Greenlandair flight accident at Kangerlussuaq in 1961 - Flugunfall der Greenlandair bei Kangerlussuaq 1961

Greenlandair flight accident at Kangerlussuaq in 1961

A DHC-3 Otter amphibious aircraft

Accident summary
Accident type Emergency landing due to fire
place 12.5 km northwest of Kangerlussuaq ,
GreenlandGreenland Greenland
date 29. August 1961
Fatalities 1
Survivors 5
Aircraft type Canada 1921Canada De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter
operator Canada 1921Canada Eastern Provincial Airways für GreenlandGreenland Greenlandair
Mark Canada 1921Canada CF-MEX
Departure airport Sondrestrom Air Base ,
GreenlandGreenland Greenland
Destination airport Aasiaat,
GreenlandGreenland Greenland
Passengers 4
crew 2
Lists of aviation accidents

The Greenlandair accident at Kangerlussuaq in 1961 occurred on August 29, 1961. During a Greenland charter flight from Sondrestrom Air Base in Kangerlussuaq to Aasiaat , a De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter operated on behalf of Greenlandair of Eastern Provincial Airways (CF-MEX ) when a fire broke out shortly after take-off. One crew member was killed in the accident. [1] [2]


The machine that crashed was a De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter with serial number 332 . [1] It was in 1960 in the work of De Havilland Canada in Downsview , Ontario , final assembly. The machine was rolled out in April 1960. On April 21, 1960, it was delivered to Eastern Provincial Airways with the aircraft registration CF-MEX . The plane was flown to Greenland in new condition and leased to Greenlandair since the end of April 1960. On the transfer flight, they accompanied another DHC-3 Otter (CF-LEA) and a Canso (CF-CRP)of Eastern Provincial Airways. The single engine machine, a commuter aircraft with STOL properties, had a radial engine of the type Pratt & Whitney R-1340 . It was an amphibious aircraft with floating runners and an extendable landing gear . It wore the standard paint scheme of Eastern Provincial Airways with a red base color and a white circumferential band and a white stripe on the tail unit. [2] Until the accident, she had completed 750 hours of operation. [1]


In 1958, the Danish government signed a contract with the Canadian Eastern Provincial Airways to transport passengers within Greenland . The flights were to be flown over the ice as arctic exploration flights. From 1960 a contract was signed with the EPA for passenger transport with machines of the types DHC-3 Otter and Canso. For this purpose, amphibious aircraft of the types De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter with the aircraft registration CF- LEA and CF-MEX and a Canso with the registration CF-CRPused. The flights should be carried out with floating runners in the summer months and with runners for landing on the ice in winter. Flight operations continued throughout the summer until the machines were flown back to Gander in October 1960 . Eastern Provincial Airways was again awarded the contract for passenger transport in Greenland in the 1961 summer season. The CF-MEX was in operation with landing skids from March 1961. Another otter (CF-LEA) was in use from mid-May . When it was recalled to Gander on June 16, 1961 for maintenance work, CF-MEX was the only DHC-3 Otter of the EPA to remain in operation in Greenland. The machine was from Kangerlussuaq for flight connections toSisimiut , Aasiaat , Qasigiannguit , Ilulissat and Qeqertarsuaq are used. The aircraft was stationed in Aasiaat for a few days and was used for flights between the cities in Disko Bay . The machine was also used for some charter and ambulance flights. [2]

Passengers, crew and flight plan

On board were four passengers, two members of the United States Air Force and two Danes , as well as a two-person Canadian crew consisting of a flight captain and a first officer. The flight captain was Jim Rowe. The charter flight should lead to Aasiaat and other places northwards. [2]

nationality Passengers crew total
DenmarkDenmark Denmark 2 2
CanadaCanada Canada 2 2
United StatesUnited States United States 2 2
total 4 2 6

the accident

The machine was reaching an altitude of 3500 feet after takeoff and was about 20 miles north of the takeoff airport when a fire broke out on board. The crew was unable to return to the airport. Thick smoke spread in the cockpit, so neither of the pilots could see what the other was doing. They were only able to reconstruct the events in the hospital as follows:

When the captain could no longer bear the heat in the cockpit, he leaned halfway outside and thus partially shielded the cockpit from further smoke penetration. Finally, he managed to make an emergency landing on a lake at 3:23 p.m. local time. [2] [3] The plane sped across the lake and slid to the bank on fire. The pilot was thrown forward from the cockpit and trapped under the left floating skid while the otter burned out. [2] [4]


All passengers were uninjured, but the pilots suffered severe burns. Both were flown to Kangerlussuaq on a US Air Force rescue helicopter and from there to the hospital in Goose Bay . Flight captain Jim Rowe was taken to a specialty clinic in Toronto , but died on September 7, 1961 of his injuries. The first officer suffered mainly burns on his legs. [2] [4]

root cause

During the investigation into the accident it was found that the fire had been caused and fed by a leak in the carburetor. [2] The leak occurred after an overflow line had loosened and fuel escaped in an uncontrolled manner. [1] [4] [3]


On October 14, 1958, flight captain Jim Rowe had made an emergency landing on another Eastern Provincial Airways (CF-GCV) DHC-3 Otter on Lower Savage Island , Northwest Territories . He was awarded posthumously for his measures to rescue his passengers in the CF-MEX flight accident . A street in the city of Gander was also named after him. [2]

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Unfallbericht DHC-3 Otter, CF-MEX im Aviation Safety Network
  2. a b c d e f g h i Operating history and accident report in the DHC-3 Otter Archive
  3. a b Crash of a De Havilland DHC-3 Otter near Søndre Strømfjord: 1 killed. B3A – Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives
  4. a b c Unfallbericht, ICAO Circular 69-AN/61, No. 29, S. 160–162.

Coordinates: 67 ° 4 ′ 33.3 " N , 50 ° 56 ′ 46.4" W.