Sandia Mountains, NM TWA Airliner Crashes, Feb 1955

Martin 404.JPG Sandia Mountain NM Memorial.jpg Sandia Mountain NM Part of wreckage.jpg NEW MEXICO PLANE CRASH 2-19-1955.jpg



One of New Mexico's biggest air and ground searches was expected to swing into its second day at dawn today in an effort to locate a vanished TWA airliner carrying 16 persons.
The twin-engined Martin 404 took off at 7 a.m. Saturday from the Albuquerque airport for a 29-minute hop to Santa Fe. Three minutes later Pilot I. R. SPONG of Prairie Village, Kas., radioed that the plane was off the ground and on its way.
Then there was silence.
Five New Mexico residents were aboard the plane. They are HOMER D. BRAY, 817 Grandview SE; MISS LOIS DEAN, 907 Richmond SE; the Rev. EARL F. DAVIS, 501A Quincy NE; WORTH H. NICHOLL, Elks Club, and DR. ROBERT BALK, Socorro.
Search Unsuccessful.
Saturday's rumor-filled but unsuccessful search by ground and air, hampered to the north by viloent snowstorms, was to be resumed at dawn today with some 50 planes and perhaps as many as a thousand ground searchers taking part.
Despite bitter cold, many searchers maintained vigil throughout the night, watching for fires or flares that might indicate the presence somewhere in the mountainous, broken area of survivors of a forced landing.
Just before midnight OLIVER PADILLA of Santa Fe reported to state police that he spotted what appeared to be a distress signal as he topped the crest of La Bajada Hill on US-85. Police had not found anything early today.
Albuquerque's Fire Chief ART WESTERFELD long after dark radioed that in a jeep he had seen one fire that looked as if it might be the kind sought, flaring on lonely Rowe Mesa between Las Vegas and Santa Fe. Search crews were going in to investigate.
State Police headquarters in Santa Fe said a second fire was seen near the isolated community of Palma, near Clines Corners of US-85 due south of Rowe. A car was dispatched to the scene, but was stopped before reaching it by a flat tire and snow.
Could see No Fires.
Officers said a civil air patrol plane flew over Rowe Mesa and could see no fires, such as WESTERFELD reported. Four scheduled planes, flying over the mesa and not participating in the search, said they had seen no fires.
Headquarters said ground crews into the vast tabletop mesa would await morning when it's possible the plane could be pinpointed from the air.
WESTERFELD said he and BOB WILLIAMS of the Albuquerque Civil Defense Unit climbed the Ortiz mountains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and just at sunset "spotted two fires through field glasses. They appeared were in canyons at the edge of the mesa."
"It may not be them," he said, "but it's a good hunch. We went around by the area but we never did locate the fires after we left that peak."
Earlier, reports were heard that a plane had been seen and heard that a plane had been seen and heard near Santo Domingo Pueblo; near Jemez Pueblo; over Madrid; over Montezuma; over Las Vegas range stations, and at other points. All the reports were checked out as fully as weather conditions permitted. None bore fruit.
Boy Hears Crash.
About 8:30 p.m. HENRY GONZALES, JR., 12, son of a couple living in the Cienega area near Turquoise Trading Post about 15 miles toward Albuquerque from Santa Fe, told his aunt in Albuquerque of having heard a low-flying plane and then a crash in the Cienega Mountains near his home, early Saturday.
MRS. A. GUTIERREZ, the aunt, of 1213 Farelas SW, told the Journal that her nephew had not known a plane was down until he arrived in Albuquerque to visit her Saturday evening. State Police said they would check out the report.
Major A. H. PERRY of the Civil Air Patrol said some 50 members of the CAP, formed into 25 two-man teams, spent the night out in the field Saturday, braving temperatures ranging well below zero to keep a watch for fires or other signs of the downed plane.
Some planes ranged over the rugged country well into the night, but most were grounded until morning.

Continued on Page 2.


TWA flight 206 in the Sandias

Much of the big wreckage was removed when the tram was constructed, but some small pieces can still be seen off to the left when the tram is nearing the top.From top of tram proceed north along rim to Kiwanis Point shelter. You can use Google Map to find the Kiwanis shelter and see the spire below that the airliner rammed into. Head down through the trees and oak on a slightly southwest heading. The Martin hit the tall spire you are looking at. Some of the debris went across the top of the spire. I remember seeing both radial engines and landing gear parts when my brother and I visited the sight in 1966. I recall that it took us about a hour down and longer climbing back up. The climb is very steep and there is no one best way. The climb from the bottom is long and hard,I don't recommend it unless you are very fit. I wish it were the summer of 1966 all over again.Regards to you sir.

Hearing Aid

My grandparents and Uncle were killing in the TWA crash. My Uncle share your name, Campbell. I hiked to the site several years ago with my cousins, whose father died in the crash. While walking about at the crash site I saw something odd - a butterfly sitting on a small rock at my feet as I stood looking about for something small, a bit of a plate or cup, to send home to my mother who had never fully recovered from losing her parents in the crash when she was 25. I took a picture of the butterfly and then it flew away. Not far away I found that certain something I chose to send to my mother. I was hesitant to send her anything without alerting her in advance. I asked if she'd be interested in something I found at the site. She said, yes. Shortly after she received what I sent she called and said, do you know what this is... to which I said, no. It was small, made of aluminum and had a spring hinge, which I envisioned might have been an ashtray cover in an arm rest. She said - no, that's not what it is - it's my father's Beltone hearing aid case. 50 years after the crash, when I was 44, at 9000'+, a butterfly catches my eye, and draws my attention to a piece of metal, which turns out to be my grandfather's hearing aid case.... I get chills thinking about it everytime. I mean, what are the odds - 50 yrs after an accident, on the top of a jagged rock peak? Well, in the end - I feel strongly that I was lead to that place. Shortly after the story unfolded my Aunt, 10 yrs my mother's senior, called my mother to tell her she had the original purchase receipt for the hearing aid. Apparently my Aunt was 'a saver' and had nearly every receipt for the past 60+ years. Bless her heart. We left crosses at the top, under a granite rock lean-to, along with our prayers that peace be with all those who lost someone they loved in the crash.


Sorry I read your post because it is nothing short of grave robbery to be pulling so called artifacts from this site. Hope you never visit the USS Arizona. The items you removed should be returned to the site.

TWA 260 Crash

I just returned from Santa Fe and took the tram ride. I confess that I had not heard of this accident prior to going to the mountain. In the gift shop was one remaining copy of the book. I promptly read the chapters concerning the crash and the aftermath.

I am a comercially rated pilot (General Aviation) and also a survivor of an airline crash. (National flight 193, May 8th, 1978.) I was a passenger not the in the cockpit. As such I quickly became engrossed in the scene at Sandia Mountain.

I even contemplated finding someone who would guide me to the site. Unfortunately I am also 71 and even though my health is excellent, making that trip might be more than I can handle at this time. (Losing a little weight would help.)

Back to the book . . . What struck me and was close to home was the community of people who came back together in 2006 to dedicate the site and their feelings for each other. Truly the team who performed their actions in February 2005 were remarkable people that illustrates the caring and sensitivity of Americans when the chips are down.

TWA 260

Just a comment as this brings back memories of this event. I was probably one of the last persons to see flight 260 before it crashed.
I was stationed at Sandia Base (on the north side of Kirtland) at the time. On the morning of the accident, I watched 260 as it passed overhead on a northerly
direction toward the mountain. It was very cold that morning and I remember commenting to myself that " I don't know where he's going but I wish I
was going with him". I watched as he continued on toward the mountain and then went back to what I was doing.

I just purchased Charles Williams book and was a little taken aback when I learned that there was a passenger with my same last name.
The book is answering a lot of the questions I had at the time.

R. Campbell

TWA Flight 260 Crash 1955

Please contact me concerning your trip to the crash site with Phillip Shero in 1957.
I'm the author of a book about the crash.



Where is the TWA crash site relative to, say the top of the tram. I'd like to hike UP to it if possible.

Thank you,


TWA Crash

I searched for this plane many times in my youth with a good friend of mine. We did eventually find this crash. I have the original Martin Spar tag for the airplane with its data very much complete. It was recovered many years ago by me. My buddy has the TWA ID fuselage tag that I gave him. I also have the TSB report here in my file locker. It is a very interesting crash to see. For obvious reasons a bulk of the material is still on the mountain even today.

Letter recovered from 1955 TWA crash in Sandia Mountains

I inherited a partially burned letter recovered from the Sandia Mountains TWA crash. Does anyone know if the plane was carrying mail and if it is of any monetary value as a collectible? Supposedly very few items were recovered and were being bought by collectors after the crash.

Sandia Mountains Plane Crash Site

Mr. Beitler,

Would it be possible for you to post any of the available photos that you may have acquired over the years that would show where the plane actually came to rest after the crash?

Thank you,

Cedric Jones