Charleston, Maine – May 16, 1949
On the morning of May 16, 1949, a flight of four U.S. Air Force F-84 jets was scheduled to take off from Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, for a routine training mission. Shortly before take off, the pilot of one aircraft advised the flight leader that the tail pipe temperature gauge on his F-84 wasn’t working. He was advised to change aircraft, and while he was doing so, the other three F-84’s took off.
After being assigned another F-84, (#45-59538A), the pilot took off and was going to rejoin the other three F-84’s, but was advised against doing so, and ordered to fly solo around the Bangor area. After flying for about an hour, the pilot noticed another flight of three F-84’s from his squadron and according to the air force investigation report, “in accordance with an unwritten squadron SOP. joined the formation.”
The pilot moved into the number four position of the three ship formation, however he never radioed the flight leader, and the flight leader didn’t ask for identification. What followed next was a case of follow the leader, and after the flight went through a series of aerobatic maneuvers, it was noticed that the fourth plane was no longer with them. The missing aircraft wasn’t immediately reported as the flight leader assumed the fourth plane had run out of fuel and returned to base. In reality, the missing F-84 had crashed and exploded in the town of Charleston. The other three F-84’s returned to base without incident.
Exactly what occurred to the fourth plane is unclear. The last thing the pilot remembered was beginning a series of rolls, and then waking up on the ground with a civilian doctor administering to his injuries which had evidently been obtained when he bailed out of the aircraft.
Investigators discovered that the entire left wing, the right wing outboard panel, empennage, and canopy, were not at the crash site. These were later found in a heavily wooded swampy area, indicating they may have broken free while the aircraft was in flight or while it was falling.
Source: Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #49-5-16-1