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."
During the course of the accident investigation, it was learned that the initial collision impact severed the forward fuselage of the DC-9. The mid-fuselage and forward section of the airliner were separated approximately one-half mile apart.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy is lowered by helicopter to the DC-9's forward fuselage impact site in Fish Canyon. (LostFlights File Photo)
A multi-agency response consisting of Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Departments along with personnel from the United States Marine Corps El Toro Air Base assisted in victim recovery at the impact sites. (LostFlights File Photo)
A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy can be seen in this photo standing on the right side of the DC-9's vertical stabilizer. (LostFlights File Photo)
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
A rare photo of the DC-9's forward fuselage structural reconstruction depicts the extensive damage caused by the collision with the USMC F-4B Phantom and subsequent ground impact. (LostFlights File Photo)
A "key" piece to the accident investigation was the recovery of the DC-9's forward baggage door. Located on the right side of the DC-9's fuselage and opposite of the initial impact point. The photo illustrates how the forward baggage compartment was breached while damage is visible on the exterior and interior sides of the baggage door. (LostFlights File Photo)
This photo of the DC-9's forward fuselage (left side) reconstruction was of particular importance to accident investigators as this was the side of the aircraft which experienced the initial collision contact with the F-4B. (LostFlights File Photo)
THE SEARCH FOR FLIGHT 706 - AUGUST 1986
This was my first view of the Air West DC-9 wreckage when I discovered the tail section in 1986 during some low passes through Fish Canyon.
Initially I thought I had found the main impact site, but I would later learn some ten years later that the tail section was deposited in this canyon nearly a quarter mile away after an unsuccessful attempt to sling load it from the crash site. (LostFlights File Photo)
An early attempt in the days before GPS, this was my plan to mark the location of the DC-9 tail section in 1987.
The idea was to air drop these three 5 pound flour bags on the site and mark it with the powdered flour. I would then hike in and see the flour and hopefully the tail section nearby.
It was a failure since the bags of flour would impact the tops of the pine trees and not leave a trace.
Oh well, you never know till you try. (LostFlights File Photo)
Nearly six years after my first discovery of the DC-9 tail section, I returned in a rented Cessna 172 very determined to find a hiking route to the site. (LostFlights File Photo)
A precise determination of the tail section's position was important due to the dense vegetation. (LostFlights File Photo)