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United Airlines Flight 608 was a Douglas DC-6 airliner, registration NC37510, on a scheduled passenger flight from Los Angeles to Chicago when it crashed at 12:29 pm on October 24, 1947 about 1.5 miles southeast of Bryce Canyon Airport, Utah.[1] There were no survivors among the 5 crew members and 47 passengers on board. It was the first crash of a DC-6, and at the time it was the second deadliest air crash in the United States and the deadliest air crash involving the DC-6. [2]

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United Flight 608 departed from Los Angeles, California, at 10:23 a.m. on a routine flight to Chicago, Illinois. At 12:21 p.m. the plane's pilot, Capt. Everett L. MacMillen, radioed that there was a fire in the baggage compartment which they could not control, with smoke entering the passenger cabin. The flight requested an emergency clearance to Bryce Canyon Airport, Utah, which was granted.

As the aircraft descended, pieces of the plane, including portions of the right wing, started to fall off and one of the emergency flares on the wing ignited. At 12:27 p.m., the last radio transmission was heard from the plane: "We may make it - approaching a strip." Accounts from observers state the plane passed over the canyon mesa, approximately 1500 yards from the airstrip. With gusts from the canyon floor pulling down the side of the mesa, the crippled aircraft, only 10 feet off the ground, was pulled out of control and crashed.

Ground observers reported that occupants of the airliner, prior to the impact, were throwing various items out the cabin door in an attempt to lighten the load as the DC-6 descended over the canyon. The airliner crashed onto National Park Service land, killing all 52 passengers and crew on board.

The October 25, 1947, edition of The Bridgeport (Conn.) Post reported the incident thusly: "Trailing smoke and flame for at least 22 miles before It crashed, the giant ship plowed a smoke-blackened swath for 800 yards alongside State Highway 22 just east of the Bryce Canyon airport. The scene is in southern Utah, about 275 miles south of Salt Lake City.

"The engines, scorched and twisted, were thrown 200 to 300 feet beyond the burned area, while a piece of the tail - 18 to 30 feet long - was the largest part of the craft remaining. The bodies, burned and unrecognizable for the most part, were horribly torn apart. Two infants and 21 or more women were among the victims, one of the women was an expectant mother. The mutilated remains were flung across the 7,300-foot plateau or blown into the 200-foot deep canyon just behind the impact point. All bodies were left at the scene until this morning, with guards posted to protect them from coyotes.

"Pending an inquest, several groups of investigators started official probes today on the cause of the crash. One thing that was known, however, was that Capt. Everett L. MacMillen of Balboa Island, Calif., the pilot, reported by radio at 12:21 p.m. (MST), a few minutes before the incident that fire had broken out, probably in the plane's baggage compartment, and that the cabin was filled with smoke. Five minutes later the veteran of 18 years of flying on western routes opened his microphone and reported: 'The tail fire is going out. We may get down and we may not. Best place we can.'

"At 12:27 he reported he had turned back for Bryce Canyon airport and said 'May make it. Think we have a chance now, Approaching the strip.' The next radio message came from the airport tower here at 12:32 p.m. It said, 'Fire one mile east.' The ship had gone down at that point."