Air accident in San Diego reminds us of Alfredo Salazar

December 15th, 2008

In 1937 Alfredo Salazar managed to crash his damaged plane in an unpopulated area of Miraflores.

Just a few days ago a horrible accident occured in San Diego, United States, when a US F-18 fighter jet plummeted into a residential zone, destroying homes and killing four people including two children. The pilot had ejected seconds before.

A similar tragedy almost occured in Peru 71 years ago. A plane completely in flames was heading was falling rapidly over the skies of Lima, heading towards Miraflores – then only a sea-side town found at the end of Av. Arequipa.

The pilot decided to remain with the aircraft, managing to crash just outside town in an unpopulated area, sacrificing his life to do so.

Potez 12

Potez 12 as flown by Salazar

This happened in pre-war years, when development of military aircraft was in full swing. It was this year, 1937, that Lima was hosting the Inter-American Technical Conference of Aviation, which as part of the event included a public display of aircraft from various attending countries.

On the 14th of September, as part of the training taking place in preparation for the show, a group of aeroplanes from the Cuerpo de Aviación del Perú – what was then the air force of Peru – had launched from Las Palmas Air Base for some practice flights over the skies of the capital.

Monument to Salazar

Monument to Salazar

One pilot, Alfredo Salazar Southwell, soon began having problems with his two seater monoplane. A plume of black smoke appeared, then the entire fuselage burst into flames. With great skill, Salazar managed to keep the disintegrating plane under control. His co-pilot, Carlos Fajardo, who parachuted from the plane under his commander’s orders, told that Salazar remained completely calm and collected.

The Peruvian pilot attempted to move away from populated areas while gravity pulled him towards the earth. He never lost control, eventually ploughing into an area of Miraflores near the cuartel San Martín.

The people of Miraflores witnessed the crash, and Salazar’s heroic efforts to prevent loss of life, and paid homage to the man by erecting a monument at the end of Avenida Larco in his honour. Designed by Hungarian artist Lajos d’Ebneth, it consists of the head of a condor, alert and ready.

The location, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean was turned into a park named Parque Salazar, today better known as the location of the LarcoMar shopping centre. The monument still stands.

Salazar isn’t the only Peruvian who heroically crashed his plane, read about Quiñones here.

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