Skymaster Down

The mystery of a U.S. troop plane that went missing without a trace in the Yukon with 44 people on board.

On January 26, 1950, taking off in frigid cold with precious few hours of daylight, a US Airforce troop plane left Anchorage for Montana with 44 people on board. The crew of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster #2469 was supposed to check in every half-hour along the route. As the aircraft crossed into Yukon, they radioed the tiny outpost of Snag to say that there was ice forming on the wings, but otherwise, all was well.

After that, the Skymaster disappeared. And to this day no sign of the aircraft or its passengers has ever been found.

Skymaster Down is a decades-old mystery that still defines the families of those 44-missing people. The US Air Force staged one huge, unsuccessful search operation immediately after the plane was lost.

The original Skymaster.
The original Skymaster.

Day by day, in the winter of 1950, newspapers around the world carried stories about the Skymaster, the passengers and the desperate rescue operation. The Yukon was covered with heavy snow as the temperatures plunged. US and Canadian aircraft flew grid patterns all along the flight path with spotters peering through frosted windows. It was chaotic — four of the search planes crashed.

A few weeks later, all the US military aircraft were rerouted to the Gulf of Alaska to search for a missing bomber carrying a nuclear warhead. The families of the 44 missing with the Skymaster received death certificates. And the USAF never went back to the Yukon to search again.

The Douglas C-54 Skymaster had four engines, a 100’ wingspan, and a 26’ high tail fin. Even in the massive expanse of the Yukon wilderness, it would be hard to hide a plane that big. Is it in a lake? At the bottom of a valley? Is there a chance that it flew off course and crashed into the mountains?

There is a database of over 500 known airplane wrecks in the territory. All have been located, visited and accounted for. But the Skymaster remains stubbornly lost.

Skymaster Down tells the stories of the victim’s families and takes the audience north, where even today an intrepid group of Yukoners strive to give those families closure by going out and searching every summer, ever hopeful that the Skymaster will finally turn up.

Judy Jackson's father was the radio operator on the missing aircraft.
Judy Jackson's father was the radio operator on the missing aircraft.

Imagine if a mysterious plane crash heavily weighed on your own family story — that generations have been left to wonder will we ever find out what happened? Not knowing becomes an affliction.

Skymaster Down is a story that has almost been lost in time; it’s a tale hardly anyone knows about anymore. It’s one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in Canadian history, set against one of the world’s most spectacular and deadly landscapes, with a cast of fascinating and heartbreaking characters.