between Honolulu and San Francisco when its number one engine began to over speed and then eventually seize. The propeller on the complex Wasp Major four-row radial would not feather. This increased drag and fuel consumption, making it impossible to reach San Francisco. The captain Richard Ogg called a US Coast Guard weather-reporting ship which was stationed near the route, and circled until daylight before ditching. During the holding period, the number four engine failed. Knowing that the tail had snapped off another Stratocruiser in a previous ditching, killing four, Captain Ogg ordered passengers into the forward seats.

The aircraft ditched about 8.15 am, in sight of the ship. A report in Life magazine describes the crash, which because of its long preparation was very thoroughly recorded, despite digital media being many decades into the future. Captain Ogg was the last to depart the aircraft, setting a precedent maintained more than 50 years later by Chesley Sullenberger, after the ditching of US Air Flight 1149 in the Hudson River.

Garcia and Daniels will be added to the Pan Am Foundations honouree list at a ceremony in the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, New York.