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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

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.


Allegheny Airlines plane crash article

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.


Allegheny Airlines plane crash article

The third person lowered from the helicopter onto the crash site was a local priest. During an interview with a local newspaper, he described the horrific scene: "There were burned briefcases and charred pieces of paper lying about. I saw the body of one person whose fingers were clawing the ground as he apparently tried to pull away from the wreckage. I went from person to person looking for those who might be alive. I found only three. It was awful to see those people with their clothes burned off. There was nothing left of the plane except a piece sticking up in the air. I'll never forget it as long as I live. It was a terrible scene."


Allegheny Airlines crash article

By 10:25 rescue workers reached the site on foot where they discovered the three surviving passengers. Two were found in critical condition and sadly passed away before rescue workers were able to transport them off the mountain. 35 year-old Springfield, Pennsylvania resident and sportswear company owner, Louis Matarazzo, later became the sole survivor of the crash.


Allegheny Airlines crash article

In speaking with a local newspaper, Matarazzo, who had managed to jump out of the plane prior to it crashing, said, "All of a sudden the pilot seemed to race the motors and pull up. There was a crash. The plane burst and exploded. I fought my way through flames, past the wreckage. I tried to make my way back to the wreckage but couldn't make it. My legs were too stiff. The pain--" Matarazzo enjoyed a fulfilling life until he passed away on April 2, 1988, in Springfield.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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 entire hike is off trail.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

The crash site is roughly 180 yards downhill and about 50 yards to the right from the parking coordinates. I 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 is fairly challenging.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

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.


Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 Crash Site

After you've explored the area you have about 600 feet in elevation gain to tackle to get back to the parking area. If you're interested in another plane crash site nearby, the N32777 crash site is about forty-five minutes away and a very interesting site to hike out to. For more sites in neighboring states, consider reading Plane Crash Hikes.


As with any plane crash site, please respect those who perished and honor them by not removing any debris from the site.


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