Brooklyn, CT – August 4, 1986

Brooklyn, Connecticut – August 4, 1986

 

TBM-3E Avenger National Archives Photo

TBM-3E Avenger
National Archives Photo

     On August 4, 1986, a former U.S. Navy TBM-3E Avenger (With civilian registration N6581D) took off from Danielson Airport in Danielson, Connecticut, en-route to Florida for its annual inspection.  Shortly after takeoff the engine began to sputter and skip, and then the aircraft began trailing black smoke.  On witness told state police that the plane was low over the tree tops, and when the engine quit, the plane rolled over and crashed upside-down and exploded.  

     The plane crashed in a wooded-swampy area off Route 6, and firefighters had to clear a path to the site.  It then took four hours to put out the flames because they were fed by the magnesium metal used in the plane’s construction.

     The lone pilot, Charles A. Sewell, 56, of Setauket, Long Island, N.Y. was killed.  Sewell was a highly decorated former U.S. Marine Corps pilot having served in both Korea and Vietnam with 330 combat missions to his credit, and more than 10,000 hours flying time. 

     During his 20-year military career he earned the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Corsses, fifteen Air Medals, and two Purple Hearts.  He retired a lieutenant colonel 1969, went to work for Grumman Aircraft on Long Island.  Within two years became their chief test pilot, and was still employed as such at the time of his accident.

     Investigators who examined the wreckage determined that the #8 and #10 piston heads each had a hole burned through them, and others showed signs of head damage.  The last inspection on the plane had been conducted September 7, 1983, and the aircraft had been issued a special permit for this flight.

Sources:

New York Times, “Grumman’s Chief Test Pilot Dies In Crash Of World War II Bomber”, August  5, 1986.   

NTSB brief #NYC86FA196, microfiche #33675  

 

 

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