CATASTROPHE: Weather Clear, Altitude Normal

Burbank's Lockheed Air Terminal, with its buildings painted a wartime khaki, was drab under a cloudy sky when American Airlines' Captain Charles F. Pedley lifted his Douglas twin-motored liner off for the 4:30 p.m. flight to New York. He climbed gradually to skim the jagged, purple San Jacinto Mountains. Forty minutes after the takeoff, approaching Palm Springs, he was flying at 9,000 in clear sunshine. There were numerous planes in the air; Pilot Pedley was straight on his course.

Watching from a telephone-repeater station, Civilian Air-Raid Spotter R. M. Martin saw the...

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