Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501 was a DC-4 propliner operating its daily transcontinental service between New York City and Seattle when it disappeared on the night of June 23, 1950. The flight was carrying 55 passengers and three crew members; the loss of all 58 on board made it the worst commercial airliner accident in American history at the time.
The aircraft was approximately 3,500 feet (1,100 m) over Lake Michigan, 18 miles (29 km) NNW of Benton Harbor, Michigan when it vanished from radar screens after requesting a descent to 2,500 feet (760 m). A widespread search was commenced including using sonar and dragging the bottom of Lake Michigan with trawlers, but to no avail. Considerable light debris, upholstery, and human body fragments were found floating on the surface, but divers were unable to locate the plane's wreckage
Northwest flight 2501, was scheduled to operate between New York and Seattle via Minneapolis and Spokane.
At approximately 19:31 the flight departed from LaGuardia Airport. At 21:49, when over Cleveland a cruising altitude of 4,000 feet was requested by the flight and approved by ARTC. Forty minutes later the flight was requested by ARTC to descend to 3,500 feet because there was an eastbound flight at 5,000 feet over Lake Michigan which was experiencing severe turbulence and difficulty in maintaining its assigned altitude. ARTC estimated that the standard separation of 1,000 feet would not be sufficient because of the turbulence. At 22:51, Flight 2501 reported that it was over Battle Creek at 3,500 feet, and that it would be over Milwaukee at 23:37.
In New York, the evening of Friday, June 23, 1950 was a warm, but pleasant night. Passengers who boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 bound for Seattle, Washington, with a scheduled stopover in Minneapolis, Minnesota were looking forward to a long, but comfortable flight.
Flight 2501 was a Douglas DC-4 airliner with four Pratt & Whitney, R-2000 “Wasp” engines. These reciprocating piston, propeller engines could power the converted World War II C54 transport to a maximum airspeed of 280 miles per hour. The flight lifted off on time from New York’s LaGuardia airport at 7:30 PM and headed west under clear skies.
A shipwreck researcher claims to have solved a mystery surrounding a tragic plane crash nearly 60 years ago.
Valerie van Heest says human remains from the June 1950 crash into Lake Michigan washed ashore and were buried in a mass grave.
She claims they were buried in a St. Joseph-area cemetery without the knowledge of the victims' families, and the grave never was marked.