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Francisco Paula GONZALES

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Causes a plane crash
Number of victims: 44
Date of murders: May 7, 1964
Date of birth: 1936
Victims profile: 3 crew members and 41 passengers
Method of murder: Shot both the pilot and co-pilot before turning the gun on himself causing the plane to crash killing all 44 aboard
Location: In the air - San Ramon, California, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 was a twin-engine Pacific Air Lines Fairchild F-27A airliner flying from Reno and Stockton to San Francisco that crashed at 6:49 a.m. on May 7, 1964 near San Ramon, California. The crash was likely the first instance in the United States of an airliner's pilots being shot by a passenger as part of a mass murder/suicide; Francisco Gonzales, a passenger, shot both the pilot and co-pilot before turning the gun on himself causing the plane to crash killing all 44 aboard.

Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, a Fairchild F-27A twin-engine turboprop, Federal Aviation Administration registration number N2770R, took off from Reno, Nevada at 5:54 a.m., with 33 passengers and a crew of three for San Francisco International Airport, with a scheduled stop in Stockton. The crew consisted of Captain Ernest "Ernie" A. Clark, pilot in command, First Officer Ray Andress, copilot, and Flight Attendant Margaret Schafer.

After crossing the Sierra Nevada, the plane made its scheduled stop at Stockton, where 10 passengers boarded and two passengers deplaned, bringing the plane’s total to 41 passengers.

Approximately 10 minutes after the aircraft’s 6:38 a.m. departure from Stockton, en route to San Francisco, the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center received a garbled radio message from Flight 773 and the aircraft disappeared from the center’s radar displays.

Oakland Air Route Traffic Control attempted unsuccessfully to contact flight 773. Oakland then asked another aircraft in the immediate vicinity, United Air Lines Flight 593, if they had Flight 773 in sight. Flight 593's flight crew responded that they did not see flight 773, but within moments they reported: "There’s a black cloud of smoke coming up through the undercast at ... three-thirty, four o’clock position right now. Looks like (an) oil or gasoline fire." Oakland Air Route Traffic Control realized that the smoke spotted by United Flight 593 was likely caused by the crash of Pacific Air Lines Flight 773.

Flying at its assigned altitude of 5,000 feet, Flight 773 had suddenly gone into a steep dive and crashed into a hillside, exploding, near San Ramon (37° 45'34" N 121° 52'24" W) in Contra Costa County. Flight 773's last radio message, from First Officer Andress at 6:48 a.m., was deciphered through laboratory analysis: "Skipper’s shot. We’ve been shot. (I was) tryin’ to help." A Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver was found in the wreckage; it held six spent cartridges. Both aviation and FBI investigators determined that San Francisco resident Francisco P. Gonzales, a passenger who previously had told several people he was going to kill himself, had shot both the pilot and co-pilot during the flight.

A former member of the Philippine yachting team at the 1960 Olympics, Gonzales, 27, had been "disturbed and depressed" over marital and financial difficulties in the months preceding the crash. A credit check showed that Gonzales was deeply in debt and that nearly half of his income was committed to various loan payments. Gonzales had advised both relatives and friends that he "would die on either Wednesday, 6 May, or Thursday, 7 May."

 
 

Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 was a Pacific Air Lines Fairchild F-27A airliner that crashed at 6:49 a.m. on May 7, 1964 near San Ramon, California, USA. The crash was likely the first instance in the United States of an airliner's pilots being shot by a passenger as part of a mass murder/suicide; Francisco Paula Gonzales, 27, shot both the pilot and co-pilot before turning the gun on himself, causing the plane to crash and killing all 44 aboard.

Events preceding the flight

A former member of the Philippine sailing team at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Gonzales, now a warehouse worker living in San Francisco, had been "disturbed and depressed" over marital and financial difficulties in the months preceding the crash. Gonzales was deeply in debt and nearly half of his income was committed to various loan payments, and he had advised both relatives and friends that he "would die on either Wednesday, the 6th of May, or Thursday, the 7th of May."

In the week preceding the crash, Gonzales referred to his impending death on a daily basis, and purchased a Smith & Wesson handgun through a friend of a friend. Before boarding a flight to Reno, Nevada the evening before the crash, he had shown the gun to numerous friends at the airport and told one person he intended to kill himself. Gonzales gambled in Reno the night before the fatal flight and told a casino employee that he didn't care how much he lost because "it won't make any difference after tomorrow."

Aircraft

The plane, a twin-engine turboprop Fairchild F-27, registration N2770R, was a U.S.-built version of the Fokker F-27 Friendship airliner. It was manufactured in 1959, and had accumulated about 10,250 flight hours up to its final flight, with Pacific Air Lines as the sole owner and operator.

Flight

The F-27 took off from Reno at 5:54 a.m., with 33 passengers aboard, including Gonzales, and a crew of three, bound for San Francisco International Airport, with a scheduled stop in Stockton, California. The crew consisted of Captain Ernest "Ernie" A. Clark, 52, pilot in command, First Officer Ray Andress, 31, copilot, and Flight Attendant Margaret Schafer, 30.

After crossing the Sierra Nevada, the plane arrived at Stockton, where two passengers deplaned and ten boarded, bringing the plane’s total to 41 passengers. It was about 6:38 a.m. when Flight 773 lifted off and headed towards San Francisco International.

Murder/Suicide

At 6:48:15, with the aircraft approximately 10 minutes out of Stockton, the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) received a high-pitched, garbled radio message from Flight 773, and the aircraft soon disappeared from the center’s radar displays.

After attempting unsuccessfully to contact Flight 773, Oakland ARTCC asked another aircraft in the immediate vicinity, United Air Lines Flight 593, if they had the plane in sight. Flight 593's flight crew responded that they did not see Flight 773, but a minute later they reported: "There’s a black cloud of smoke coming up through the undercast at ... three-thirty, four o’clock position right now. Looks like (an) oil or gasoline fire." Oakland ARTCC realized that the smoke spotted by the United air crew was likely caused by the crash of Pacific Air Lines Flight 773.

Flying at its assigned altitude of 5,000 feet, Flight 773 had suddenly gone into a steep dive. It crashed and exploded into a rural hillside in southern Contra Costa County. Flight 773's last radio message, from First Officer Andress, was deciphered through laboratory analysis: "Skipper’s shot. We’ve been shot. (I was) tryin’ to help."

The official accident report stated that witnesses along the flight path and near the impact area described "extreme and abrupt changes in attitude of Flight 773 with erratic powerplant sounds" before the plane hit a sloping hillside at a relative angle of 90 degrees.

Investigation

Investigators from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) found in the mangled wreckage a damaged Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, holding six spent cartridges. The Federal Bureau of Investigation soon joined the CAB in a search for evidence so that the apparent criminal aspects of this case could be pursued. Investigators found that when Gonzales left San Francisco for Reno the day before the fatal flight, he was carrying the .357, and that he had purchased $105,000 worth of life insurance at the airport, payable to his wife. The probable cause stated in the CAB accident report was "the shooting of the captain and first officer by a passenger during flight", and the FBI determined that the suicidal Gonzales was the shooter.

Aftermath

Civil air regulation amendments became effective on August 6, 1964, that required that doors separating the passenger cabin from the crew compartment on all scheduled air carrier and commercial aircraft must be kept locked in flight. An exception to the rule remains during takeoff and landing on certain aircraft, such as the Fairchild F-27, where the cockpit door leads to an emergency passenger exit. The amendments were actually passed by the Federal Aviation Administration prior to the crash of Flight 773, but had not become effective yet.

In another murder/suicide incident with similarities to Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, PSA Flight 1771 crashed on December 7, 1987 into a rural area near Cayucos, California, killing all 43 on board. The plane went out of control after a passenger shot both pilots. Both crash sites were on sparsely-populated grassy hillsides used for cattle ranching, contributing to the lack of ground casualties.

Julie Clark, one of three daughters of the murdered Captain of Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, and orphaned at the age of 15 by her father's death, grew up to become a commercial airline pilot for Northwest Airlines, and performs aerobatic displays at airshows.

Steven Andress, only son and fourth child of co-pilot Ray Andress, attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to fly with Alaska Airlines.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Francisco Gonzales

This story is a warning to all those people that may know a nutter who continuously threatens to kill themselves in a blaze of glory.

Francisco Gonzales always promised this. He would constantly threaten members of his family that they would die alongside him, by his hand. Unfortunately for his victims he never actually told how he would go about killing those around him, so he couldn't be stopped from taking a final act of revenge.

And what brought about his problems? Well he was having trouble with his wife and also had accumulated a fair amount of debt (which is surprising since he lived in Reno, Nevada) when he decided he had finally had enough. But for some unknown reason he didn't take his family out with him, he chose to help his wife instead.

On May 6, 1964, Gonzales purchased a Smith & Wesson revolver for his intended mission.

The next morning he took out a $100,000 insurance policy on his life and then went to Reno airport where he bought a ticket on Pacific Air Lines flight 773 to San Francisco.

I guess it doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened on board the plane.

No long after the plane took off Gonzales pulled out his gun and kicked his way into the cockpit. Once in there he raised the gun and put a bullet into the back of the pilot's head. Ernest Clark, 52, had his brains splattered all over the control panel as Gonzales turned to the co-pilot and repeated his earlier action.

What happened after this is unknown - but it would seem that Gonzales probably turned the gun on himself. A while later a nearby airport picked up a message stating - "Skipper's shot. We've been shot. Trying to help."

And that was the last anyone heard from the plane apart from the massive explosion when it hit a hill near San Ramon, California. All 44 passengers and crew died.

 
 

The Crash of Pacific Air Lines Flight #773

May 7, 1964

A Different Time...

The year was 1964. It was a time when getting aboard a commercial airliner was much easier than today. You paid your money, walked through a gate (then often across the tarmac) and boarded the plane. No X-rays, no security check points, no guards. The wave of hijackings to Cuba was still to come, only to be followed by terrorists hijackings and even worse beyond that.

It was a time when we all thought nobody was crazy enough to take a gun aboard a airliner and threaten to kill people, let alone actually shoot someone. Well on Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, that's exactly what happened.

According to newspaper accounts of the time, Francisco Gonzales would constantly threaten people, especially members of his family. He said that they would die alongside him, by his hand.  

But what brought about his problems?   Gonzales, 27, had been a member of the Philippine yachting team at the 1960 Olympics. However, by 1964 he was having trouble with his wife and also had accumulated a fair amount of debt. Then one day he apparently decided he had finally had enough.  But rather than kill those around him as he had threaten, for some unknown reason, he chose to try to help his wife instead.

According to the accident report, FBI investigators uncovered that Gonzales had advised both friends and relatives that he would die either Wednesday, the 6th of May, or Thursday, the 7th of May. He referred to his impending death on a daily basis throughout the week preceding the accident.

Then, on the evening of the May 6th, Gonzales purchased a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum from an acquaintance.

After arriving at the San Francisco Airport, Gonzales took out two insurance policies totaling a $105,000. Then, shortly before boarding the flight to Reno, he displayed his gun to numerous friends at the airport and told one person he intended to shoot himself. He then boarded the flight to Reno, with a ticket to return the next day aboard Pacific Air Lines Flight 773. Newspaper accounts of the time give conflicting total amounts, but Gonzales may have had as much as $160,000 in life insurance at the time of the crash. That was a small fortune at the time especially considering it was an era when an average home in the San Francisco Bay Area could be bought for less than $25,000.

Once in Reno, Gonzales spent the night visiting various gambling establishments. At one place a casino employee asked how he was doing, to which Gonzales replied, "It would not make any difference after tomorrow." Several people recalled seeing Gonzales carrying a small package while in Reno. A janitor at a gambling club where Gonzales was known to have spent a part of the evening discovered a cardboard carton for a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver and a gun cleaning kit in the wastepaper container. Both of these items were identified later by the seller as part of Gonzales' purchase on the preceding evening.

Then is was time for the return trip. Gonzales went to the airport, and boarded the plane which was headed first for a stop in Stockton, when on to San Francisco. According to witnesses who got off the plane in Stockton, Gonzales was seated right behind the cockpit door.

But Gonzales didn't act immediately. Why didn't he act sooner while the airliner was over the Sierras? Why did he wait until the airliner was almost to San Francisco? We'll probably never know. But about the time the Fairchild F-27A (N2770R) with 43 other souls aboard, started to descend for its landing, Gonzales pulled out his gun and kicked his way into the cockpit.  Once in there, he raised the gun and put a bullet into the back of the pilot's head.  Ernest Clark, 52, was dead. At 6:48 the aircraft radioed its last message. First officer Raymond Andress was heard saying, "Skipper's shot.  We've been shot.  Trying to help."  There were more shots as Gonzales turned to the co-pilot and shot him.

The twin-engine plane went into a steep, uncontrolled, high speed descent to crash into a hill and explode near San Ramon early in the morning of May 7, 1964.  All 44, 41 passengers and 3 crew members, were dead on impact.

There was a large crater with debris spread over a very large area. In the wreckage, along with personal belongings, a bible and papers, investigators found the .357. All six shots had been fired.

Check-six.com

 
 

Investigations: Death Wish

Time.com

Friday, Nov. 06, 1964

In terse, flat language, a Civil Aero nautics Board investigative report last week laid down its chilling conclusion: "The total evidence clearly indicates that the captain and first officer of Flight 773 were shot by a passenger. As a result, the uncontrolled aircraft began the descent which ended in impact with the hill."

Forty-one passengers and a crew of three, on Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 bound from Reno to San Francisco, had died in a pyre of flaming gasoline on the morning of last May 7, when the plane plunged into a hill near San Ramon, Calif. Amid the wreckage, investigators found a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver containing six empty cartridges. Soon they learned that the weapon had been purchased in San Francisco the night before by Francisco Paula Gonzales, 27, a San Francisco warehouse man long besieged by marital and financial problems.

Naming the Dates. As they dug deeper into the warped world of Frank Gonzales, investigators discovered that he had been bent on suicide and had broadcast the fact far and wide. "Mr. Gonzales had advised both friends and relatives that he would die on either Wednesday, the 6th of May, or Thursday, the 7th of May," said the CAB report. "He referred to his impending death on a daily basis throughout the week preceding the accident."

They learned that when he left San Francisco for Reno the evening of May 6, he was carrying the revolver and that he had purchased $105,000 worth of insurance at the airport. They learned that during his night of gambling after he reached Reno, he had told a casino employee that he didn't care how much he lost because "it won't make any difference after tomorrow."

When Flight 773 took off from Reno at 5:54 the next morning, Gonzales was aboard. During the flight, Pilot Ernest A. Clark, 52, and Copilot Ray E. Andress, 31, radioed reports of routine conditions. They landed on schedule at Stockton, Calif., took off again at 6:38 a.m. after two passengers had deplaned and ten had come aboard to finish the trip to San Francisco. For ten minutes out of Stockton, all went normally. Then, reports the CAB, "at 06:48:15, a high-pitched message was heard and recorded on the Oakland Approach Control tape." It was garbled. The controller snapped: "Say again." There was no answer. Even after laboratory analysis of the radio tape, the best the investigators could do was come up with a message: "Skipbers shot. We're ben shot. Tryin' ta help."

Without Question. Flight 773 had plunged to earth. At 6:51 a.m., a United Air Lines pilot made his radio report: "There's a black cloud of smoke coming up through the undercast. Looks like oil or gasoline fire." At the scene, investigators found the cockpit had been demolished. But on a bit of tubing from the pilot's seat, they discovered a small, lead-scarred dent caused by a bullet. Said the report: "Measurements place the bullet indentation directly in line of fire between the captain's back and anyone standing in the aisleway between and slightly to the rear of the captain's and first officer's seats."

To the CAB there could be no question: Frank Gonzales had shot both men from behind and he had gratified his demented wish to die that day in a horrifying act of multiple murder.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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