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The Smoky Mountain area is rich in history, and we know you love learning more about it each day! Today, we’re traveling back in time to 1946, when a major military plane crash happened near Clingmans Dome. While they say all the wreckage from the crash has been cleared, you can hike past the crash site when you visit! Read on to learn more about the old plane crash near Clingmans Dome:
The B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress was a bomber built for the U.S. Army. It had 4 engines with a combined 8,800 horsepower, could fly at 220 miles per hour, had a ceiling of 31,850 feet, and had a maximum weight of 141,000 pounds. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress had an impressive 141-foot wingspan, and was 99 feet long and 27 feet high. This aircraft was on a routine navigational night-training flight at the time of the crash. It left MacDill Field near Tampa, Florida at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11 and was returning to MacDill from Chicago in the early morning of June 12 when the crash occurred.
About the B-29 Plane Crash near Clingmans Dome
The last known radio contact with the crew of the plane was made with the Knoxville Airport at 2:16 a.m. when the plane was enroute back to MacDill. At this time, the mountains were cloud-covered, and scattered thunderstorms were expected in the forecast. A Sevierville police officer reported a low flying airplane flying south over Sevierville at about 3 a.m. The officer made the report because Sevierville wasn’t along any regular flight routes. The plane began to hit treetops about one-eighth of a mile from the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. The fuselage hit the ground, lost both its wings, and continued a quarter of a mile across the North Carolina border, stopping just a few feet from Clingmans Dome Road. The plane’s fuel ignited, and both the plane and the forest went up in flames. The B-29 Superfortress was shredded into a thousand pieces, including all but one of its four engines, which landed on the opposite side of the road.
When Was the Crash Discovered?
When the flight didn’t arrive on time to MacDill Field, the operations officer got worried. When no one could get in contact with the plane, the U.S. Army Air Force tried to track it by reaching out to its contact points to determine the progress of the flight. They knew the plane made it to Knoxville, so the search started there and moved south to Tampa. On a routine drive to the Clingmans Dome pumping station, two Civilian Public Service employees found a burnt airplane engine about three-quarters of a mile from the Forney Creek Parking Area on Clingmans Dome Road. Then, they noticed the debris field on the west side of the road. The park ranger at the time said that all the wreckage stretched across an acre or more of ground. All 12 people on the plane died.
What’s Left at the Crash Site Today?
If you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail, chances are you’ve passed the crash site without even realizing it! Although the crash knocked down treetops and moved boulders, the site has been picked clean of wreckage. However, some reports say that pieces of the aircraft can still be seen while hiking to Andrews Bald. The Andrews Bald hike begins down the southern flank of Clingmans Dome. This is the general area of the crash, so be sure to keep an eye out during the beginning of your hike!
If you liked learning about the old plane crash near Clingmans Dome, we bet you’ll love reading about the hidden tunnel underneath the road! Check out our blog, “Have You Heard About the Secret Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome Road?”