When a Plane Crash Has a ‘Happy Ending’


Photographer Dietmar Eckell has traveled across four continents to photograph mangled aircraft that share a miraculous history: No one perished in any of these crash landings. “This series is not about wrecks that are not worth recovering,” Eckell said. “It is about heroes — the pilots who turned disasters into miracles and saved many lives.” The resulting collection of images and interviews, compiled in the book “Happy End,” present the viewer with disjointed images of bruised cabins and pristine landscapes. “While most planes get scrapped in junk yards — these found a place to ‘rest in peace,’” he said. “They are worth documenting … before nature takes them back.”

HINTS: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

  • A B-24 Liberator that crashed on October 18, 1943, in Papua New Guinea. The bomber plane ran low on fuel and the crew evacuated before the pilot and co-pilot landed safely in a swamp, where Eckell photographed it in 2013.

  • A Fairchild C-82 that crashed on January 16, 1965, in Alaska. This plane was on a ferry flight on its way to Fairbanks when icing caused power outages in both engines. The pilot was able to land the aircraft 100 miles north of its intended destination.

  • A Grumman HU-16 Albatross that crashed in August of 2004 in Mexico. “The clouds were changing every minute,” Eckell told the BBC. “The scenery looked unreal through the viewer of my camera … more like a painting.”

  • A Curtiss C-46 Commando that crashed in September of 1977 in Manitoba, Canada. According to plane crash message boards, where adventurers post tips and share stories, this aircraft was known as “Miss Piggy” because of the amount of cargo it was able to hold.

  • A Vought F4U Corsair that crashed in 1948 in Hawaii. This wreck is a popular scuba diving destination due to its close proximity (three miles) to Oahu’s famous Hawaii Kai marina. Only the pilot was on board at the time of the crash, though now the plane is home to dozens of fish.

  • A Douglas C-47 Skytrain that crashed on February 7, 1950, in Yukon, Canada. All 10 people aboard this aircraft survived when it was caught in a downdraft and flew into the side of a mountain. The plane was part of a search mission for another plane that had gone missing the month before.

  • The Douglas C-47 Skytrain that crashed in February of 1950 in Yukon, Canada.

  • A Bristol 170 that crashed on May 30, 1956, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. According to the Aviation Safety Network, an organization that documents air accidents and safety issues, this plane was at the end of a landing at Beaverlodge Lake when its undercarriage broke through the ice and fell onto its left wing. All three occupants survived.

  • An Avro Shackleton that crashed on July 13, 1994, in the Western Sahara. The plane, carrying 19 people, was flying from South Africa to the U.K. when two of its Rolls-Royce Griffon engines failed.

  • A Cessna 310 that crashed in 1993 in Australia.


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