Kenneth Sentner

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Senior Pilot Kenneth Sentner was co-pilot of '746 and was piloting the aircraft at the time of impact.   His shoulder was dislocated during the crash as he was tossed from the cockpit to the bomb bay.  He rode down the hill inside the bomb bay, propping himself against the reinforced bomb racks.  "It was like riding in a washing machine" he would later describe.    He finally escaped out the waist window as the plane came to a stop.  The morning after the crash, he shot several pictures of the crash scene before rescue crews arrived.   One of those pictures can be found in Life magazine (early Feb, 1952 issue).

Ken Sentner got his commission and pilot's wings in the WWII pilot rush.   While flying 50 missions in WWII, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.   He served in Korea and then became a pilot for "special missions", primarily serving as pilot for dignitaries.  At the time of the crash, Sentner was flying for Air Force Search-and-Rescue.   Just over a year after the accident, he was downgraded to his pre-commission rank of Master Sergeant, a mere 3 years before full retirement.    This action had a serious impact on his post-retirement benefits, and, although it was attributed to the standard "post-Korean War RIF", it's quite likely*  that this was related to the Board of Inquiry's findings of 100% pilot error in the crash of '746.

Ken Sentner passed away in 1962.

*The demotion/accident correlation is my opinion based on the evidence I have reviewed.   It is not necessarily the opinion or official stance of the Air Force or any other entity.   I am continuing to research the validity of the Board's conclusions- Mike Morrow

 

The following is Kenneth Sentner's official report to the 1952 Inquiry Board:

22 Jan 1952
Statement


I, CAPT K. Sentner, was performing duties as co-pilot on SB-17, AF5746 inbound to McChord AFB, WA, from Sandspit, B.C. We departed Sandspit, BC at 1535 PST 19 January 1952. Our altitude was 9,000 to Dungeness. We cleared to from Patricia Bay to Dungeness cruising at 9,000 feet, descending to 6,000 over Dungeness, at which time we called to Seattle reporting our position over Dungeness at 6,000 feet. We turned to heading 120 degrees inbound on Seattle northwest lane. We saw Patricia Bay in the clear as we passed; at Dungeness we ran into snow and precipitation static, Dungeness was socked in. We could hear Seattle transmitting to us but rather weak; evidently Seattle could not read us. We tried to transmit on 3105NVHF but could not get an answer. We then used the radio compass on loop position and picked up a quadrant signal while on Seattle beam; this signal was also very weak. We continued on our heading of approximately 118 degrees to Seattle cone. Approximately 5 or 10 minutes past Dungeness we crashed into what we later found was the ridge of a mountain. We were unaware that we were in danger of an accident.

The aircraft continued to slide after the crash; I don't know how long. Fire broke out under the cockpit floor almost immediately at the time of the crash. I was thrown into the turret compartment aft of the pilot and copilot's compartment. I then unbuckled myself from the seat which had broken loose. My first attempt to exit was through the window of the cockpit. The window would not open, so I proceeded aft through the bomb bay section. The rear of the bomb bay was in flames and when I turned to go forward, the front section of the bomb bay was in flames. I was trapped in the bomb bay and my nylon flying suit caught fire and burned. The plane was still sliding; the bomb bay doors popped open and snow put out the flames. I went aft and I think I came out through the waist window. I remember climbing over the tail section.

During our flight from Sandspit, BC to Dungeness, we had a wind from our left.

Due to CAPT's Sentner's incapacity, this statement is signed for the undersigned, with his approval.