Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West



The wreckage of a missing Lockheed T-33A jet trainer has been found in the ocean off Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

In May 2009, members of working in cooperation with located the T-33 wreck while doing a sonar survey for a different aircraft, a missing P-51D Mustang fighter presumed lost at sea October 26, 1944. The pilot of the P-51D was WASP Gertrude V. Tompkins-Silver.

In the months following the T-33A discovery, a series of dives were conducted at the site to gather photographic evidence to verify identification of the plane.  A diver observed a stamped part number on a single piece of wreckage that was later confirmed to be from a T-33A.  The remains of an Allison J-33 turbo jet engine, also observed at the site, are consistent with this missing trainer.

Further investigation revealed U.S. Air Force T-33A reported lost from Los Angeles International Airport on October 15, 1955 with two crewmen aboard.  The aircraft was presumed lost at sea shortly after takeoff. This is the only reported loss of a T-33A in the area.

All information surrounding this case was sent to the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Command (JPAC) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The names of the pilots are 1st Lt. Richard M. Theiler, and 1st Lt. Paul D. Smith.

G. Pat Macha, media relations


Cell (714) 345-9210

(updated February, 2010)



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