North Star Falling — Death rains from the sky over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Part 5)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6| Part 7 | Part 8

At 10:02:30 a.m. MST, Trans-Canada Airlines Flight 9 collided with APO Thorrat’s Harvard II at a combined speed of about 483 km/h (300 mph).1 Investigations into the collision were carried out by the RCAF, TCA, and the Canadian federal Department of Transport. The following scenario represents the most likely sequence of events from the moment the Harvard and the North Star collided:

• The Harvard was at 6,000 feet and climbing when its propeller spinner, propeller, and cowling struck the upper part of the #1 North Star engine, outboard on the left wing of the aircraft. At virtually the same moment, the Harvard’s right wing struck the left wing of the North Star near its number-one engine. The outboard fuel tank in the North Star’s left wing exploded. Cadet Thorrat most likely died almost instantly.

The moment of collision between TCA Flight 9. The painting shows partly cloudy skies although the sky was clear over Moose Jaw at the time of the crash. — Illustration adapted from the cover art of the book Mid-Air Moose Jaw by Larry Shaak

• The Harvard then struck the North Star’s fuselage 3.7 metres (12 feet) in front of the passenger entry door, above the left wing. By this time, the outer section of the North Star’s left wing had probably folded upward, and a second fuel tank in the wing had exploded, severing the wing near the wing root. The No. 1 engine apparently tore loose and continued on the North Star’s original flight path before starting its plunge to earth where it landed on Main Street North near the city’s current civic centre.

• The Harvard’s impact with the North Star’s fuselage deflected it to the right. Its engine tore loose and entered the passenger cabin; its fuselage continued scraping along the port side of the North Star’s fuselage and began to disintegrate as it tore through the aft section of the passenger cabin, severing the tail section.

• The stricken airliner continued its westerly route for a few moments, but soon pitched forward and, with its right wing still attached, began to spiral earthward. As the North Star fell, passengers, luggage, and debris were ejected from a large opening at the rear of the fuselage. Within moments, perhaps all of the North Star’s passengers and crew were dead; it’s possible that some passengers and crew survived the collision itself but died when they struck the ground.

Next, in Part 6: “Like a falling leaf” — Debris from the collision of TCA Flight 9 and the RCAF Harvard is scattered across a wide area of Moose Jaw. Banner headlines trumpet the news. Air crash invesitgators hear testimony from witnesses, attempt to establish causes, and recommend changes to avoid future disasters.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

  1. When small aircraft collide with large aircraft, news reports often indicate that the small plane “flew into” the large plane, or words to that effect. However, large aircraft normally fly at speeds considerably faster than small aircraft can even attain. Top speed of the Harvard Mk. IV, for example, was 335 km/h (208 mph), while the Canadair DC-4M North Star’s top speed was 568 km/h (353 mph). In the case of the collision over Moose Jaw, it is unlikely that either pilot, especially the Harvard pilot, would have had time to take evasive action even if they had become aware of the danger.