On June 28, 1997, about 1618 Alaska daylight time, a Douglas DC-4 airplane, N103, was destroyed by in-flight and postcrash fire shortly after departing Venetie, Alaska. The two airline transport pilots and one cargo handler aboard were not injured. The 14 CFR Part 91 positioning flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions, and a VFR flight plan was in effect. The flight was en route to Fairbanks, Alaska. The accident site was a sand and gravel bar in the Chandalar River, located about two miles west-northwest of Venetie. The flight departed Venetie about 1613.

During an interview with the NTSB investigator-in-charge on June 30, the Captain of the flight related they had just departed the Venetie airstrip after delivering a load of building materials. He said they had been airborne for a minute or so, and were still climbing, when the number two engine on the left wing began to run rough. The engine was shutdown, the propeller feathered, and the propeller rotation stopped. During the shutdown process, the engine fire warning light illuminated. Fire was observed in the vicinity of the number 2 engine, and the right bank of engine fire extinguishers were activated. The fire warning light momentarily went out, but came on again about 5 seconds later. The second, or left bank, of fire extinguishers were activated, but had no effect on the visible fire or warning light. The fire continued to burn, and the number two engine fell off the wing. The captain said it was apparent that the airplane could not continue back to Venetie, and he found a sand and gravel bar in the Chandalar River to land on. A successful landing was made, and the crew left the still burning airplane and ran to safety.

The captain stated the total elapsed time from the onset of the fire to landing was about 5 minutes. He was unable to provide an explanation for why the engine caught fire, or why the fire would not extinguish. He also said that the engine continued to burn after it fell to the ground, and started a small fire that was later extinguished by U.S. Bureau of Land Management Smoke Jumpers.

The accident site is in a remote location, and the left engine has not been recovered or located.

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