By Allan Lowson
To travel from
The first commercial flights through the Pass were in
1929 when NYRBA made a scheduled flight with a Ford Tri-Motor, and then five
weeks later Pan American Grace (Panagra) also started a Tri-Motor service from
In 1935 the German owned Syndicato Condor started
services through the
Tim Cook describes the
route through the
After 1946 British South American Airways introduced the Avro Lancastrian to the route. Details of where the Lancastrian and Junkers can be found are given at the end of the feature.
A simpler version of the route through the pass is shown below.
The history of
Star Dust and British South American Airways is told on http://www.flywiththestars.co.uk/index.htm
and in an accompanying book. For a limited period anyone in the
The following details are predominantly drawn from this excellent website.
The formation of British South American Airways
The story of British South American Airways began with five shipping companies, the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, Lamport & Holt Line, The Booth Steamship Company and the Blue Star Line.
A committee was set up in November 1937 under
the chairmanship of Lord Cadman to look into the state of British civil
aviation. Cadman had noted that there was no British airline flying
The directors of the five shipping companies
decided to explore the possibilities of starting their own airline to cover the
routes they knew well, between
Although the shipping companies were
unable to do very much during the war, by 1944 there was hope that the tide was
turning for the Allies and so, on 25 January 1944 British Latin American Air
Lines Ltd. (BLAA) was formed. A government White Paper published in March
1945 recognized some of the proposals outlined in the Cadman
report. It set out policy for three main British airlines with
clearly defined routes. The first was to operate on what was called the
Commonwealth air routes, serving nations such as
After much discussion it was decided in September 1945 that BLAA would become British South American Airways Limited.
When BSAA were looking for an aircraft to initiate their South American routes they realised the Lancastrian would be suitable, but insisted that their aircraft be fitted with thirteen forward-facing seats and have windows down both sides of the fuselage (the nine seat version for BOAC only had windows on the starboard side). In this form the Lancastrian III was born, with BSAA taking delivery of their first aircraft in December 1945.
The loss of Star Dust
On 2 August 1947, the British South
American Airways Flt CS 59 Star Dust was enroute to
In 1947, the aircrew of the Star Dust would have relied on wind, speed, and ground observation, rather than radar, to establish their position.
The map above shows the en-route reported
positions of Star Dust taken from the Accident Investigations Branch Report No.
C.A 106 published in December 1947. The red dot shows the crash position East
of Santiago. I have also plotted the three routes through the
BSAA used three routes to cross the Andes,
a Northern route via
The Accident Report stated that the crew
had been briefed in
The previous two reports, which were made at 10,000’ and possibly in sight of the ground, indicate that the flight was managing a ground speed about 150-155 knots with an airspeed of 196 knots. The aircraft would seem to have been experiencing significant headwinds even at the lower altitude. Unfortunately the phenomenon of the high altitude jetstream was not well understood at this time.
Jet streams are relatively narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Although the jet stream may stretch for thousands of miles around the world, it is only a few hundred miles wide and often less than three miles thick. The winds blow from west to east in jet streams but the flow often shifts to the north and south. There are four jetstreams about 30° N/S latitude and at and 50°-60° N/S. The airflow in these streams can be between 80 and 140 knots.
Relatively few commercial aircraft were
capable of flying significantly above 20,000’ at that time. The Lancastrian had
exceptional altitude and range capabilities, but could not carry an economic
passenger complement. However the conversion of the
Based on the weather reports of the time and our current knowledge of jetstream activity, it is quite possible that star Dust rose into a jetstream with a disastrous reduction in ground speed as a result.
It is possible that the crew continued to use a ground speed of 155 knots in their location reports and therefore started to descend once they believed they were past the mountains. If the last known transmission was made shortly before the aircraft crashed. The ground speed from the 1700 reported location was about 100 knots. Admittedly that position report might have been optimistic if Star Dust was already encountering increasing windspeeds, but it indicates the magnitude of the problem that they had run into.
At an altitude of 24,000 feet, the crew
could very well have supposed they were flying over
The disappearance of the Star Dust
remained a mystery for some 50 years until a mountain guide found a Rolls Royce
engine at the foot of the
Although the crash site was not known at the time of the Accident Report, one of the conclusions was:
“8. As this was the pilot's first trans-Andean flight in command, and in view of the weather conditions, he should not have crossed by the direct route.”
Also a final Opinion was added:
Through lack of evidence due to no wreckage having been found the actual cause of the accident remains obscure. The possibility of severe icing cannot be ignored.”
mention that as it puzzles me how they could be reporting an ETA of four
minutes when they were still above 16,000’. The BSAA approach plate for
The Final Message
"E.T.A. Santiago 17:45. STENDEC"
That was the last message received from Star Dust, sent by Radio Officer Dennis Harmer at 17:41 on 2nd August 1947.
The Chilean radio operator in
Clearly, if the crew believed they were only minutes away from
There have been many suggestions over the years as to what was meant by Dennis Harmer’s message that day, as it clearly was not intended to be STENDEC. Some of the theories are totally implausible. One theory promulgated by experienced aircrew follows.
The actual Morse code, which the Chilean Operator believed she received, was:
S T E N D E C
… _ . _. _.. . _._.
A recognized signoff or 'end of message' signal was 'AR' (with no space between the letters). Therefore a standard signoff would be sent as the Morse '._._.' in other words 'EC' without the space. If the messages from Star Dust were sent quickly it is quite conceivable that spaces were misinterpreted. A common message at the time was "Standard Arrival" followed by the direction from which the aircraft was arriving, so in this case if we simply shift a couple of spaces from 'STENDEC' we are left with 'S T A R E AR' or STandard/ARrival/East/signoff:
… _ ._ ._. . ._._.
Flight Simulator Files
The base package for the JU52 from by Pierino Primavesi is available from
and is contained in the zip file:
There are three add-on files. The first two cover additional wheeled aircraft, and all of these are included in the aircraft.cfg file installed by the first base package. So if you don’t want all the texture sets, you’ll need to do a bit of cfg file editing. The third add-on file includes the floatplane option that we needed for the flight from Tromsø to Kirkenes in the Northern Norway Feature a few months ago.
The three add-ons have the following links:
Alternatively you can download Oscar Fischer’s JU52/3m from flightsim in a single file junkr522.zip. The most obvious difference between the two models is the fact that Oscar’s do not have any swastika emblems.
The Avro Lancastrian is available from http://classicbritishfiles.com/ in
8828ef95Avro_Lancastrian_II.zip – just search for Lancastrian in the Search Library option under the File Library link on the left of the main webpage.
BSAA textures by Dave Booker are contained in whwiwj.zip which he has kindly agreed to us hosting as it is not currently available elsewhere. The main file also contains excellent pilot notes for the sim.