BCPA DC-6 Crash Site Update
By Nicholas A. Veronico
Douglas DC-6 VH-BPH was a sister ship to VH-BPH Resolution, which crashed on Kings Mountain on October 29, 1953
Photo courtesy John Wegg
One of the most accessible sites to Wreckchasers is the wreck of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines' DC-6 VH-BPE which crashed on Kings Mountain, south of San Francisco, California, on Oct. 29, 1953. The plane, named Resolution after the ships commanded by Capt. James Cook on his 1728-1779 voyages of the Pacific, had departed Sydney, Australia, bound for Vancouver, B.C., via Auckland, New Zealand, Nadi, Fiji Islands, Canton Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
A crew change was affected at Honolulu and Captain Bruce N. Dickson took command, departing at 10:59 p.m. local time. At 8:21 a.m. PST, Western Air Defense Force radar identified VH-BPE and cleared the flight "to the San Francisco ILS Outer Marker via the Half Moon Bay Fan marker direct to the San Francisco Outer Marker. Maintain at least 500 feet above all clouds. Contact San Francisco Approach Control after passing Half Moon Bay Fan Marker. Cloud tops reported in the Bay Area: 1,700 feet."
Captain Dickson had made the approach numerous times, and was well aware of the procedures. Eighteen minutes later, Resolution advised that they were over Half Moon Bay, 500 on top, and listening on 278 kc. Approach Control acknowledged the transmission.
At 8:41 VH-BPE reported that it was turning inbound. That was the last transmission from Resolution.
Shortly after the loss of radio contact, a Coast Guard PB-1 (B-17) was dispatched to search for the plane. At 10:10 a.m., one hour and 24 minutes after the crash, the Coast Guard located a column of smoke rising from the heavily wooded southwest side of Kings Mountain, west of Redwood City.
The crash site lay dormant for years, undisturbed in an open space preserve - less than 12 miles from a major downtown area, yet so far removed from the modern world. In the early 1990s, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, owners of the property where Resolution came to rest, made a number of management decisions closing certain trails within the preserve. To balance access to the area, a number of new trails were constructed - one of which meanders through the crash site of VH-BPE.
Appropriately named the Resolution Trail, this hike takes visitors past the point of impact where numerous artifacts litter the hillside. A map of the park showing Resolution Trail can be obtained from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District by calling (650) 691-1200. To visit the site, from San Francisco, take Highway 101 to 92 west to Skyline Blvd. Travel south on Skyline 9.3 miles to the Skaggs Point rest stop on the east side of the road and park. Hike north on the west side of the road to the preserve entrance (gated trailhead CM01). Take the Tafoni Trail 1.2 miles to a four-way trail intersection. Continue right on the Tafoni Trail about a mile to the Resolution Trail. Turn left and hike to the junction of the Corte Madera Trail. Go left and as the trail rises out of the redwood trees you'll begin to see airplane parts on the exposed hillside. This is an excellent, well-maintained trail and has taken the guesswork out of finding this historic crash site.