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Aviation Archaeology Research Projects

AAIR has six different research projects that you can get involved with:

1) Database of Recorded Aircraft Crash Sites
2) AAIR Database of all US military accidents
3) Oral and Photographic History Collection of Aircraft Crash Sites
4) Aircraft Part Number Prefixes
5) Aircraft Inspection stamps
6) Aircraft Mod Plates


1) The Database of Recorded Aircraft Crash Sites

The database is actually a depository of completed Historic Aircraft Crash Site Report Forms. Until now there has not been a single depository of reports completed by aviation archaeologists. There are many people doing research, but very few results of that research are compiled at one place. Furthermore, each researcher keeps a separate database, many of these records overlap and research is repeated by different parties. It is a shame to see all of this research completed, but not put to use. AAIR will provide a central database where researchers can store their information and it will be available to other researchers or family members. While AAIR's research is primarily military crashes in the Western United States, this database will include any US military as well as any airliner accidents over 30 years old and any civilian accidents over 50 years old. AAIR does not give out exact locations. In an effort to help preserve these sites we only give out general locations, which should be good enough for most research. We do make some exceptions for nationally accredited museums, historical societies, government agencies or firms working on government projects, and next of kin. See our Why AAIR Does Not Give Out Exact Locations page. You can become involved in this project by filling out a Historic Aircraft Crash Site Report Form on any crash you visit and sending it to AAIR. This form is a cross between the California Archaeological Site Record and the National Transportation Safety Board's Aviation Accident Factual Report Form.


2) AAIR Database of all US Military Accidents

AAIR is looking for volunteers to assist with the databases. While the databases contain tens of thousands of records, they are far from complete! We need volunteers to assist by going through the microfilm and entering the information into a spreadsheet. To assist, one must have Excel and a microfilm or fiche viewer which can be picked up on eBay for about $25.


3) Oral and Photographic History Collection of Aircraft Crash Sites

With these older crashes many of the witnesses, the response crew, and the crew members who survived are passing on. AAIR is trying to record this history before it is too late. If you know anyone who was involved in or witnessed an historic (see above) aircraft accident, please interview them while recording it on tape (audio or video) or at least have them write down their memory of the accident. We are also looking for original accident scene photos and photos of pilots who were involved in accidents (fatal or nonfatal). We would also like to preserve any photos taken of an aircraft that was later destroyed in an accident.


4) Aircraft Part Number Prefixes

Each manufacturer assigned an individual prefix to each type of aircraft that they produced. AAIR is trying to record these numbers in order to help identify crash sites where very little remains. By finding a small part that has the part number stamped on it, one can identify the site. AAIR is looking for copies of aircraft parts manuals. We would like to make copies of the cover page, any pages that talk about the part numbering system and the numeric index in the back. Or, when you are at a crash site of a known type, write down the prefix number you find. Note that items such as sensors, electric motors, radios, or engine parts are not made by the aircraft manufacturer and the part number prefixes on them will not indicate the aircraft type.



In the top picture, the 170- prefix indicates an F-86 and below the 32- indicates an F-4. Note how these are stamped into the metal.


This is a long number, but the first two digits, 19, indicate a P-38. Note faint Lockheed inspection stamp to the right.

The 74- indicates a BT-13. Note how this is a raised number from the casting.


The 162 followed by a letter indicate a PBM .


The top number is the part number, but the bottom is a useless casting number! 114 is from the P-80 family.

Some part numbers are ink stamped on, such as this Skyraider part.

See Aviation Archaeology Resources for a listing of the part number prefixes.


5) Aircraft Inspection stamps

Because different manufacturers' part numbers overlap, it is necessary to identify the manufacturer as well as the part number prefix. When you are at a crash site of a known type, sketch any inspection stamps that you find along with the prefix numbers they relate to.

Sample Inspection Stamps

See Aviation Archaeology Resources for a listing of Aircraft Inspection Stamps.


6) Aircraft Mod Plates

On mod plates there is a spot marked SER. NO. On several North American Aircraft the number in this spot matched the North American serial number (not the USAF serial number). However, on the majority of mod plates that we have found the numbers do not match. Does any one know what this number is for? We are currently noting this number on all mod plates that we find to see how many match the manufacturer's serial number.


Manufacturer's Plate. Note Manufacturer's number 191-311. 191 is the prefix for an F-86F and 311 is the manufacturer's serial number. Photo courtesy of Lost Birds

This mod plate is from the same aircraft. Note that the SER. NO. matches, it is 311. Photo courtesy of Lost Birds
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