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A Northwest Orient DC-6B, which is one further variant up from the lost DC-4 (Photo: Jon Proctor [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Disapperance of Northwest Orient Flight 2501

This Friday will mark 67 years since the disappearance of Douglas DC-4 over Lake Michigan gripped the nation. On June 23, 1950, a Northwest Orient Douglas DC-4 was making its way northwest over Michigan. Captain Robert Lind was in command of flight 2501, carrying 55 passengers from New York to Minneapolis and then Seattle.

The flight left New York’s LaGuardia on time in the evening of June 23, and proceeded normally towards Minneapolis. Lying ahead of the aircraft was a line of thunderstorms over Lake Michigan.

While passing Cleveland, Captain Lind requested a descent from 6,000 feet to 4,000 feet. This was approved as requested. As the flight proceeded over Michigan, air traffic control requested the aircraft to descend a further 500 feet to 3,500. This was due to an aircraft coming from the opposite direction struggling to maintain its altitude of 5,000 feet due to the storms.

As flight 2501 approached the Michigan shoreline, Captain Lind requested a further descent down to 2,500 feet. The request was denied as the aircraft entered the area of thunderstorms and made its way over the darkness of Lake Michigan, scheduled to reach its next waypoint of Milwaukee in about forty minutes.

As flight 2501’s ETA passed by, Milwaukee radio had not heard from the flight. Attempts were made to contact the DC-4 from radio stations all around Lake Michigan. By morning it became clear that the aircraft had crashed into Lake Michigan. Search and rescue operations were launched and by the evening the next day the first sign of debris, an oil slick was found by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The search continued and light pieces of debris were found on the lake’s surface as well as some human remains. Further searches failed to find a significant portion of the wreckage. The Civil Aeronautics Board launched an investigation into the disappearance of flight 2501, however, with very little physical evidence, the investigation was inconclusive.

To this day the main wreckage of the DC-4 has not been found and the investigation has remained unsolved. Witnesses in Michigan reported hearing an engine struggling and seeing a flash towards the lake, although the CAB took this accounts into their investigation they were still unable to come to a conclusion to the reason for the crash.

Each year the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates performs a search for the aircraft and so far the efforts have been fruitless. Many people in Michigan are unaware of the disappearance that occurred right above their heads.  To this day it remains one of the unsolved aviation mysteries in the United States, on par with the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, and with time it is unlikely to be solved, leaving the mystery of flight 2501 to the history books.  

Daniel Morley
Daniel Morley
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