March 24, 2012

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation (N173W)

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation (N173W)
Miami International, Florida - June 16, 1972
Almost one year before the fatal crash
Source: Peter de Groot
(reposting - updated)

On June 9th, 1973 Captain Jim Carlin, Flight Engineer Rick Riccatelli, and First Officer A. Condey had completed all but their last spray mission, misting the forests of northern Quebec with insecticide, spraying for the Spruce Budworm.  Reportedly on their final flight there were representatives from the government on hand to see the spraying take place.  They were taking off from an abandoned military airstrip near Casey Quebec, flying a 4 engine Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation, tail no. N173W.  According to the accident report they raised their flaps too early, causing the aircraft to crash on takeoff at ~1:30 in the afternoon.  All three personnel on board the plane died in the crash.  They were carrying a plane capable of carrying a full load of 4400 gallons of pesticide.  The pesticides they used are almost all banned, globally.  Upon crashing, there was a fire, likely due to the plane being freshly fueled for takeoff.  It was headed in a southerly direction, and crashed into the trees, past a river, leaving a trail of carnage through the forest.

Several questions stick out in my head about this accident, and I'm interested to get the official report explaining what the investigation figured out about the crash. 
  • In 1973, who was maintaining this airstrip? 
  • Did they refuel before takeoff, was fuel available? 
  • Where was the fuel stored, or was it in tanker trucks?
  • Did they fill up completely with pesticide, and what kind?
  • Where can I find the full accident report of this incident?
  • Where exactly did the plane crash?
I have not yet gone to Library and Archives Canada to find out what I can, but so far no online searches in their databases have turned anything up.

Below is what I have been able to find, through cited open-source sources.

 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
6-0019   73/6/9    CASEY,QUEBEC,CAN    LOCKHEED 1049G      CR-  3  0  0  COMMERCIAL                AIRLINE TRANSPORT, AGE
        TIME - 1330                    N173W               PX-  0  0  0  AERIAL APPLICATION        51, 6050 TOTAL HOURS,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            UNK/NR IN TYPE,
                                                                                                   INSTRUMENT RATED.
          CASEY,QUEBEC,CAN            LOCAL
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION

Date:    09 JUN 1973
Time:    13:30
Type:    Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation Operator:    Aircraft Specialties Registration:    N173W
C/n / msn:    4674
First flight:    1957
Crew:    Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3 Passengers:    Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0 Total:    Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3 Airplane damage:    Written off Airplane fate:    Written off (damaged beyond repair) Location:    Casey, QC (Canada) Phase:    Initial climb (ICL) Nature:    Agricultural
Departure airport:    Casey, QC (), Canada Destination airport:    Casey, QC, Canada Narrative:
The Constellation crashed shortly after takeoff.

"Captain Jim Carlin and (it is believed) Flight Engineer Rick Riccatelli lost their lives in the crash of another Connie ... On 9 June 1973, Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N173W (c/n 4674) was taking-off from Casey, Quebec in Canada when it crashed into trees soon after take-off and was destroyed by explosion and fire. The third crew member, First Officer A. Condey, was also killed in the crash. The aircraft had been modified for spraying pesticides on forests and it was engaged in these operations on the day of the crash. The investigation revealed that the flaps had been retracted prematurely after take-off. N173W was previously owned by Lance Dreyer's Unum Inc."

Looking deeper into what pesticides were in use in Northern Quebec, that I was previously completely unaware of, I found a report from 1975 covering the pesticide applications in Northern Quebec, and the airfields they were flying out of (including the airstrip at the former Casey airstrip)

The area around Casey, Quebec was infested with the Spruce Budworm, and was sprayed, several times a year with a variety of pesticides. There were, of course, health concerns and concerns about wildlife death - but no accusations ever stuck (at the time).

From ~1970 onward the government performed massive spraying operations, spraying millions of acres, to try and kill off the bug.

In 1974 6,350,000 acres of Quebec wilderness were sprayed with:

Fenitrothion 4,140,000 acres
"Fenitrothion has been shown to have high acute toxicity to birds. Its use was banned in Canada in 1997 after it was linked to significant increased mortality of forest songbirds (Mineau, 1999). Fenitrothion is known to have harmful effects on terrestrial invertebrates including honeybees, ants and springtails."
-Environment Protection Agency of Australia "Assessment of the impact of insecticide spraying of Australian plague locusts" July 2001 

Matacil 1,200,000 acres
Spruce Budworm
"Matacil 1.8D, sprayed in Atlantic Canada from 1975 to 1985, contains high concentrations of a compound called 4-nonylphenol, an “endocrine disrupting substance” that is toxic to invertebrates and fish. A Department of Fisheries and Oceans study indicated that anti-budworm Matacil spraying might have harmed Atlantic wild salmon populations."
-CBC Radio "Poison Mists" May 14, 1976 "Poison mists affect more than just budworms."The CBC Digital Archives Website.Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Zectran (Mexacarbate) 1,000,000 acres
Also known as Mexacarbate, which has been banned for use in Belize and listed as "Extremely toxic" per "Consolidated list of products whose consumption and/or sale have been banned, withdrawn, severely restricted or not approved by governments, Issue 7" United Nations, 2002 

Mexacarbate is so toxic, they don't even make it anymore.  Little information is available regarding it's effect on humans.  Here's some, and it should make you queezy just reading it.  Especially the all caps "HIGHLY TOXIC".

Bacillus Thuringiensir 10,000 acres
This is still used today, and is supposed to be "safe".

I'm unsure which pesticide went down with the Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation (N173W) that crashed at Casey in 1973, or what was being sprayed most around Casey, Quebec - but in short, some seriously bad shit.  I would assume, since the plane crashed, that it would have been fully laden, it would have had 4400 Gallons of the pesticide when it crashed and burned.  How much pesticide spilled with the plane when it crashed in 1973, all in one spot?  Did it all pour into the river?  I don't know. What's especially concerning is the toxicity in lab experiments is measured in milligrams per kilogram of the test subject, and we're dealing in thousands of gallons.

In an recent email exchange with a gentleman who was there during the spraying, he saw first hand Northern Pike belly up after the low-level flying spraying (before the crash happened).  It wasn't some hippie environmental zealots that thought it *might* have an impact - it was clearly, immediately, killing wildlife.  I don't know the long term effects of Mexacarbate, Matacil, or Fenitrothion; but I hope it has disappeared and no longer lingers in the environment.


  1. So when are the men in black going to come and "sterilize" your living environment..

    And by "sterilize" I mean "make you disappear"..

    Uh oh, I have said too much....

  2. Nature has an incredible ability to completely ignore us over time. Entropy always wins...


  4. Anyone have the exact GPS coordinates of the crash site? I couldn't find anything on Google satellite view, but it would be interesting to go back there and look for old plane parts from the crash.