Hike to Pennsylvania's Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site
It happened on December 1, 1959. Allegheny Airlines Flight 371, piloted by Captain Thomas Goldsmith, departed Philadelphia for Cleveland with scheduled stops in Harrisburg, Williamsport, Bradford, and Erie. After an uneventful flight into Harrisburg, the Martin 2-0-2 carrying 26 passengers, including two French and Lithuanian foreign nationals, took off for Williamsport Regional Airport at 9:06 AM. At 9:33 AM, Williamsport cleared Flight 371 for approach. Twelve minutes later the two engine plane was observed over the airport navigating at an elevation too high for safe landing. To correct its approach, Captain Goldsmith maneuvered the aircraft over the field and made a right turn towards runway 27. Moments later, for reasons unknown, Flight 371 banked left and disappeared into snow and clouds. This maneuver would ultimately result in tragedy. At 9:47 AM workers at Williamsport Regional Airport heard Flight 371 crash into Bald Eagle Mountain roughly one mile south of the airport.
Rescue efforts were launched immediately, but due to Bald Eagle Mountain's harsh terrain it took first responders thirty minutes to reach the crash site. The terrain was so challenging that a local doctor had to be helicoptered to the scene on a US Air Force Chickasaw and lowered into the crash site. By 10:25 rescue workers reached the site where they discovered three surviving passengers. Two were found in critical condition and sadly passed away before rescue workers were able to transport them off the mountain. 36 year-old Philadelphia resident and sportswear company owner, Louis Matarazzo, later became the sole survivor of the crash. Matarazzo lived until 1988.
An investigation was launched the very next day by the Civil Aeronautics Board. Nearly a year later they released their findings. In the report investigators stated that the accident was caused by the captain's failure to execute a timely abandon approach with compass failure as a likely contributing factor.
Today, little remains of Flight 371 on Bald Eagle Mountain. Most of it now resides in museums or has been scavenged by those wanting a souvenir of the crash. However, there are still fragments of the ill-fated flight as well as a memorial to the victims that can be reached with relative ease. Those interested in visiting the crash site remains and memorial can follow the instructions below to locate.
Before venturing out make sure you download the area in offline Google Maps. There's no trail which means you'll need to use GPS coordinates to find the crash site. Once you've done that head out to coordinates 41.2201830, -76.9142019 and park in one of the two pull-offs along Armstrong Rd. The photo below is where I parked.
There's another pull-off about 200' behind my car. Once you've parked you'll want to punch in coordinates 41.2253723, -76.9106544 which is the location of the wreckage and memorial. As you'll find out after parking and punching in the coordinates for the crash site, you'll be walking downhill from here. The whole hike is off trail.
The crash site is roughly 180 yards downhill and about 50 yards to the right from the parking coordinates. We rarely use hiking poles, but highly recommend bringing them for this one. The hillside is full of medium to large rocks and descending without poles would kinda blow.
About two-thirds of the way down you'll cross over a well-defined trail, but where it starts and what it leads to we could not say. It definitely doesn't lead to the parking area or the crash site. The wreckage is only about 60 yards downhill from the intersecting trail and if you're hiking when the leaves are off the trees you'll spot the memorial sign shortly after this.
It's tough to make out what exactly you're looking at, but there appears to be part of the fuselage as well as various components scattered throughout the memorial.
Small stone walls have been constructed around the wreckage and a memorial placard displays the names of those who perished as well as historic photos of the crash and rescue efforts. The area is fairly slippery so use caution when visiting. The photo below shows what appears to be part of the fuselage as well as a slew of unrecognizable components.
After you've explored the area you have about 600' in elevation gain to tackle to get back to the parking area. Simple, but strenuous. For more information on the crash visit the Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Memorial Page on Facebook. If you're interested in more things to do in the area Penn's Cave and Clyde Peeling's Reptiland are minutes away and the N32777 crash site is about forty-five minutes away. We hiked out to the N32777 crash site and it was really cool.
Have a blast and be safe out there!