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Pan Am Flight 202 had begun its route the previous evening in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with stopovers in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It departed Rio de Janeiro at 3:06 AM local time for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, with an eventual destination of New York City, New York. It was cleared to fly an off-airways route directly to Port of Spain; this took it over the (at the time) unexplored forests of the Amazon jungle. The pilots reported abeam the town of Barreiras, Brazil at 6:16 AM local time, and estimated the next position report (abeam Carolina, Brazil) at 7:45 AM. Witnesses in the villages of Formosa and Saő Francisco reported seeing the aircraft overhead at about the time it reported abeam Barreiras; they reported that the aircraft appeared to be operating normally.
When the aircraft failed to report abeam Carolina and then abeam the town of Santarem, Brazil, local authorities initiated a missing aircraft alert. Brazilian Air Force, USAF, and US Navy aircraft searched the jungle, while Brazilian Navy ships searched the coastal areas off northern South America. The wreckage was not found until May 1, when a Pan Am Curtiss Commando freighter reported finding it in Caraja Indian territory Template:Convert southwest of Carolina. A 27-man investigation team flew via seaplane to Lago Grande, a tiny Indian village on the Araguaia River less than Template:Convert from the wreckage, with the intention of trekking to the accident site; unfortunately, the extreme nature of the terrain forced all but seven team members to return to Lago Grande before reaching the site. Seriously undermanned and short of water, food, and other supplies, the seven remaining investigators could only confirm that all aboard had died on impact and that a massive fire (possibly set deliberately by the local Indians for sanitary purposes) had consumed the fuselage.
A properly equipped and provisioned second investigation team built a base camp northwest of Lago Grande and finally reached the wreckage on August 15. They determined that the wreckage had fallen to the ground in three main sections. The main wreckage, including the fuselage, the starboard or right wing, the root of the port or left wing (including the nacelle for the No. 2 engine but not the engine itself), and the Nos. 3 and 4 engines (normally attached to the starboard wing) had fallen in an area of dense forest about Template:Convert northwest of the base camp. The outer port wing and the No. 1 engine had fallen Template:Convert to the northwest of the main wreckage; the empennage and fractured parts of the No. 2 engine (normally attached to the port wing) had fallen roughly Template:Convert north of the main wreckage and Template:Convert northeast of the port wing.
Although the No. 2 engine and its propeller were not found, evidence on the port wing root, the No. 2 engine nacelle, the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer, and the horizontal stabilizer led investigators to believe that the engine and/or propeller failed in flight. The Stratocruiser's engines and propellers were notoriously temperamental; there had been numerous recorded instances of Boeing 367 and 377 engines separating in flight after propeller blade failure. In this case, investigators hypothesized that the propeller failure caused the engine to experience highly unbalanced loads and eventually separate from the aircraft, precipitating an in-flight breakup. Debris from the propeller and engine may have contributed to the breakup by damaging control surfaces after being flung from the port wing during the failure.
- Written off
- Civil Aeronautics Board Aircraft Accident Report on Flight 202 from the Department of Transport's Special Collections
- Aviation Safety Network report on Flight 202
- Air Disaster, Vol. 4: The Propeller Era, by Macarthur Job, Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd. (Australia), 2001 ISBN 1-875671-48-X, pp. 18-28
This article incorporates material from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_202, republished here under the GFDL.