February 9, 1937

The United Flight traveling from Los Angeles to Oakland California, with one stop in San Francisco, was on time. At 8:44 p.m., 10 miles out from the airport, pilot A. R. Thompson called the air traffic control tower in San Francisco, gave his position and asked for weather conditions. The conditions were good and he was told to land on the North-South runway.
Three minutes later and now only 3 miles out he called the tower again and informed them that he would be using the East-West runway. Why he changed runways we will never know. If it would have made a difference in the outcome, we know not. However, clearance was given for this change in direction and the pilot began a wide turn over the water in preparations of making both a straight and smooth landing.
Flying at an altitude between 400 to 500 feet above the water, witnesses at the airport watched as the plane began a descent angle of approximately 35 to 40 degrees. The plane seemed to skim the water as in a rush of heart pounding 4 seconds it crashed into the water 2 miles in the bay from San Francisco Airport.
Of the pilot, co-pilot, stewardess and 8 passengers, none survived and the Douglas DC-3A was totally destroyed. Its pieces were found at a radius of over 800 feet. Its recovery took nearly 3 weeks. The report by the ‘accident board’ wouldn’t come out until April 12th of that year.
When the report came out it told of one of the strangest reasons for an airline crash. Extensive research and reconstruction confirmed that both the pilot, co-pilot and the plane itself had been recently reviewed and given clearance to fly. The report also showed that the planes last few seconds were fought in a struggle that could not be won.
Either the pilot or the co-pilot dropped their microphone in the last minutes before landing was to occur. Perhaps they picked it up to tell the passengers that they were about to descend. Either way, the mic was dropped. It fell between the elevator control column and the seat rail support.
This quite possibly was the worst place it could have landed. It jammed the elevator control and made lifting the nose of the plane and averting the crash impossible. With the pilot and co-pilot’s combined strength they would have been unable to relieve the stress or retrieve the microphone from its destiny appointed lodging. At 8:50 that night, San Francisco Bay welcomed it’s newest tenants to the deep. There their memories will remain for all times.