Narragansett Bay – July 19, 1918
On July 19, 1918, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Arthur F. Souther, 22, was test flying a new aircraft over the west passage of Narragansett Bay when the plane abruptly dove into the water from an altitude of 100 feet. Lt. Souther was conducting a speed test at the time of the accident, and the plane struck with such force that it broke apart on impact and Lt. Souther was killed instantly.
The new aircraft was a Gallaudet D-4, (Ser. # A-2653), an experimental sea plane, one of two produced by Gallaudet Aircraft Corporation which once had a factory on Chepiwanoxet Island on Cowesett Bay, on the Warwick-East Greenwich line.
Witnesses reported the aircraft began to sway back and forth and the elevators were seen to flutter moments before the crash. Lt. Souther had flown the same airplane without incident three times prior to the fatal crash.
Lt. Souther had begun his duties as a test pilot for Gallaudet only a few days prior to his death. He succeeded the previous test pilot, famous aviator Jack McGee, who was killed in another aircraft he was testing for Gallaudet on June 11, 1918.
Lt. Souther had enlisted in the air service in 1917, and was designated Navy Aviator #239 on January 2, 1918. He’s buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. His father was the late Major Souther of the United States Signal Corps.
To learn more about Gallaudet Aircraft and the D-4 sea plane(s), see www.earlyaviators.com, Gallaudet D-1. Site also has photographs.
Providence Journal, “Lieut Arthur F. Souther Killed In Speed Trail With Navy Plane”, July 20, 1918. (Article contributed by Patricia Zacks.)
Providence Journal, “Naval Officials Start Inquiry Into Death Of lieut. Souther”, July 21, 1918. (Article contributed by Patricia Zacks.)
www.findagrave.com, memorial #48882528