Hughes Airwest Flight 706, a DC-9, was to fly from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Seattle, WA (SEA) with intermediate stops at Salt Lake City (SLC), Boise (BOI), Lewiston (LWS), Pasco (PSC) and Yakima (YKM). The aircraft departed Los Angeles at 18:02. At 18:09 the crew reported leaving 12,000 feet and Los Angeles ARTCC cleared them direct to Daggett.
At 17:16, a US Marine Corps McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom Bu# 151458 departed Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Fallon for a flight to MCAS El Toro at low altitude. The aircraft had several technical difficulties, including an inoperative transponder and a leak in the oxygen system.
Due to deteriorating visibility northwest of Palmdale, the crew climbed to 15,500 feet. Shortly after level-off, aircraft was 50 miles from MCAS El Toro. The pilot executed a 360° aileron roll at this time, which took approximately three seconds to complete. The Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) estimated that the true airspeed in the climb and after level-off was 420 knots.
At 15,150 feet, the F-4B collided with the Airwest DC-9 about one minute and twenty seconds after the roll. After the collision, the F-4 began to tumble violently about the lateral axis. The RIO waited about 5 seconds and after seeing numerous warning lights in the cockpit, ejected from the aircraft. The ejection was successful and he parachuted to the ground without injury. The F-4B pilot did not survive the accident.
PROBABLE CAUSE: The failure of both crews to see and avoid each other but it is recognized that they had only marginal capability to detect, assess, and avoid the collision. Other causal factors include a very high closure rate, comingling of IFR and VFR traffic in an area where the limitation of the ATC system precludes effective separation of such traffic, and failure of the crew of BuNo458 to request radar advisory service, particularly considering the fact that they had an inoperable transponder."
THE AIRLINE - HUGHES AIR WEST (1971)
Air West was formed on July 1, 1968 when three local service carriers merged together (Pacific Air Lines, Bonanza Air Lines, and West Coast Airlines). The airline later became Hughes Air West after the company was purchased by billionaire Howard Hughes in 1970. The carrier went on to become an all jet airline operating Boeing 727-200, Douglas DC-9-30 and Douglas DC-9-10 jetliners.
1st. AIRCRAFT - McDONNELL DOUGLAS DC-9-31
The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 (initially known as the Douglas DC-9) is a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner. It was first manufactured in 1965 with its maiden flight later that year. The DC-9 was designed for frequent, short flights. The final DC-9 was delivered in October 1982.
This photo was taken at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as "N9345" taxis for a morning departure during January 1970. (LostFlights File Photo)
The Douglas DC-9 Series of jets provided jet service to smaller growing communities. It was able to operate from shorter runways. (LostFlights File Photo)
Back when airlines had money to burn. An airline promotional air to air photo showing the various paint schemes utilized by Hughes Air West during the early 1970s. Aircraft "N9345" is on the bottom left in this formation flight. (LostFlights File Photo)
With less than 11 months remaining, this is one of the last published photos of "N9345". This particular shot was taken by Bob Garrard at Santa Ana's John Wayne County Airport (SNA) during the summer of 1970.
In early 1969 four color schemes were adopted by Air West utilizing the same basic livery design. They were: Blue and Mustard; Lime and Blue; Pink and Orange and Mustard and Orange as seen on the DC-9 above. (Bob Garrard Photo Credit)
The flight deck of Hughes Air West Flight 706 was considered "state-of-the-art" back in 1971. It was configured for a two pilot flightcrew.
This photo also illustrates the limitations of cockpit window visibility. A casual factor examined during the accident investigation. (LostFlights File Photo)
2nd. AIRCRAFT - McDONNELL DOUGLAS F-4B
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem, two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Douglas Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force, and by the mid-1960s had become a major part of their respective air wings. (USMC File Photo)
THE ACCIDENT - HUGHES AIR WEST DC-9-31 IMPACT SITE
After the collision, both aircraft and debris fell onto the steep slopes of Mt. Bliss and nearby Fish Canyon.
The impact site of Air West Flight 706 is seen in this June 1971 NTSB file photo. This photo and the vague NTSB Accident Report is all I had to work with when I started to search for the crash site. It took an aerial search to locate the wreckage. (Courtesy NTSB)
This photo shows how the wreckage of the DC-9 was concentrated at the bottom of the tributary canyon. The tail section and other debris was removed from the site after the on-site investigation was completed. (Courtesy NTSB)
USMC F-4B PHANTOM II IMPACT SITE
The main impact site of the USMC F-4B as seen in this June 1971 NTSB file photo. This crash site is also located in a tributary canyon just west of Fish Canyon.
The only survivor of this air disaster, Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lt. Christopher Schiess was able to safely eject from the tumbling Phantom. The pilot 1st. Lt. James Phillips unfortunately, due to a canopy design flaw was unable to parachute to safety. (Courtesy NTSB)