2 August 1947: At 1:46 p.m., British South American Airways Flight CS59 departed Buenos Aires, Argentina enroute Santiago, Chile. The airliner was an Avro Lancastrian Mk.III, registration G-AGWH, named R.M.A. Star Dust. The flight was under the command of Captain Reginald J. Cook, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M., with First Officer Norman Hilton Cook, Second Officer Donald S. Checklin, Radio Operator Dennis B. Harmer and “Stargirl” Iris Morcen Evans. On this flight, in addition to the five-person airline crew, there were just six passengers.
At 5:41 p.m., Santiago airport received a routine Morse code signal from G-AGWH indicating the flight would arrive in four minutes:
“ETA SANTIAGO 17.45 HRS STENDEC”.
The radio operator at Santiago did not understand “STENDEC” and asked the airliner’s radio operator to repeat it, which he did, twice. The airliner never arrived. A five-day search was unsuccessful. The meaning of the last word in the message has never been determined.
The fate of Star Dust remained a mystery until 1998, when two mountain climbers on Mount Tupungato—at 21,555 feet (6,570 meters), one of the highest mountains in South America—50 miles east of Santiago, found a wrecked Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine in the ice of a glacier at the 15,000 foot level (4,572 meters). A search of the glacier in 2000 located additional wreckage and it was confirmed that this was the missing Lancastrian. The crash site is at S. 33°22’15.0″, W. 69°45’40.0″.
Investigators determined that the airliner had flown into the glacier at high speed and the crash caused an avalanche which buried the wreckage.
In 2002 the remains of eight persons were recovered from the glacier, five of which were identified through DNA.
The Avro 691 Lancastrian Mk.III was a four-engine civil transport based on the World War II very long range heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster. The Mk.III variant was built specifically for the British South American Airways Corporation by A.V. Roe & Co. Ltd, at Woodford, Cheshire, England, and was an improved version of the British Overseas Airways Corporation Lancastrian Mk.I. Eighteen Mk.IIIs were built for BSAAC. G-AGWH, serial number 1280, was the second of this series. It first flew on 11 November 1945 and was registered to BSAAC 16 January 1946.
The airliner was operated by a flight crew of four and carried one flight attendant. It could carry up to thirteen passengers. The Lancastrian Mk.III was 76 feet, 10 inches (23.419 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet (31.090 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The empty weight was 30,220 pounds (13,707.6 kilograms) and gross weight was 65,000 pounds (29,483.5 kilograms).
The Lancastrian Mk.III was powered by four 1,648.9-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, Rolls-Royce Merlin T24/2 ¹ single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines producing 1,650 horsepower and turning three bladed propellers.
These gave the airplane a cruise speed of 245 miles per hour (394.3 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour (506.9 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 25,500 feet (7,772 meters) and the range was 4,150 miles (6,679 kilometers).
¹ Two of G-AGWH’s Merlin T24/2 engines had been completely overhauled and converted to the Merlin 500-2 configuration. One engine was converted to a Merlin 502. The fourth engine remained as a T24/2. All engines had less than 1,200 hours total time since new (TTSN) and the converted engines were approximately 500 hours since overhaul (TSOH).
1 April 1921: Adrienne Bolland, a pilot employed by René Caudron to demonstrate his airplanes in South America, flew a Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, across the Andes Mountain Range.
Mlle Bolland’s route followed the Paso de Upsallata, passing south of Aconcagua, at 6,960.8 meters (22,837 feet), the highest mountain in the Andes, and north of Volcan Tupangato, 6,570 meters (21,580 feet). The duration of the flight was 4 hours, 17 minutes.
Bolland was awarded a gold medal by the Argentine League of Patriots at Buenos Aires.
Mdlle. Bolland Crosses the Andes
From a Daily Mail report Mdlle. Bolland, the French aviatress, on April 1, left Mendoza, Argentina, at 7.30, and flew over the Andes Mountains, arriving at Santiago in Chile, just three hours later.
This the second time Mdlle. Bolland has flown over the Andes.
The distance Mdlle. Bolland covered was about 112 miles. There are heights of more than 20,000 ft. in the neighborhood of the point at which she crossed the range.
We are just wondering whether the journey was a “non-stop” one, with strong headwinds, or whether a halt was made en route, and if the latter, where.
—FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 641 (No. 14, Vol. XIII.), 7 April 1921, at Page 250, Column 2
Adrienne Armande Pauline Boland was born at Arcueil, a suburb of Paris, France, 25 November 1895. She was the youngest of seven children of writer Henri André Joseph Boland and Marie Amélie Elisabeth Françoise Allonie (Marie Joséphine) Pasques. Her father died in 1909, and her mother sometime later.
At the age of 24, she decided to learn to fly and enrolled in flight training at Société des Avions Caudron (the Caudron Airplane Company), Le Crotoy. She started training 16 November 1919 and was awarded her pilot’s license 29 January 1920. An error on the certificate spelled her surname with two “l”s, and she retained the name “Bolland” for the rest of her life.
Mlle Bolland was employed by René Caudron to transport airplanes to and from the factory. She told Caudron that she wanted her own airplane. He told her that if she could perform a loop in a Caudron G.3, a pre-World War I scout plane, that she could fly it for the company. She did, and was then asked to fly it across the English Channel, which she did, 25 August 1920.
Caudron sent her to Argentina to demonstrate his airplanes. Once there, she planned to fly across the Cordillera de los Andes (the Andes Mountain Range) to Chile on the western coast of South America. The mountains were higher than the airplane was capable of flying, so she had to fly through valleys to find a way across. Departing Mendoza, Argentina at 6:00 a.m, she headed across the 400-kilometer (250 miles) wide mountain range. Most of the flight was at an altitude of 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) and it was extremely cold. Without maps, she succeeded: “Suddenly I saw a break in the mountains. . . and in the distance, the plain of Chile. I was saved.”
The airplane was sold in Santiago and Bolland returned to Buenos Aires by train.
After returning to France, Mlle Bolland was a frequent participant at air meets, displaying her skills in aerobatics. She flew two Caudron C.27s, G-AGAP (c/n 5533.7) and F-AGAQ (c/n 5534.8), both registered in her name 27 February 1924. At the Aérodrome d’Orly, Paris, on 27 May 1924, she took off at 4:12 p.m., completed 212 consecutive loops, then landed at 5:25 p.m. (The Caudron C.27 was redesignated C.127 in late 1924.)
In 1924, France named Adrienne Bolland Chevalier de la légion d’honneur for her flight across the Andes.
Ernest Jean Baptiste Charles Vinchon married Mlle Bolland in Paris, 15 March 1930.
After the surrender of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, M. and Mme Vichon remained in occupied France and became agents of the Confrérie Notre-Dame (CND, or Brotherhood of Notre Dame, later called CND-Castile), an intelligence organization of the Forces françaises libres (Free French Forces).
For her services during World War II, in 1947 Mme Vichon was advanced to the rank of Officier de la Légion d’honneur.
Adrienne Bolland Vichon died at Paris, France, 18 March 1975 at the age of 79 years. She was buried in Donnery, Loiret.
Adrienne Bolland crossed the Andes in a Caudron G.3, c/n 4902, registered F-ABEW. The Caudron G.3 was a World War I reconnaissance airplane and flight trainer manufactured by Société des Avions Caudron. It is called a sesquiplane because the lower wing is significantly shorter than the upper. The G.3 was a single-engine aircraft that was built in single- and two-place variants. The engine and cockpit are contained in a very short fuselage, supporting the wings and landing gear. Tail control surfaces are mounted on an open framework tail boom.
The Caudron G.3 was 6.40 meters (21 feet) long with an upper wingspan of 13.40 meters (44 feet). The height of the aircraft was 2.50 meters (11 feet, 2 inches). The airplane had an empty weight of 420 kilograms (926 pounds) and maximum weight of 710 kilograms (1,565 pounds).
The G.3 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 10.910 liter (665.791 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was rated at 70 cheval vapeur (1 ch = 0.99 horsepower) at 1,100 r.p.m., and 80 cheval vapeur at 1,200 r.p.m., but able to produce a maximum 92 cheval vapeur (90.77 horsepower) at 1,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The 9C was 0.810 meters (2 feet, 7.9 inches) long, 0.930 meters (3 feet, 6.1 inches) in diameter and weighed 119 kilograms (262 pounds).
The Caudron G.3 had a maximum speed of 106 kilometers per hour (66 miles per hour) and service ceiling of 4,300 meters (14,108 feet).