Posted by: blueridgetreks | January 4, 2009

Piedmont DC3 Flight 349 Wreck


See The Hook Magazine 10/8/2009 edition for a 50th Anniversary Story on Flight 349.

October 30, 1959 changed the lives of many familes as Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 flew into the side of Bucks Elbow Mountain just west of the town of Crozet, VA. The crew of 3 and 23 of 24 passengers were killed in this crash.

DC3 - Similar to Flight 349

DC3 - Similar to Flight 349

The cause of the accident was determined to be: “A navigational omission which resulted in a lateral course error that was not detected or corrected through precision instrument flying procedures. A contributing factor to the accident may have been the pre-occupation of the captain resulting from mental stress.” – ICAO Circular 64-AN /58 (68-75).

I had found coordinates for this crash site just before the Christmas Holiday and decided to try and find it. The first attempt failed as those coordinates were for the DC3 Memorial that is located in Mint Springs Valley Park. We came home and found a second set of coordinates that looked to be 1.5 miles North-West of the memorial as described in the website that gave us the DC3 Memorial coordinates. Six days later we returned and found the wreck.

DC3 Wing Section

DC3 Wing Section

This was a tough hike to find the wreck site that I did on 12/31/2008 with a friend and my nephew. The new coordinates were still about 900 feet off but after about 30 mins of scouring the area we finally found it. In fact, there was a trail of orange survey ribbons that led down past the wreckage back to a trail we had been on earlier in our hike. The wing section was the biggest part of the plane that we saw but there were many other parts, some still with the recognizable blue color of Piedmont Airlines.

DC3 Wreck - Piedmont Blue

DC3 Wreck - Piedmont Blue

The story behind the sole survivor, Phil Bradley is quite interesting. He was a WW2 Veteran and received the Bronze Star for his part in the Normandy Invasion. According to, Mr. Bradley was in his seat with serious injuries for about 2 days prior to the first rescuers reaching the site. In 1999 Mr. Bradley dedicated a memorial in honor of  those who died in the crash.

DC3 Memorial

DC3 Memorial

I felt privileged to find this crash site and to find out about the life of the sole survivor, definitely a member of “The Greatest Generation”.  For additional photos of the crash site visit my webshots site, choose Bucks Elbow Album.


  1. Thanks you for posting this. My maternal Grandfather Julian Nardi died on this flight 3 years before I was born.

  2. I want to lead a hiking group up there this sping. Could you supply the correct GPS coordinates.

  3. I have been asked to take some aerial images of the site, depicting the suggested flight path of the aircraft. Does anyone have the real coordinates for this crash site?

  4. My father-in-law is E. Phil Bradley, Sr. “The Sole Survivor”. He will be 83 on May 19th and we are planning a 50th ceremony. Please contact us if you have any comments/suggestions. Thank you for your interest!

  5. My Uncle was on this fateful flight – Nyle Bischel. I was three years old when the plane went down, and the impact on our family was very traumatic. My grandparents never got over the loss of Nyle, and many trips to Illinois as a child always included a visit to his grave. The story I heard is that he and several colleagues from Babcock and Wilcox had missed their original flight from Washington DC to Charlottesville. Nyle was involved at that time with work on the first freighter to be nuclear powered – the USS Savannah. He was a mechanical engineer and had graduated from Purdue. I made a stop to visit the Memorial on March 29th during a business trip to the east coast. I found out about the Memorial several years ago during an internet search and found Mr. Bradley, his book, and the story behind the Memorial. Quite frankly, it is a terrific and perpetual memorial to the people that died in this crash almost 50 years ago. They may be gone, but people need to know they are NOT FORGOTTEN. Thank you again to Mr. Bradley for placing this Memorial in such a beautiful park.

  6. My grandfather died on this flight, leaving behind my mother when she was a child. I didn’t know the wreckage was still there; I may have to visit some time.

    Coincidentally I was born 26 years after the crash on October 30th.

  7. My father, Lee Haley, was the co-pilot and I was 4 1/2 years old when he died. He left behind a wife, myself and my brother.

    Thank you so much for doing this. This is the first time I have seen these photos and I’m almost 55.

    God Bless all of you.

  8. I am the pilot who decided to re-enact the government’s flight path theory in July, 2009. I did this to collaborate with Hawes Spencer for his article. After reading the reports and making the flight, I am very skeptical of the government’s findings and theory as to why the accident occurred, based upon their own “facts”.

    I too will be at the memorial looking forward to meeting Mr. Bradley and surviving family members of the passengers and crewmembers. In particular, by making this flight, I hope that there may be some closure for them, as to whether or not the official report from the government was indeed sufficiently accurate to have closed the accident file

  9. My grandfather died on this flight, David Findlay. My mother was two when he died, with three older sisters. I have Phil Bradley’s book, and tried hiking the trail in 2004 to find the wreckage, but was unsuccessful. I am hoping to hike it again, and maybe find the wreckage! My grandmother was hoping I could find the wreckage so I could take her too! She is determined. Thank you so much to everyone who remembers, and to Mr. Bradley for making the beautiful memorial!

  10. Private photos of the 1959 rescue:

    A real nice photo show of Mr. Bradley and the service:

  11. Dear Sir !

    I was just a young boy at the age of 16 when we were watching TV and there was a special News report.. It said a flight that left Lynchburg , Virginia about 20 minutes from where we live had crashed into the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains and they thought all did perish, it was later when thay said that there was one man who came out such a horrible crash..Later they said it was Phil Bradley.. Time sure has passed fast since that cold October day in 1959… God Bless you. Hermon

  12. I came upon the story of the crash of Flight 349 while doing research for my family tree. My cousin’s husband, Sherman Bristow, was one of the three DuPont employees who died in the crash. Sherman was a newlywed; he married my cousin, Anne, in January 1959. What an awful tragedy for those families!

  13. Survivor’s return: Bradley and vintage DC-3 coming to CHO

  14. Safety concerns cancel Crozet plane crash commemoration
    From Daily Progress staff reports
    Published: April 30, 2010

    An Albemarle County event that would have featured the sole survivor of a Crozet plane crash that happened more than 50 years ago has been canceled, officials announced Friday.

    Event organizers said the aged DC-3 aircraft that was supposed to transport Phil Bradley, the lone survivor of Piedmont Airlines Flight 349, has a brake problem for which replacement parts are not readily available. The problem derails the commemorative event’s planned stops in Lynchburg and at the Char-lottesville-Albemarle Airport.

    Bradley would have been in Albemarle on Wednesday, arriving in a plane virtually identical to the one he crashed in roughly five decades ago. The plane is owned by the Carolinas Historic Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

    Bradley will still make an appearance at Liberty University.

    On Oct. 30, 1959, the Piedmont Airlines flight left the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for Roanoke and had scheduled stops in Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Amid rain and fog, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain in Crozet. Bradley was the only one of the 27 people on board to survive.

  15. Attempted hike today 01/13/13 and got close to intersection 4 from a topo map I downloaded. The orange marking flags seemed to disappear at that point. I lost the trail at an old barbed wire fence boundry. Trail is hard and at times a scramble. Any information people can provide to help recover the route would be great!

  16. To all who lost loved one on this flight I offer my sincere condolences. My father was scheduled to be on this flight and was prevented by my birth on 10/30/1959. He tells me that one of his co-workers went in his place. I am interested in finding out who this person was. It was one of: Thomas Hubert Fox III, Robert M. Brown, William G. Findlay or Nyle A. Bischel.

    • Randy,
      I am reading this story out of pure interest and came across your comment. Wow. I wonder how it must feel to know that your own birth prevented your fathers death. What a tragedy though, that the co-worker perished. I wonder how your father felt? I hope he didn’t think of it too much.


    • My Uncle was on the flight – Nyle A. Bischel and I don’t recall any stories about him attending in someone place. I will look into it and see if I can get any answers.

      • I look forward to hearing what you find out. My father only spoke of it once to me, I can’t even imagine how he must have felt.

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