The Connecticut Aircraft Company

The Connecticut Aircraft Company – Established 1914 

Click on images to enlarge. 

The Sun, (N.Y.) March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, May 2, 1914

The Sun, May 2, 1914

     Click her to see article about the first U. S. Navy Airship built by the Connecticut Aircraft Company

The Daily Star-Mirror, December 12, 1916

     Click here for article about 1916 Navy Dirigible

Bridgeport Times, September 1, 1921, page 1


Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company

Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company


Curtiss Jenny Airplane

 The Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company was established sometime around 1920 by Lieutenant Paul Robinson of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, formerly of Brookline, Mass.  His airplane was a Curtis Jenny which had a logo painted on the sides. 

     In the autumn of 1920, Lt. Robinson donated his services to the Caledonian – Record newspaper of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to assist with announcing the results of the 1920 Presidential election.  It was reported that on November 3rd he would fly his airplane at a low altitude over the towns located in the counties of Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans, with a colored circle painted on the bottom wings.  Citizens would know by the color which candidate had been elected President.   A black circle would mean that Democratic candidate Governor James M. Cox, won, and a red circle would mean that Republican Senator Warren G. Harding won.  The St. Johnsbury Caledonian reported in part, “The color scheme is best suited to the eye and carries no political significance”.  

     This was a time before the instant-up-to-the-minute media coverage that we’re used to today, and a time before people had radios in their homes.    


     On Saturday, October 30, 1920, Lt. Robinson gave a stunt flying exhibition over St. Johnsbury in celebration of “Merchant’s Day” in view of 10,000 spectators.   A friend identified as “Al” Martin accompanied him on the flight.

     In reference to the performance, the Caledonian – Record reported in part, “Pilot Robinson came up over the valley shortly after three o’clock and circled over the town for a few moments before he commenced his exhibition.  The first thing on the program was a spiral dive, followed by three loops in succession.  His catalogue of stunts is a large one and he executed them all much to the enjoyment of the huge throng below.  At times he flew so low that both men could be seen plainly with the naked eye while at other times he soared so high that his plane was almost lost from view.”   


     St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “Airplane To Give Winner Of Election”, October 27, 1920. 

     Caledonian – Record, “Aviator Thrills 10,000 People With Stunts”, November 1, 1920 




Bridgeport’s Aerodrome – 1911


    Bridgeport’s Aerodrome, as it was called, began as a trotting park for horses in 1887.   The following newspaper article appeared in The Sun, (N.Y.),  on October 21, 1887.


     Bridgeport, Oct. 20. – The Bridgeport Driving Club are holding their first annual meeting at the trotting park in this city, and the attendance is sufficient to warrant the successful carrying out of a project which has for some time been in contemplation by the club.  The refusal of the title to 100 acres of ground in West Stratford, close to the tracks of the New York and New Haven Railroad has been secured, and the plan is to establish a first-class park for trotting and for fair purposes.  The Bridgeport Driving Club is composed mostly of members of the Seaside Club, an organization of 500 of the wealthy and representative men of the city, and if negotiations are closed the scheme will be carried out in a way that is creditable to the club and the city.     



Vintage postcard view of a
Curtiss Airplane

     According to newspaper sources of the day, the trotting park came to be known as Nutmeg Park.  In early 1911 it was purchased by Christopher J. Lake who wanted to turn it into an air field with the intention of promoting technological advances in aviation.  It was his hope that inventors would use the field to experiment with their newly designed aircraft and thus make Bridgeport an important center for aviation development.      

     On March 4, 1911, the Norwich Bulletin announced that the Bridgeport Aerodrome would open in May of that year.  Under the heading of “Condensed Telegrams” the announcement read: “Announcement was made that the Bridgeport Aerodrome will be formally opened in May with a three days’ aviation meeting under the direction of Glenn H. Curtiss.”  

     Plans for converting and improving the former trotting park advanced rapidly.   Mr. Lake planned for a grand opening celebration in the form of an airshow which was originally scheduled for May 18, 19, and 20.  (The dates were later changed to May 11, 12, and 13.)  Such aerial exhibitions were a rarity for the time.  The Boston-Harvard Aero Meet, the first of its kind in America, had been held only a year earlier, and had proven quite successful, and drew large crowds.

     The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on March 23, 1911.  



Bridgeport Aerodrome Ad – 1911

     Thomas T. Tuttle, of New York, personal representative of Glenn H. Curtis, the aviator announced this morning that the first aviation meet to be held in Connecticut will be held here on May 18, 19, and 20 under the personal direction of Mr. Curtiss.  Mr. Tuttle was accompanied by Mr. Christopher J. Lake who announced that he had arranged to have the meets held at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, formerly Nutmeg Driving Park.  Mr. Lake, who is perfecting a flying machine of his own, is the owner of the field.

     Mr. Curtiss will be accompanied by James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachey, the celebrated airmen, and the event will be open to all who desire to enter.

     A number of organizations including the Aero Club of Connecticut, the Automobile Club of Bridgeport, the Board of Trade, the Businessmen’s Association, the Manufacturers’ Association, will be asked to co-operate in making the event a success.  The members of the Aero Club will be invited to take charge of the field and the recording of all events.

     Mr. Tuttle said: “The Bridgeport meet will be the first that  Mr. Curtiss will appear at in the east this Spring.  he will bring his new type of machine, recently developed at San Diego, Cal., and we also hope to have the “Hudson Flyer”.  the latter is the machine in which Mr. Curtiss flew from Albany to New York last June.

     “Mr. McCurdy is the man who was the fourth to fly in the United States.  For a long time he was associated with Mr. Curtiss, Lieut. Selfridge, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, and F. W. Baldwin in aeronautic experiments with stations at Hammonsport, N.Y., and Baddek, N.S.  He has been a flyer since 1898 and is the holder of the endurance and long distance records of Canada as well as being president of the Aero Club of Canada.  McCurdy is the first man who ever sent a wireless telegram from a flying machine.

     “Beachy recently made his debut on the Pacific Coast as a flying machine man.  For years he was interested in aeronautics and was known as a balloonist.  Last week he established a record by remaining in the air for 18 hours, an average of 2 1/2 hours a day.

     “The Bridgeport Aerodrome is a far better field for an aeroplane course than Belmont Park and excels any spot in the North and East for aeroplane purposes.

     “The international course, 31-10 miles to the lap can be had here without going over trees or buildings.  Thi8s cannot be said even of the celebrated course at Rheims, France.    

     “The field is on the road from new York to Boston and there is ample parking space near the field.  There is seating capacity for about 6,000 at the field and this will be increased to take care of the crowds.  There will be special train arrangements made to bring people from other cities in the state and New York.  Wind checks will be issued on all days there are no flights.”

     Mr. C. J. Lake did not care to say whether he will have any surprise for the public when asked if he may enter one of his machines in the flying contests.  


     In May of 1911, The Mr. Thomas T. Tuttle mentioned in the above article, was hired by Mr. Lake to be the first general manager of the new aerodrome.    

     In April of 1911 it was announced that two more aviation celebrities would be attending the air show at the grand opening of the aerodrome.  They were, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, the navy’s first, and at that time, only, aviator, and U.S. Army Lieutenant James E. Fickel, the first man to fire a rife at targets from a moving airplane.  The dates of the event were also moved forward to May 11, 12, and 13.     

    The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on May 9, 1911.  


Carnival if Flying by Curtiss Aviators This Week Will Mark Opening of First Permanent Aerodrome in Country

     Today, Bridgeport began to come into its own as the center of aviation in America during the current week.    

Click on image to enlarge.

     Things are humming over at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, (formerly Nutmeg Park), where a big force of workmen are busy putting on the finishing touches preparatory to the great aviation carnival of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when Glenn Curtiss, James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachy, three of America’s foremost flyers will be the attraction, with Lt. Ellyson, the navy’s aeronautic expert, and Lieut. Fickel, the army’s aviator.

     Oscar Roesen, and electrical engineer and wireless expert, will arrive in Bridgeport tomorrow with the wireless equipment with which he expects to break the world’s record for sending messages from an aeroplane.  It is also likely that the first of the aeroplanes will arrive tomorrow.

     Today an aviator of national repute entered into negotiations with C. J. Lake, owner of the Aerodrome, for a five year lease of a hangar or aeroplane shed upon the field, intending to make the Bridgeport Aerodrome the base of all his experimental work and machine repairing and construction.

     Other aviators are likely to follow suit and Bridgewater bids fair to become the center of experimental aviation in America.

     Two hundred trees have been taken off the field in clearing it for use as an Aerodrome.  Yesterday an immense bonfire that almost approached the magnitude of a conflagration was made of the debris cleared off the field.

     To safeguard the people who come on foot, a special road has been constructed leading to the field , and traveling its entire circumference, for automobiles.  There is another road for pedestrians and thus the danger of accidents in the throngs which are sure to flock to the field has been averted.

     New seats accommodating 1,400 have been added to the already been added to the already capacious grandstand so that its total seating capacity now is several thousand.  In addition there is parking space for thousands of automobiles and standing room for a multitude.   

     Word is being received from a number of cities of the intending automobile runs and excursion crowds on the trains, and it is believed that the multitudes on the field,  the hundreds of automobiles and exciting features attendant upon such big gatherings will be a great attraction of the meet.    

     Experts declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome, built through the enterprise of Christopher J. Lake, is the finest in the country, surpassing the aviation fields at Belmont Park and Mineola.

     The Belmont park field is handicapped by the fact that the nearest machine shop is two miles distant, a big trundle for a disabled aeroplane.  At the Bridgeport Aerodrome, the machine shop is right on the field; furthermore it is equipped to handle and repair all makes of aeroplanes, a feature true of no other shop of its kind.

     Aviators who have flown abroad declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome is superior even to the famous field at Rheims, France, the scene of the great international flights.  The Rheims field is heavily encumbered with trees, “the graveyards of aviators.”  The Bridgeport field is notably free from these encumbrances and will be still further cleared, the work going forward steadily.

     By making separate roads for automobiles and pedestrians, Mr. lake has effectively solved the problem of handling immense crowds without the danger of frequent accidents.  Furthermore, ample parking space for automobiles has been provided the entire circumference of the grounds, and the machines will afford ideal vantage points from which to watch the flights.

     Pedestrians will be able to make use of the grand stand to great advantage, or of the standing room, all of which commands views of the start and finish, the most exciting and spectacular periods of the flights.

     As there will be from six to twelve flights daily, inter-spread with wireless telegraph experiments, target shooting with rifles, bomb-throwing from aeroplanes and other feats and spectacles, the crowds will be kept on edge from start to finish.  The aerial show each day will occupy about two hours and a half.

     The principal hangars of aeroplane sheds are located at the eastern end of the field.  As the prevailing winds in fair weather are west, it is most likely that the aeroplanes will start at the eastern end of the field from directly in front of the hangars and will fly directly across, furnishing beautiful views to the side lines on ascent and descent.

     After the exhibitions, the gates to the aeroplane fields will be opened, and the crowds will be allowed to inspect the machines at close range.            



Bridgeport Airport Dedication – 1929

  On July 5-6, 1929, the Bridgeport Aerodrome was re-dedicated as Bridgeport Airport, even though it is in the neighboring town of Stratford.  By 1934, it was also being referred to as Mollison Field in honor of famous aviator Jim Mollison who made an emergency crash-landing there on July 23, 1933.  On that date, Mr. Mollison and his wife were on their way from Wales to New York when their de Havilland Seafarer ran low on fuel.  After several aborted attempts to land at the airport, the plane was set down in a marshlands area where the Housatonic River empties into Long Island Sound.  Mr. and Mrs. Mollison were not seriously injured.        

     According to a 1934 U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Air Commerce publication, Bridgeport Airport had grown to include two gravel runways, one (N/S) being 2,800 feet long, and the other, (E/W), being 2,600 feet long.  The airport also has 24-hour facilities, and a rotating 24-inch beacon light.   

     In 1972 the Bridgeport Airport was re-dedicated the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport.   



Arthur Gould’s Vision Of The Future – 1926


Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine, February – 2013

By Jim Ignasher 

      Airplane illustrationThere was a time when the sound of an airplane motor buzzing overhead automatically caused one to look skyward, and Arthur Gould did just that whenever one passed over his farm on Ridge Road.  Not only would he study the aircraft for signs of needed repairs, but he would listen for indications the engine might be in need of fixing, or perhaps was low on fuel. His hopes rose one afternoon when a small plane circled several times at low altitude as if it might land, but disappointment set in when it veered away.  

     “Well,’ Gould likely thought, ‘Maybe he didn’t need anything today, but now that he knows I’m here, perhaps he’ll be back.”

      Sometimes it takes awhile for an idea to catch on.  At the dawn of the 20th Century, there were some who felt the automobile was nothing more than a passing fad for rich people, but Henry Ford predicted a time when it would become an indispensable means of travel.  When the Wright brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, few saw its practical applications, but the brothers believed a day would come when airplanes would travel sixty-miles per hour!  Where would we be today if not for forward thinkers?   

      Arthur C. Gould of Smithfield was a forward thinker who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit.  Born in 1865, he was a successful farmer, blacksmith, and wood worker; owned a prosperous ice business, and even dabbled in real estate. However, of all his economic ventures, the most innovative was his idea to open a business called “Flyers Haven” in August of 1926.  

     Flyers Haven was an “aircraft repair and service station”; perhaps the first and only business of its kind in New England; or at least in Rhode Island.  Basically, it was a place for passing airplanes to land for fuel or repairs much like a service station for automobiles.  Gould wasn’t trying to establish an airport, just a place for aircraft to make a quick stop if need be. 

     It was a novel idea for the time for the airplane was still relatively new, but Gould envisioned a day when they would dot the skies, and establishments such as his would be a welcome sight for those low on fuel much like a gas station along a highway is for a motorist.

      The 1920s was an exciting decade for aviation development.  Newspapers constantly ran stories of aircraft altitude, speed, and distance records being set and broken. It was also the era of a new breed of pilots known as “Barnstormers”; mostly ex World War I military pilots who found themselves out of work, and missing the action when war ended.  They would travel the countryside giving daring aerial exhibitions and offer rides to those willing to pay.  It was also a time when the first commercial airlines were being developed, and an international race was on to see who would be the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic.   

      Yet just because they flew, didn’t mean that airplanes were any more mechanically reliable than the automobiles of the day.  Although configured differently, both car and aircraft utilized oil-dripping, temperamental engines that required frequent maintenance and adjustments.  Gould knew first-hand about automobiles, for many years earlier he owned what he claimed to be the first car in Smithfield; a one cylinder Knox, produced by the long defunct Knox Automobile Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The Knox engine was dubbed the “porcupine” or “hedgehog” by many mechanics due to the many wires and other projections poking out of it.  While owning the only car in town, Gould discovered that it was difficult for a motorist who found himself stranded to locate things like gasoline and tires.  Recalling his experiences, he considered what it must be like for a modern aviator.   

      Thus an idea was born as Gould realized that airplanes, like cars, needed to re-fuel and be repaired.  An automobile with mechanical trouble could just coast to a stop at the side of the road, but the problem for an aviator in trouble was finding a safe place to land.  In the 1920s, airports, or more accurately, airfields, were few and far between, leaving many pilots to their own devices when it came to emergency landings.  Grassy fields could conceal hidden hazards such as logs, holes, or barbed wire fences, and landing on a tree lined road, or worse, one lined with telephone poles, carried even more risks.  Even if the pilot negotiated a safe landing, there was the formidable task of locating the high octane gas necessary for flight.  What Gould offered the troubled flyer was a full-service safe-haven.   

     Opening such a business required lots of elbow room, and Gould had it on his twenty-seven acre farm located between Douglas Pike and Ridge Road, behind present-day La Perche Elementary School.  The site was relatively flat and open.  It already had had an ice pond that could accommodate seaplane landings, and a barn that contained a blacksmith forge, a machine shop, and a wood-working shop.  All he needed to do was install a tank for aviation fuel.  

     To let passing airplanes know that he was open for business, Gould painted a large sign on the roof of his ice house that read, “Airplanes welcome to my farm, A.C. Gould”.  Although the letters were three feet tall, Gould realized they might be hard to read from high altitudes, so he created even larger signs in his meadow using white lime.  In lettering that was fifteen feet long Gould wrote, “A.C. Gould Farm Landing Field”, and “Aviation Gas”.  He also laid out a four-hundred foot long compass that pointed due north to aid any pilots who were just looking for directions.

    Gould received further advertising when a reporter from the Providence Journal went to his farm to interview him about his new enterprise.  He hadn’t had any customers as of yet, but he remained hopeful as he recalled the small plane which had circled his farm several times at a low altitude before flying off.  It was his hope that the pilot would tell others, who would then mark the location on their Department of Commerce maps.    

     Flyer’s Haven was not an airport, nor was it meant to be.  It was simply a place for a pilot to stop, re-fuel, check the oil, and be on his way.  Gould’s idea was a good one, and unique enough to be written about in the New York Times, but it seems he didn’t make much money from it. Perhaps as a man who looked towards the future, he was just a little too ahead of his time.  He passed away less that three years later on March 12, 1929 at the age of 63.


Forgotten Tales of North Central Airport


By Jim Ignasher

               Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine – March, 2012                 

Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

     North Central Airport opened in 1951, but how many know it was actually re-named Peters-Fournier Airport in 1953?  And who, by the way, were Peters and Fournier?  Theirs is but one of the forgotten tales connected to Smithfield’s state-owned airport which lies tucked away in the northeast corner of town.   

    Just as the invention of the automobile led to the necessity of the parking lot, the airplane created the need for airports.  The earliest “airports” were nothing more than grass fields, but the first airplanes didn’t require much space for take-offs and landings. 

     The advent of World War II led to the rapid advancement of aviation technology, for in just five short years the United States went from propeller driven planes to high-powered jets.  By wars end it was clear that small grassy airfields would no longer be adequate to handle modern post-war aircraft.   This led to the genesis of what later became Smithfield’s North Central Airport.

     Even before the end of the war, there were those in northern Rhode Island who were preparing for peacetime commerce, and those plans included the construction of a modern state-owned airport that could service the Blackstone Valley region.  In March of 1945, members of the Woonsocket and Pawtucket Chambers of Commerce met to discuss the feasibility of such an undertaking.  At that time, northern Rhode Island already had four airports. There was Smithfield Airport, located where Bryant University stands today; Montgomery Field in North Smithfield; What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket; and Woonsocket Airport.  All were considered for possible expansion, and each was rejected for different reasons.

     The proposed airport had to be located within easy access to Providence, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket, with room for future expansion.  A large area of mostly undeveloped land on the Smithfield-Lincoln town line seemed to fit the requirements, and by the summer of 1945 it was officially announced that the site for the present-day airport had been selected.  Understandably, not everyone supported the decision; especially those who stood to have their land taken under eminent domain by the state.  Despite any protests, within a year, 862 acres had been condemned, and the project was set to move forward.  However, due to political infighting, rising cost estimates, and problems with funding, actual clearing of the land didn’t begin until February of 1950.  Construction took another twenty-two months as costs ran higher than original estimates.  An interesting bit of trivia relates to the fact that twelve miles of electrical wire was installed during construction.     

     Dedication ceremonies took place on December 15, 1951.  Part of the celebration included a helicopter owned by New England Helicopter Service that carried 1,700 pieces of mail out of the airport to the Saylesville post office in Lincoln.  The mail contained souvenir cachets that received a special cancellation stamp before being mailed out.  Today, due to their rarity, these cachets are sought after by collectors.

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication  postal cover - December 15, 1951

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication postal cover – December 15, 1951

    North Central Airport gets its name for being in the northern-central portion of the state.  It couldn’t be called Smithfield Airport because that name was already in use.  Many are probably unaware that the airport actually has another name, although it is seldom if ever used.  In 1953, the airport was re-dedicated as the Peters-Fournier Airport in honor of Cranston native Private First Class George J. Peters, U.S. Army, and Connecticut native, Sergeant William G. Fournier, United States Marine Corps, both World War II Medal of Honor recipients.  (Sergeant Fournier was born in Connecticut, but lived a good portion of his life in Rhode Island.)

     Pfc. Peters was part of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment that landed in an open field near Fluren, Germany, on March 25, 1945.  Almost immediately an enemy machine gun opened fire on them killing several men.  The rest found themselves pinned down in the open with no place to hide as the gunner methodically swept the field with bullets.  With disregard for his own safety, Peters single-handedly attacked and silenced the machine gun, but was mortally wounded in the process.  His actions undoubtedly saved the lives of others in his unit.  Besides the airport, a school in Cranston is also named for him.  

     On June 28, 1943, during heavy fighting on Guadalcanal, Sergeant Fournier’s unit was attacked by overwhelming enemy forces and ordered to withdraw.  Fournier and another Marine, Lewis Hall, sacrificed their lives when they ignored the orders and stuck to their machine gun position to cover the retreat of their comrades.  Their gallantry saved the lives of many Marines who later re-grouped and counter attacked, eventually winning the battle. 

     On October 19, 1963, an air show sponsored by the Pawtucket Rotary Club was held at North Central which began with a skywriting greeting to the crowd of approximately 15,000 attendees.  Among the attractions were aerial stuntmen who performed wing-walks, precision flying, and daring transfers from moving vehicles to low flying airplanes.  One daredevil jumped from an altitude of two miles wearing a special suit that allowed him to perform a series of loops and whirls while trailing smoke before opening his parachute at a mere 1,500 feet.       

A view of North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I. - 2007

A view of North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I. – 2007

The airport has an administration building that hasn’t changed much since it was built.  In 1977 it was dedicated as the Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, the name of which can be seen over the main entrance from the parking lot.  Mr. Spooner was a native of Pawtucket, and former publisher of the (Pawtucket) Evening Times who was very influential in helping to make North Central Airport a reality. 

     As with any airport, North Central has seen its share of accidents; the total number of which may never be known for accurate record keeping did not exist before the 1960s.

     The first known accident occurred several months after the airport opened, on July 19, 1952, when a 29-year-old man was fatally injured when his plane crashed just after take-off in a cow pasture one-hundred feet beyond the runway.      

     Some accidents were the result of pilot error, such as the one which occurred in November of 1966, when the pilot forgot to lower his aircraft’s wheels before landing; or the piggy-back landing – midair collision that occurred in September of 1968 when two planes tried to land on the same runway at the same time.

     Other less notable accidents involved collapsed landing gear, aircraft overshooting the runway and crashing into trees, ground collisions, and the occasional “nose-over”.      

     On September 8, 1997, North Central Airport was the scene of one of Rhode Island’s most horrific civil aviation accidents in terms of loss of life, and the worst to ever occur at the airport, or in the town of Smithfield.   On that day, a Cessna 182E carrying a group of skydivers crashed on take-off killing five of the six people aboard.  One of those aboard was a twenty-one year-old Massachusetts woman who was making her first parachute jump.  Her parents and boyfriend had come to support her, one of whom carried a video camera that captured the crash on film.    

      For some unknown reason there seems to be a bit of confusion, at least for some, as to the exact location of the airport.   It’s hard to believe, but some sources have it listed as being in Pawtucket, while others think it’s in Lincoln, probably due to the Lincoln mailing address of 380 Jenckes Hill Road.  Posters advertising events at the airport in recent years have cited both locations.  To be fair, some of the undeveloped acreage is located in Lincoln, but just to set the record straight, the airport proper is definitely in Smithfield.     











Number of New England Aircraft And Pilots – 1930

     Number of New England Aircraft and Pilots – 1930

     On October 19, 1930, The New York Times announced that there were 8,893 licensed airplanes in the United States, and gave a breakdown if the number of aircraft, pilots, and gliders in each state.  For the purposes of this website, only the New England states will be mentioned.  

Connecticut: 126 aircraft, 162 pilots, 6 gliders.

Maine: 30 aircraft, 64 pilots, 1 glider.

Massachusetts: 206 aircraft, 436 pilots, 18 gliders.

New Hampshire: 26 aircraft, 44 pilots, 3 gliders.

Rhode Island: 36 aircraft, 41 pilots, no gliders.

Vermont: 17 aircraft, 26 pilots, no gliders.

Source: New York Times, “8,893 Airplanes Licensed By Nation”, October 19, 1930.

Airplane Used To Feed Birds – 1931

Aircraft Used To Feed Birds – Woonsocket, R.I. – 1931

     In February of 1931 it was reported that members of the Woonsocket Sportsman’s Club of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had employed an airplane pilot to fly over nearby woodlands and drop feed for game birds due to food shortages created by extreme winter weather over the previous six weeks.  Although such things had been tried in other states, it was believed this was a first for Rhode Island, and possibly New England.  

     The aircraft flown belonged to Woonsocket Airways Inc., piloted by Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, based at the now defunct Woonsocket Airport.  The plane made two trips during which 400 pounds of feed were dropped. 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Plane Used To Feed Wild Birds In This Section”, February 14, 1931, Pg. 1

Protest of Air Show – 1911

   Click on image to enlarge.

    On December 23, 1911, it was reported in the (Woonsocket) Evening Call newspaper that the Providence (RI) Council of the Knights of Columbus had registered a formal complaint against an aerial exhibition involving a “hydro-aeroplane”, scheduled for Christmas morning at Narragansett Park.  A letter was sent to Mayor Edward M. Sullivan asking that the air show be postponed until later in the day after church masses had been held.  Mayor Sullivan told the press that the flight would likely take place as scheduled. 


Connecticut Airplane Contest – 1912

Connecticut Airplane Contest – 1912

     On July 28, 1912, an aerial contest between two well known aviators, Charles K. Hamilton, and Nels J. Nelson, took place in the town of Berlin, Connecticut.  The well advertised event was attended by over 5,000 people.

     The first contest was the “testing of winds”.  Hamilton was in the air for three minutes and four seconds, while Nelson remained aloft for seven minutes and ten seconds. 

     The “quick starting” contest was held next.  Hamilton got off the ground in 311 feet, 9 inches, while Nelson’s airplane only required 172 feet, 9 inches to get airborne. 

     For the “bomb dropping” event, a target was placed on the ground and each aviator was to make a “bombing runs” at it using oranges.   On his first run, Nelson’s orange hit the ground 51 feet, 1 inch, from the target’s center, and 9 feet, 10 inches on his second.  His third orange hit 17 feet from the center.

     Meanwhile, Charles Hamilton’s oranges struck the ground 27 feet, 18 feet, and 47 feet, 8 inches, respectively.     

     The final contest involved flying a figure-eight in the air.  As Hamilton was starting to take off, an intoxicated man stepped in front of his aircraft and was struck in the head by one of the wings.  He was knocked to the ground and received a bad cut.  Once the man had received treatment, Hamilton took off, but only circled the airfield once due to wing damage from the accident.  After making some repairs, he completed his figure-eight over the judges in just 55 seconds.  Nelson completed his figure-eight in two minutes.       

     When all the scores were tallied, it was determined that the contest had resulted in a tie. 


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Aeroplane Duel Results In Tie”, July 29, 1912  



Aero Club Of Vermont -1916

Aero Club Of Vermont – 1916 

     The Aero Club of Vermont was formally established in Burlington, Vt., on July, 6, 1916.  It should be noted that there was another club with a similar name known as the “Vermont Aero Club”, which had been established in Rutland, Vt., in either 1908 or 1909.  Neither club is still active today, and it’s unclear if there was any link between the two, or if the former club merged with the latter.    

     While both clubs were open to those with an interest in aviation, it appears that the Rutland club (Vermont Aero Club) was established primarily for balloon ascensions, and the Burlington organization (Aero Club of Vermont) focused more on airplanes and state defense, and later on the establishment of airports. 

     The following Vermont newspaper articles relate to both organizations.  It has been noted that after July of 1916, the newspapers sometimes referred to the Aero Club of Vermont as the Vermont Aero Club.   


     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, April 14, 1908.    

Taken Up Ballooning

Rutland is the First Vermont Town to Form Aero Club 

     Rutland, April 12, – There is an indication that ballooning may supplant league base ball in Rutland this summer.  A meeting will be held tomorrow evening to discuss a movement to form an aero club, the idea of the business men who are at the bottom of the project being that the novelty of balloon ascensions would do more to advertise the city than base ball.  Rutland is the first Vermont town to spring an aero club, the incentive having been by the success of the North Adams and Pittsfield clubs.  


     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, June 23, 1909, page 1.  (The “aero club” referred to in this article is the Aero Club of America.)

Rutland To Be A Station

Notice Received That Aero Club Has Added Vermont City To Its List.

     Rutland, June 23, – That Rutland is to be added to the list of Aero club stations in New England, is announced in a letter just received by sec. H. W. Allen of the Rutland Improvement League from Charles J. Glidden, whose balloon, the Massachusetts, made a trip from this city to Gilmanton, N. H., last Friday.

     The letter states that the committee on balloons and ascensions has recommended this station to the Aero Club, and that official notice of the fact will be sent to all the clubs of the United States.     


     The following article appeared in the New York Tribune, July 21, 1909, page 7. 

     Aeronauts In Quick Descent

Pilot of Balloon Ascending From Pittsfield Says He Never Came Down Faster

     Winsted, Conn., July 20, – Winsted today witnessed a thrilling descent by three aeronauts.  William Van Sleet, pilot; C. T. Fairfield, of Rutland, Vt., publisher and editor of “The Rutland Evening News” and president of the Vermont Aero Club, and Professor Oswald Tower, of North Adams, teacher of science in Wesleyan Academy, Wilbraham, Mass.  The men ascended from Pittsfield, Mass., at 8:40 a.m.  When at an altitude of 8,900 feet the balloon started across the town and then suddenly began to drop.  So rapid was its descent that all three men were rendered deaf for half an hour.

     The party finally landed without accident on the farm of Daniel O’Neil, in Mooreville. All ballast in the car had been dumped to avert a landing in the heart of Winsted’s business district.  It was van Sleet’s thirty-sixth flight, and he said he never experienced a quicker ride to earth.


     The following article appeared in the Burlington Weekly Press, July 29, 1909.

An Ascension In Rutland

Wm. Van Sleet Takes Four Rutland People Up In Balloon Massachusetts

     Rutland, July 27,  – Pilot William Van Sleet of the Pittsfield Aero Club made an ascension here at four o’clock this afternoon in the balloon Massachusetts with four Rutland people, H. Clayton Carpenter, Frank M. Wilson, Charles H. West, and Harry A. Mattison.  The start was made in the presence of 1,000 people with the most favorable weather conditions, a light breeze driving the big bag slowly out of sight over the mountains east of the city.   

     Pilot Van Sleet will make another ascension here next Thursday, the first under the direction of the new Vermont Aero Club.

    ( The balloon landed in Barnard, Vermont, at 6:30 p.m., 18 miles northeast of Rutland.)


     By 1916 the airplane had progressed to the point where it was being used as a weapon of war in Europe.  At the same time the United States was facing the possibility of becoming involved in World War I, and there were those here in America taking proactive action.  Some military leaders began looking to the nations aero clubs for possible recruits.     


     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, May 31, 1916.

Lieut. Peary In Northfield

North Pole Man To Assist In Forming Aero Club Of Vermont

     Admiral Robert E. Peary, the discoverer of the North Pole, who is now devoting his entire time to aeronautics and aviation, is to be the guest of major Wallace Batchelder, of the Aero Club of America, at Norwich University, Northfield, July 6, and will help perfect the organization of the Aero Club of Vermont, at that time and place.  Other distinguished officers and civilians will be present to help launch what promises to be one of the largest aero clubs in America.  All persons who desire to become charter members of the Aero Club of Vermont should make application before July 6 by letter addressed to Major Batchelder, Aero Club of America, 297 Madison Avenue, New York. 


     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner on July 8, 1916.

Vermont Aero Club

John Hartness of Springfield Elected President

     Burlington, July 6. – The exercises attending the formation of the Aero Club of Vermont and the prominence of the speakers attracted a large crowd to Camp Governor Gates today.  The event presided over by James Hartness of Springfield.

     Gov. Charles W. Gates welcomed the distinguished visitors and commended the excellent showing made by the 1st Vermont regiment now on the Texas border.

     The principal speaker of the day was Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, who discussed the advisability of every state preparing an adequate aero service in connection with its national guard.

     Augustus C. Post, manager of the approaching military transcontinental aeroplane flight gave an interesting history of aviation in America.

     Those present had the opportunity to inspect the 1st Vermont Cavalry now being recruited at the state camp to war strength. 

     The following officers of the Aero Club of Vermont were elected:   

     President, James Hartness of Springfield; vice president, Adjt. Gen. Lee S. Tillotson; secretary, James P. Taylor of Burlington; treasurer H. R. Roberts, dean of Norwich University; governing board, Gov. Charles W. Gates of franklin, Col. Ira L. Reeves, commander of 1st Vermont Infantry, Maj. Wallace Batchelder, commanding 1st Vermont Cavalry, Clark C. Fitts of Brattleboro, Horace F. Graham of Craftsbury, Redfield Proctor of Proctor, W. A. Scofield and James P. Taylor of Burlington and James Hartness.    

     The crowd was somewhat disappointed that no aeroplanes or demonstrations were present.


     The following excerpt is from The Barre Daily Times, July 6, 1916.

     “The Aero Club of Vermont filed articles with headquarters at Burlington, and with the names of 147 signers attached, the leading name being James Hartness of Springfield.”


     The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, November 17, 1916.

Annual Meeting Of Vermont Aero Club

     The first annual meeting of the Aero Club of Vermont will be held on the 27th at the Hotel Vermont.  The annual dinner of the Club will be at seven o’clock to be followed by addresses and the annual business meeting.  All citizens of Vermont interested in aeronautics are urged to be present.  Tickets for the dinner may be secured by application to James P. Taylor, Secretary, Stannard Memorial building, Burlington, Vermont.

Aero Club

     The Aero Club of Vermont came into existence to meet the peculiar needs of Vermont, both in respect to its economic development in times of peace and its complete military preparedness to meet any conditions arising out of disturbance of our peace.  The membership of the Club is made up of those who are interested in promoting Vermont’s aeronautical interests, and is not restricted to air pilots or those who, as passengers, make occasional trips in air craft.  There is a distinctive service which everyone can render to Vermont, either by becoming a member of the Club or by co-operating with Club members.

Landing Places 

     Vermont now needs landing places for the air craft.  In the present state of the art, flying in Vermont is unsafe unless one keeps within a short distance of a landing place.  The aeroplane must descend as soon as the engine fails, and although some engines can make a continuous run of several hours, it is still a matter of common experience to have the engine stop unexpectedly.  The descent under favorable conditions may be made at a downward pitch of one in eight.  hence if one is flying a mile high he can volplane a distance of eight miles.  But he never should be farther from a landing place than eight times his altitude.  This means that in order to make it possible to fly in safety through Vermont there should be a chain of landing places separated by a distance of not more than sixteen miles.  Of course, a wind blowing in any direction would change the matter favorably or otherwise.      

     It is highly desirable to get routes through Vermont in all directions, and the landing places should be even closer together than the sixteen miles.

     It is a very fascinating subject to follow.  The aero papers, such as the monthly publication “Flying” and the weekly “Aerial Age”, contain the latest information.  Both of these papers are published in New York City.  Membership in the Vermont Aero Club gives each one an opportunity to attend the meetings and other functions of the Club and get the pleasure that comes in cooperating in an effective way for the betterment of our state, town, and lives.

     There is no more inspiriting subject and surely very few can compare with it for great potency for future development.

     Joining the club gives us a practical opportunity to express our patriotism.  It may be infinitely small compared with the service rendered by those who enlisted in the National Guard, but nevertheless it is of great value.  If you wish to become a member send a letter to Mr. James P. Taylor, Secretary, Aero Club of Vermont, Burlington, Vt.  


     The following article appeared in The Brattleboro Daily Reformer on July 26, 1919. 

Rutland Men Favor Preparing Airport

James Hartness Of Springfield Addressed Business Men’s Association Previous To Vote

     Rutland, July 26, – There were two meetings of the Rutland Business Men’s Association in their rooms yesterday, a special meeting being called for yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock to hear a talk by James Hartness, the Springfield manufacturer and inventor, president of the Vermont Aero Club and a licensed aviator, on the importance of towns establishing airports or landing places for aircraft.  Mr. Hartness is the recognized head of air interests in Vermont and has advocated the necessity of all towns having such landing places in consequence of the early establishment of regular air routes for the delivery of mail, small express and passengers.

     The resolution was offered by Dr. J. M. Hamilton placing the association on record in favor of procuring an airport here.


      In the spring 1919, James Hartness, President of the Aero Club of Vermont, purchased two adjoining farms in Springfield, Vermont for the sum of $4,800, and donated the land to the state to become Vermont’s first state airport – Hartness State Airport.  (Source: Brattleboro Daily Reformer, “Airplane Flies Over Town Today”, July 2, 1919.)  

     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times on September 15, 1919, page 8.  

Gov. Clement To James Hartness

     Governor P. W. Clement sent the following letter to James Hartness in appreciation to his gift of an aviation field to the village of Springfield.

     “Please accept my heartiest greetings on the occasion of the first commercial flight from one Vermont landing field to Vermont’s first municipal landing field, at Springfield.

     It is an exceptional pleasure that this message is to be borne by my townsman Lieut. John J. Lynch, to the president of the Vermont Aero Club and the state’s foremost advocate of aviation.  This is a pioneer event, and I wish the greatest success to Vermont’s progress in aviation.”

     “Percival W. Clement, Governor”


    James Hartness was elected Governor of Vermont in 1920, and served until 1923.  As Governor, he resigned his position as President of the Aero Club of Vermont. 

     It is unknown when the Aero Club of Vermont disbanded, but it is known to have been operating in the early 1920s.   

Tips For Researching A New England Military Plane Crash

Tips For Researching A New England

Military Plane Crash


New England Mountains

New England Mountains

      The idea for this article came about because from time to time I’ve been  contacted by people looking for information about family members lost in military aviation accidents, or local historians and veteran’s organizations hoping to find more details about WWII era military crashes that occurred in their area.     

     There have been literally thousands of military aviation accidents all across the United States going back to the early days of flight, however this article will focus on researching those that occurred in New England.   

     During World War II, army and naval air fields were established in all six New England states to be utilized for coastal defense, training of new pilots, and way stations for bomber crews arriving cross-country bound for Europe.  With a war on it seemed inevitable that accidents would happen – and they did -almost on a daily basis, which is the reason why the majority of New England’s military aircraft accidents occurred during World War II, (1941-1945).  However, there were also accidents that occurred during the post-war years up to the 1970s.    

     The word “accident” is appropriate, for there are no known combat related air crashes that occurred in New England.  Accidents occurred for various reasons including bad weather, mechanical failure, structural failure, unforeseen ground conditions, or human error.    

This water-filled crater in the woods of Charlestown, R.I., is where a navy Hellcat fighter crashed on May 14, 1944.

This water-filled crater in the woods of Charlestown, R.I., is where a navy Hellcat fighter crashed on May 14, 1944.

     Southern New England in particular has numerous World War II era wreck sites, although most are unrecognizable as such today.  Unlike the mountain-top crash sites of northern New England where remote locations made it necessary to leave the wreckage where it fell, those in the south are generally not as obvious, for once the sites were “cleaned” by the military, Mother Nature began to reclaim the land.  And some sites have been lost all together due to modern development.     


Getting Started

       The first place most people begin their research is with the Internet, but sometimes this leads to a dead end.  Now what?   Now you get to play detective, but where do you begin?  That all depends on how much information you have to start with.

     The following tips are offered as guidelines  to genealogists and historians although they may not apply in all cases.

   A genealogist researching a family member killed in a plane crash will likely have the person’s name and date of death, and probably a general location, such as the name of a town, or at least the state.   However, in other cases, a local historian may hear of a crash, “that happened sometime during World War II“, and is trying to learn more based vague recollections and scant information.  The historian will likely have a general location, but no names or date(s) to work with.  Therefore, each will have to begin their research in different ways.  

       The date of occurrence is necessary if one is looking for newspaper articles and official reports about the accident.  Unfortunately, if you don’t have the date, there’s no centralized government repository where such information is easily found.   

       To the genealogist; if you have a name to work with, but not the exact date or place of occurrence, try contacting the appropriate state agency responsible for keeping vital statistics, i.e. birth and death records.  This might be different for each state, so visiting a state’s government website should help in directing you to the proper office.  (Look under “vital statistics”.)   

     The state office/archives where vital statistics are kept should be able to provide the date and location of death, (city or town), as well as a copy of the death certificate if one is willing to pay for it. 

     Be aware that if the deceased was initially reported as “lost” or “missing”, and was never found, (Such as lost at sea.), the date of death might be listed as one-year-and-a-day after the date of the incident.  This is called a “presumption of death” which was generally issued 366 days after the fatal incident for widow’s benefits and estate settlement purposes.

    If the genealogist knows the name of the town in which the accident occurred, then they can contact the town hall directly, and the name of the deceased can be looked up in town death records, which will contain the date of occurrence and other helpful information.  Phone numbers for the town clerk’s office are usually posted on the town’s government website.   

     To the historian; if you don’t have any name(s) or dates to work with, as is often the case when getting third-hand information about a crash that occurred decades earlier, there are several other options to explore presuming you at least know the municipality in which the crash occurred. 

     The following are some suggestions to guide all researchers.

     1) Contact the local historical society. Even if the town doesn’t have one, a neighboring town might. If such is not the case, many towns have at least one “unofficial” town historian – someone who has taken it upon themselves to learn all they can about local history.  Finding that person could be as easy as calling the town hall, or speaking with the reference librarian at the local library.  

     2) Speak with the reference librarian at the local library.  Sometimes libraries have local history rooms, or at least history files that are available to researchers. These files can contain news clippings, photographs, and other helpful information.

     Ask the librarian about newspaper microfilm collections.  Many libraries have them, and some are quite extensive.  If the library doesn’t have one, ask the librarian if they know of another that might.  If the microfilm collection is indexed, then you can probably get the date of the crash from that, a well as copies of newspaper articles about the crash.  (More about newspaper articles later.)

     If the microfilm collection isn’t indexed, that’s alright.  Just knowing it’s there will be helpful later. 

     I was once using a microfilm viewer at a library when three youths came over to ask what kind of “computer” I was using.  For those too young to know, microfilm was a pre-Internet way of preserving and storing newspapers on small rolls of film.  The newspaper pages would be photographed in high resolution on transparent film to be viewed by researchers using special microfilm viewing machines.  Modern technology is gradually making these machines obsolete as more and more libraries digitize their collections.         

     3) Try contacting local veterans groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion Post. They may have a record of the incident, or perhaps photos or artifacts.  It’s also possible they held a memorial ceremony at some point.

     4) Speak with long-time residents.  You can try talking with long-time local residents to see what they might know or remember.  A senior center is a good place to start, but be warned, memory can be hazy when it comes to recalling incidents that occurred 50 to 70 years earlier.  

U.S. Army RB-34 U.S. Air Force Photo

U.S. Army RB-34
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In 2003 I researched a military crash that occurred in August of 1943.  Some people I spoke to were “positive” as to the type of aircraft involved.  One said it was a B-17, another, a B-25, still another, a B-26, and one was sure it was a P-38.  The downed plane later turned out to be an RB-34, the army’s version of the navy PV-1 Ventura.  

     As to the date of the crash, I was given several, ranging from 1939 to 1946, all of which were incorrect.      

     I further learned that the crash had taken on some local folklore.  It seems that after the volunteer fire department had extinguished the blaze, military officials arrived and made everyone leave the immediate area.  This was actually standard procedure done to protect the scene from souvenir hunters, as well as the public from any unexploded ordinance, or gruesome sights.  However, the local rumor mill at the time interpreted this to be some type of “cover up”, and as time went on rumor became “fact”.  It was said the plane had crashed because it was overloaded with bombs, and had been carrying top-secret military equipment, neither of which turned out to be true.         

     That’s not to say that those you speak with will provide useless information.  I found a woman who was 12-years-old at the time who saw the plane go into the hill.  She’d ridden her bicycle to the scene, and was able to recall quite vividly what she saw.   

     I also spoke with a former volunteer fireman who was too young for military service, but old enough to ride a fire truck who’d also been at the crash.

     If you’re lucky, you may find someone who happened to have a camera and took photos of the incident. 

     5) Visit the town hall.  Town halls and city halls have death records (under “vital statistics”) pertaining to anyone who has ever died within the municipality.  If you have the name of the pilot, or a crew member, someone in the town clerk’s office can look up the date of death for you.  If you don’t have a name, there are other ways to look up the information.

     Before going to the town hall, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the state’s “open records laws” pertaining to death records.  These can usually be downloaded from the state’s Secretary of State website. 

    There’s a difference between a “death certificate” and a “death record”, and you need to be clear about what you’re asking for.  Death certificates are official documents that people request certified copies of for various reasons; the probate of wills for example. (There is a fee for these.) “Death records” are generally kept in large, hard-bound, books with a canvas cover and leather spine.  These books will be marked “Death Records”, and will usually contain records for a designated number of years such as from 1920 – 1945.  I’ve found these books to be more or less universal from one town hall to the next, but in a couple of cases I’ve been to town halls that didn’t use them, and stored old records differently.    

      Researching the town’s death records without a name or date is difficult, but not impossible.  The “death record” books have an alphabetical name index used to look up the name of the deceased.  It tells the clerk which page in the book the record will be found.  However, names aside, in most cases all death records are entered in the book(s) in the sequential order in which they occurred, not by alphabetical order.  Therefore, if you know the year, or a specific time frame, using the book that contains the records from that year or time frame is the place to start.

     Here’s how it can be done.  Each death record entry lists a “cause of death”, i.e. heart attack, drowning, accident, etc.  Those involving a plane crash will state something to the effect of “massive trauma resulting from plane crash”, or “severe burns due to plane crash”.  Under “occupation” should be some reference to military service. Unless you’re dealing with a municipality located near an active or former military air base, chances are there will be very few military plane crash deaths listed. 

     Therefore, if you know the crash took place in a particular time frame, such as the summer of 1944, the clerk can skim through the pages for July and August looking at “cause of death” to find what you’re looking for.

     If you know the exact date of the incident, but don’t have any names, the incident could be looked up by the date alone because the death records are entered in the order of occurrence, and not by alphabetical order.  Therefore, looking up the records only requires opening the death record book to the page(s) that contain the entries for that date.  

     If more than one person was killed in the same plane crash, all names should be listed together in the book, either on the same page or the one following it, regardless of where they fall alphabetically on the name index.  An exception to this could be if one of the victims died days or weeks later due to their injuries. 

     Many New England towns were still “small towns” during the 1940s and 50s.  Therefore, there may not be very many death records to sort through to find what you’re looking for.  Unfortunately this is not true with larger municipalities.

    Some clerks may be under the impression that since it was a military plane crash, the deaths won’t be found in their records, but in the town hall records of the hometowns of where the servicemen came from.  In some cases this may be true as with “presumption of death” entries done for estate settlement purposes.  However, these are general cases where a body was never found.  Under most circumstances, any and all deaths that occur in a municipality are supposed to be recorded in that municipality where the death occurred. 

     Having said that, there could still be other exceptions.  For example, suppose a man is injured in Town A, and is transported to a hospital in Town B, where he dies.  Or he is pronounced “dead on arrival” at the hospital.  In either case, his death record is likely going to be found in Town B.     

     The information found in death records is helpful, for they not only give the exact date of the crash, they also contain the airman’s date of birth, marital status, and place of burial.  (More on that later.)

      6) Local police and fire departments. You could try seeking official reports or photographs from local fire and police departments, but generally such records no longer exist.  Most fire departments were volunteer organizations until the later half of the 20th century, and many small towns during the 1940s and 50s were policed by part-time officers or constables.  

      In many cases, municipal police and fire departments today are only required to keep records for seven years unless the case is still “active”, such as with an unsolved murder.        

     7) Aviation Museums. One can also contact regional aviation museums to see if they might have any information on the crash you’re investigating.  This is a long shot, but in one instance it paid off for me.   

Not all WWII aviation accidents involved fatalities.

Not all WWII aviation accidents involved fatalities.

     If the incident you’re investigating didn’t involve any fatalities then information about it will be harder to find.  Army and navy aircraft accidents were very common, especially during WWII.  Therefore, an accident that only involved the loss of an airplane may have escaped notice by the local media unless there were some unusual circumstances such as the plane landing on a house.  In cases where there were no fatalities involved, I’d suggest contacting websites that deal with military aviation accident reports.  (More on that later.)  

     Another idea is to try looking up squadron histories if the squadron number or designation is known.



So you have the date and place of occurrence, now what?

   In the woods 3  Once you have the date and location of the accident you can gather more information through sources that are mentioned in Section I.

   1) Newspaper microfilm collections at a library will hopefully provide details about the crash.  Unfortunately, in some cases they give extremely little information depending upon what else was going on with the war and locally at the time.  In other cases they weren’t reported at all.  This is more likely if the paper was a weekly instead of a daily.

     Newspaper articles may provide the type of aircraft involved, but  when the press wasn’t sure, sometimes the aircraft would be described as a “navy fighter plane”, or an “army bomber-type aircraft”, which isn’t much help to the researcher other than to give the branch of service it belonged to.

     Sometimes names of the deceased weren’t mentioned in the press because they were withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.  However, by knowing the date of occurrence, the names can be looked up in municipal death records.  

     In other instances, to save space, the reporter may have only used first and middle initials.  Again, full names can be determined through death records.  

    If you do locate an article about the crash, remember that follow-up articles may have appeared in the same paper over the next few days.  

    If other newspaper microfilm collections exist at other libraries, see if they reported different accounts of the crash.  You might be surprised to see how one newspaper covered the event in far more detail than another.   

     2) Getting back to municipal death records.  One piece of information they contain is the place of burial, which is generally in or near the person’s hometown.  Since many airmen weren’t from New England, the press may not have included much personal information about them, such as where they went to school, what organizations they belonged to, what they did prior to the war, etc. That information will likely be found in their hometown newspapers. 

     3) Getting back to reference librarians – or you could do this next part on your own. 

     The reference librarian can contact a library in the deceased’s home town and ask them to look in their microfilm collection for any articles pertaining to the person, and any follow-up articles about the funeral.  Such articles might contain a photo of the deceased.  



Obtaining A Copy Of The Official Investigation Report   

Wreckage from a navy aircraft in the woods of Connecticut.

Wreckage from a navy aircraft in the woods of Connecticut.

     Newspaper articles might only tell part of the story – the part that the military deemed appropriate due to wartime or military secrecy.  If you want to learn more then you may want to obtain a copy of the official crash investigation report.

     Every WWII military aircraft accident was investigated and a report of the official findings was filed.  Until about twenty years ago, those reports remained classified and unavailable to the press or public.  Today, reports up to the mid 1950s are available through the Freedom of Information Act, and through websites that sell microfilm copies of such reports.  Search under “Military Aviation Archeology”, “Aviation Archeology”, or “Military Aviation Accident Reports”.  (I’m not at liberty to endorse one website over another.)

     The cost of a report depends on the number of pages, and whether or not there are photos that go with it.  I’ve seen reports that have over 100 pages, and others that have as few as 2. 

     Information found in these reports may or may not contain information about the aircraft, copies of maintenance records, witness statements, the investigation committee’s findings as to the cause of the crash, recommendations pertaining to any discipline, and ways to prevent future occurrences.  Each circumstance is different.



Establishing A Memorial

Memorial to those who lost their lives in the service of their country at Charlestown (RI) Aux. Landing Field

Memorial to those who lost their lives in the service of their country at Charlestown (RI) Aux. Landing Field

     After researching the crash, you may want to erect some type of memorial honoring the men who lost their lives so their sacrifice won’t be forgotten.  This is a noble cause, but there’s a lot to consider before getting started. 

     First there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself. 

     1) Would the memorial be placed at the site of the crash where only a few might see it, or in a public park, or other location where everyone can see it?  Be aware that private property owners may not want a memorial on their land for various reasons.  

     2) What permissions or municipal permits would need to be obtained? 

     3) How big should the memorial be, and what materials would be used?

     4) What is the projected cost, and how will the money be raised?

     5) Who will do the work?    

     6) Does the town already have a WWII memorial, and if so, can the names of those killed in the crash be added?

     With a project of this type y0u should solicit the help of people who can get things done on a municipal level. Contacting local veterans groups, civic organizations, and politicians can be a good place to start. 

     Newspapers and magazines can be helpful with publicity by writing stories about the project. 

     Good luck with your research.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact this website. 




West Lynn Flying Club – Lynn, Mass.

The West Lynn Flying Club Inc.

     The West Lynn Flying Club Inc. was a private non-profit organization established in November of 1946 with seven founding members , all of whom worked for General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts.  The club later formally incorporated in April of 1947.

     The founding members included: Rene Michaud, Preston J. Ultcht, John J. Groncki,  Zereh Martin, Howard Meserve, Ed Philpot, and George Kenny.    Mr. Ultcht was a former B-17 bomber pilot who flew 29 missions during WWII.  Michaud and Philpot were both experienced navy pilots.    

     Other members later included Francis Davenport, and Robert C. Fisher.  Dues were as low as 50 cents per week, and membership was open to anybody with an interest in flying.     

     The club owned its own airplane, a Boeing N2S-4 tw0-seat biplane built in 1944 that was formerly used by the U. S. Navy to train cadet pilots during World War II.  It was purchased as government surplus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then flown to Massachusetts.  

     The civil registration number for the aircraft was 38015.   

     At some point in time between 1949 and 1952 this aircraft was loaned or rented to an unknown pilot who subsequently wrecked it while attempting to land on a farm to ask directions.  Further details and the location of the accident are unknown.

     Information about this club was sent to New England Aviation History by the daughter of one of the club’s founding members.  She is seeking information relating to the above mentioned accident.  Anyone with any information is asked to contact New England Aviation History.   


     General Electric News Letter, “Local Flying Club Boasts Of Seven West Lynn Members”, January, 1948 

     Lynn Daily Evening Item, “GE Flying Enthusiasts Seek To Expand Club”, July 2, 1948. 

Eastern Aircraft Corporation – Pawtucket, R. I.

Eastern Aircraft Corporation

Pawtucket, Rhode Island 

     The Eastern Aircraft Corporation was located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in a building that is still standing as of this writing, at an address of 1 Campbell Street.  The building is located several blocks from the former site of the What Cheer Airport, which was located between Manton Street, Newport Avenue, and Beverage Hill Avenue.   

     In August of 1929, Eastern Aircraft’s president, Raymond C. Van Arsdale,  announced that the company would begin immediate production of Messerschmidt airplanes in partnership with the Bavarian Aircraft Corporation in Germany. 

     Many aircraft of this era were still being produced with doped-canvas “skins”, but the Messerschmidts were to be all-metal, and would be produced in three models: a three-passenger cabin plane, a seven-passenger aircraft, and a small training airplane.  Each was to be produced under the direct supervision of German engineers who would be sent from the Bavarian plant to oversee production. 

     Although the aircraft were being produced for a German market, they would still have to meet United States Department of Commerce aeronautical specifications. 

    The announcement came less than three months before the U.S. stock market crash of October 29, 1929, which pushed the United States into the Great Depression.  Many businesses went bankrupt as a result, Eastern Aircraft being one of them.  It is therefore unknown if any aircraft were ever completed/built in Pawtucket.


     The Woonsocket Call, (R.I.), “Pawtucket Firm To Manufacture German Planes”, August 5, 1929            

Bourdon Aircraft Company

Bourdon Aircraft Company

Warwick, Rhode Island


    1920s-plane-in-clouds The Bourdon Aircraft Company was incorporated in Rhode Island on February 6, 1928, by Allan P. Bourdon. The company initially began production in the former Gallaudet Aircraft factory in the Chepiwanoxet part of Warwick, but moved shortly afterwards to a former textile mill in the Hillsgrove portion of the city.

     Bourdon Aircraft was known for production of the two-passenger “Kittyhawk” bi-plane, said to “Fly like a hawk, and land like a kitten.” Powered by a 7-cylinder Siemans-Halske motor, it was 22 ft. 6 in. long, and had a 28 ft. wingspan. The aircraft was designed by Bourdon’s engineer, Franklin Kurt.

     The name “Kittyhawk” was bestowed on the aircraft because of the Wright Brothers flight at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

     The company finished it first airplane in May of 1928.

     On May 18, Allan Bourdon flew his Kittyhawk from Buttonwoods Airport in Warwick to Boston for its first long distance flight, which took a total of 32 minutes to complete.  After being inspected by Assistant Secretary MacCracken of the U.S. Department of Commerce Aviation Division, the plane returned to Buttonwoods.

     By January of 1929, the Bourdon Aircraft Company had produced eight Kittyhawk airplanes.  It was reported that the company intended to begin producing one airplane a week beginning in March of that year, some of which would be equipped with pontoons for water take-offs and landings. Unfortunately the production goal did not materialize, and a total of only thirteen Kittyhawks were built in Rhode Island.    

     On April 3, 1929, it was announced that the U. S. Department of Commerce had granted the Bourdon Aircraft Company certificate number 134, signifying that their aircraft had met the standards of the D.O.C. regarding their ability to perform well in many kinds of flying conditions.  

     On October 16, 1929, it was announced that the Bourdon Aircraft Company would be merging with the Viking Flying Boat Company of New Haven, Connecticut, and by the end of the month production would be moved to New Haven.  The announcement came just thirteen days before the great stock market crash of 1929.

     In 1931, the Viking Flying Boat Company was acquired by Stearman-Varney Inc. which continued aircraft production in New Haven until 1936.


The Providence Journal, “Bourdon Biplane Flies To Boston”, May 19, 1928

The Providence Journal, “Builder Of Planes Hits R. I. Apathy”, January 22, 1929

The Providence Journal, “Kitty Hawk Airplane Wins Official Sanction”, April 4, 1929

The Providence Journal, “Bourdon Aircraft Company Merged; To Leave State”, October 17, 1929.

(Magazine) Aeronautical Industry – Vol. 8, page 58, “Air Transportation”, “Bourdon Kittyhawk Designed For Radial Engine, Standardizes On Siemens Yankee”, by J. E. Bullard, August 3, 1929

(Book) American Flying Boats And Amphibious Aircraft; An Illustrated History, By E. R. Johnson, McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers, Copyright 2009

Inter-continental Aviation Meet – 1910

Inter-continental Aviation Meet – September 3, 1910


     The following newspaper article, dated September 3, 1910,  appeared in the Arizona Republican (Phoenix, Arizona).  Atlantic, Massachusetts, is a village in the town of Quincy, Massachusetts, near Boston.  Apparently there was at least once crash at the meet. 

An Inter-Continental Aviation Meet


The Initial Performance at Atlantic, Massachusetts

     Atlantic, Mass. Sept. 3 – Daring aviators of two continents met at the new Harvard aviation field at Atlantic today on the opening of the Harvard-Boston aero meet which will be continued through the next ten days.

     In a three-mile breeze, Wright’s new model biplane, with the front control removed and placed at the rear, was taken out by Ralph Johnstone. Walter Brookins, in the standard Wright machine, followed, and then came Charles F. Willard in a Curtiss biplane.  Claude Graham White, in his Farnam biplane, and Clifford B. Harmon also flew.  One of the wheels of Harmon’s biplane sank into the soft dirt on the getaway, making the machine unsteady , and from a height of forty feet it fell into a marsh and was wrecked.  Harmon escaped injury.

     A drizzling rain fell during all of the afternoon, and the crowds were leaving when Graham White came out a second time in his Bleriot for what proved to be a sensational flight.  In a three-lap flight, Mr. White did a five and a quarter miles in six minutes, five seconds, the best speed of the day.

     Curtiss came out at 6:30 p.m. for some practice flights in his own racing machine  closing the day’s events.        


Comment On The Future Of Air Travel – 1906

Comment On The Future Of Air Travel – 1906

     While aviation accidents and fatalities connected to balloon travel had already occurred at the time this was published, the first airplane fatality was still in the future.  The first person to perish in a powered airplane accident was Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge on September 17, 1908. 

Click on image to enlarge.


The Rising Sun Kansas City, Mo. August 30, 1906

The Rising Sun
Kansas City, Mo.
August 30, 1906

Letter Lost In Plane Crash Delivered – June, 1937

The following article appeared in the Falmouth Enterprise, June 24, 1937 

Falmouth, Massachusetts


Lost Letter In Airplane Disaster Is Returned To Falmouth Sender

    “Damaged due to air mail interruption near Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 15, 1936”, was stamped in purple ink on a dingy, tattered envelope received in Falmouth this week.  the tattered letter, the envelope worn at the edges, the mucilage which once held its edges together entirely gone, stamps and every line of the address obliterated, looks as though it had been soaked in water or buried in snow.  Which it has been. The letter was mailed last December 14, at Los Angles, California, by Miss Jeannette Labbe, who spent the winter there with Mr. and Mrs. William E. Eldredge.  Miss Labbe on her arrival wrote her sister in New Bedford, putting her new address at the top of the letter.  The letter never reached its destination.  It left Los Angles on a mail and passenger plane which never arrived at Salt Lake City, where it was due next day.

     Nothing was heard of the wrecked ship, with its two pilots, stewardess, and four passengers until June 6, when mountain climbers discovered the wreckage in a steep canyon of the Wasatch mountains.  Letters scattered apparently when the plane crashed, were picked up on the mountainside.  The rest of the mail presumably , was found in mailsacks when the wreckage was examined.  It had lain buried under mountain snow for six months.  Government thoroughness saw to delivery or return of such mail as was identifiable.  Miss Labbe’s letter, the contents only slightly damaged, had only the Los Angeles street address for identification.  It was mailed to that street number in a government franked envelope, stamped with the “damage due” stamp, and enclosed with a typed slip, “The enclosure bearing your address or return, was damaged due to the interruption of air mail service December 15, 1936, near Salt Lake City, Utah.”  It was signed by the Salt Lake City postmaster.  From Los Angeles the letter was remailed to Falmouth by Mr. and Mrs. Eldredge’s daughter, Mrs. David Quinn 3rd.  Miss Labbe’s sister has still to receive the news written her last winter of her sister’s arrival in the west.            


     The crash in question occurred December 17, 1936.  On that date, a Western Air Express Boeing 247D (NC13370) went into a mountain in bad weather  as it approached Salt Lake City.  

     Source: Lost Flights-Historical Aviation Studies & Research

The Lockheed Learstar Disaster – December 15, 1958


North Smithfield, Rhode Island – December 15, 1958

      One of Rhode Island’s worst civil aviation crashes occurred in the town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island during a snowstorm which claimed the lives of seven people. 

     At about 8:30 a.m., on December 15, 1958, a twin engine, Lockheed, Learstar, (Registration N37500) owned by the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Company took off from Linden, New Jersey, bound for Logan Airport in Boston.  The plane carried five passengers, all top executives for Johnson & Johnson, and a crew of two. 

     From Boston, the executives were to go on to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the company operated its LePage Glue Division.  While en-route to Boston the plane ran into an unexpected snowstorm and was diverted by Logan officials to land in Beverly, Massachusetts.  When the aircraft arrived at Beverly, the crew was informed that they too were closed due to weather.  With no other option, the pilot set a course southward back to New Jersey.

     As the plane passed over the town of Franklin, Massachusetts, a town just to the north of the Rhode Island border, the pilot reported that one of the engines had died. This was the last radio transmission ever heard from the aircraft. 

     The plane continued south and passed over the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts, where  a man living on Pond Street later reported that he heard a plane overhead with an engine sputtering.

      The aircraft then passed over the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and then North Smithfield. The nearest airport at this point would have been North Central State Airport in Smithfield, about four miles away, and it was later speculated that the crew was attempting to reach the airport when the plane went down. 

     Although it was equipped with radar, the plane was flying in heavy snow, and the cloud ceiling was a mere 400 feet.  The pilots were in effect, “flying blind”, relying on instruments to get them to safe haven.   

      At 9:45, the Learstar plunged nose first into a swampy wooded area between Farnum Pike, (Route 104)  and Douglas Pike, (Route 7) below the old New Haven Rail Road tracks, about half a mile in from the road, and three-and-a-half miles short of the runway at North Central Airport. 

     A woman living on Slatersville Road heard the crash and called North Smithfield’s, Chief of Police, Joseph Freitas, to report that she thought a plane had crashed. 

     As a ground search got underway, a National Guard aircraft began searching overhead, and within a few minutes the wreckage was spotted, and the Guard plane began to circle to draw ground searchers to the site. 

     Chief Freitas was one of the first to reach the scene where he found one man still alive, lying with his lower extremities in a pool of icy water mixed with aviation fuel.  Rescue workers carefully pulled him free and laid him on dry land where he died shortly thereafter. 

     The cockpit containing the pilot and co-pilot had buried itself in the soft mud and was submerged under gasoline soaked water.  Firemen found four other bodies in the crumpled passenger compartment. The Reverend Thomas I. Myrick, pastor of Saint John’s Church in Slatersville, was on hand to administer last rites.  It took until 7:30 p.m. to recover the bodies of the crew. 

     The dead were identified as:

     The pilot, Alexander Sable, 38, of Metuchen, N.J.

     The co-pilot, Edward F. Luidcinaitis, of Roselle, N.J..  

     Milton A. Bergstedt, age 45, of Linden, N.J.

     Ferdinand Liot, age 39, of Franklin Park, N.J.

     Stephen Baksal, age 44, of Scotch Plain, N.J.

     Raymond Buese, age 31, of South River, N.J.  

     Jesse Hackney, of Pleasentville, N.J. 

     Mr. Bergstedt was wearing a broken wristwatch that stopped at 9:45.      

     Investigators later determined that the cause of the crash was ice formation in the carburetors of the engines. It was said that carburetor icing was a fairly common danger in a plane of this type.  Investigators believed the first engine failed due to icing, and the second failed afterward for the same reason. 

      This accident served as a lesson for all big business corporations when it came to transportation of top executives – not to transport everyone together in the same aircraft.  This way, if an accident did occur, the entire top management staff isn’t lost.  Today, many corporations fly top executives on separate flights for this reason.

     The area where the accident occurred is now occupied by a sand and gravel company. 


Woonsocket Call, “Crippled Plane Sought In Area”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “…Engine Failure Seen”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call,  “Investigators Seek Crash Solution”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Routine Flight Gives Hill Man 1st Crash View”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Air Crash Story Wrapped Up By Call While Presses Roll”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Carburetor Icing Seen Crash Cause”, December 1958

Providence Journal, “Pilot Cleared In Woon. Crash”, October 8, 1960, Pg. 5

Providence Journal, “Icing ‘Probable’ Cause of crash Which Killed 7”, February 20, 1961, Pg, 27


Transatlantic Air Traffic Prediction – 1913

Transatlantic Air Traffic Prediction – 1913

The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, July 18, 1913.

Click on image to enlarge.

Trans Atlantic Air Traffic 

Connecticut’s Airship Service Station – 1920

Connecticut’s Airship Service Station – 1920

The following article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin, March 2, 1920, Pg. 1.

Click on image to enlarge.

Insured airship newspaper


The Connecticut Aeroplane Company – 1913

The Connecticut Aeroplane Company

     The following brief news item appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on December 20, 1913, page 2, under the headline “Aeroplane Company Organized In State” 

    Hartford, Dec. 20 – The Connecticut Aeroplane Company, of New Haven, filed a certificate of incorporation in the office of the Secretary of State today.  Its capital stock is $500.000 and it proposes to build aeroplanes, hydro-aeroplanes, and aircraft of all descriptions.  It will start operations with $400,000 paid in.  The incorporators are E. A. Mulliken, of New Haven, Paul Webb, of Hamden, and Ralph H. Clark, of derby. An Incorporation fee of $250 was paid to the state.    

New England Plane Crashes That Never Happened

New England Plane Crashes That Never Happened 

By Jim Ignasher

Updated May 6, 2016

Updated May 12, 2016

Updated October 20, 2017

     The following stories are about New England aviation accidents that never happened, although in some cases they were reported as fact.  Perhaps this is how legends get started.        

    On April 3, 1906, great excitement rippled through the populace of the small town of Franklin, Massachusetts, as word spread that an airship had crashed in the northern part of town.  Dozens flocked to the area, but found nothing. Had the airship been repaired and left?  Hardly.  It wasn’t exactly April Fools, but it was close enough for a man identified only as a “practical joker” living in north Franklin near the Medway town line.  The day before, a large number of people reported seeing what they thought was an airship pass over the town.  The joker took it one step further and told several people that the airship had broken down, and landed in a field near his farm.  As with the childhood game of “Telephone”, the landing became a crash, as the facts were twisted with each retelling.  

     The following three incidents took place in 1942 at a time when our country was immersed in the Second World War.  Were they the result of wartime jitters, overactive imaginations, or something else? 

     On April 25, 1942, the North Providence, (R.I.) police department began to receive reports that an army bomber had crashed and burst into flames somewhere in the town.  Some reported seeing a column of smoke, but couldn’t tell the exact location from where it originated. A search was instituted, and army officials were notified, and as word spread citizens were on the alert.     

     By the afternoon the Associated Press was carrying the story.  An army public relations officer in Boston stated he believed the craft to be an army bomber, and although he didn’t know how many men were aboard, the usual number was five.

     An army observation plane was brought in to assist with the search, but by the end of the day nothing had been found, and no military aircraft were unaccounted for.

     Less than a week later, a man in Bellingham, Massachusetts, reported that he saw a twin-engine army aircraft flying at tree-top level and assumed it crashed in a wooded area near Silver Lake.  Apparently his assumption was based on the fact the engines weren’t making any sound, and that at one pint he saw the wings clip the trees. 

     Bellingham police notified the army, and a search was instituted.  Residents in the Spring Street section told officers they had seen an army aircraft pass low in the sky with its engines throttled down, but didn’t know anything about a crash.  One citizen stated the plane had passed directly over him and then suddenly disappeared.  

     Police officers, firefighters, and civilian volunteers searched through the woods for several hours, but didn’t find anything, and the army determined that none of its planes were missing.   

    The fourth case didn’t involve a report of an actual plane crash, but of parachutes descending from the sky – possibly from a disabled aircraft.  

     At about 5:45 p.m. on November 4 1942, Sgt. Michael Ryan of the Fall River police was stopped by a motorist who reported seeing parachutists descending over the area of the Fall River Reservoir located in the northern part of the city.   A short time later another person approached him with the same report.  One claimed to have seen one parachute and a plane, the other, three parachutes. 

     At about the same time frame, Patrolman Michael Hart received a report of parachutes as he patrolled the central portion of the city. 

     At 6:30 p.m. another call about parachutes was received at police headquarters. 

     Patrol cars sent to investigate found nothing, and aircraft spotters stationed in a fire tower near the reservoir hadn’t seen any parachutes. 

     Yet reports kept coming, and chutes were also allegedly seen over Fall River’s neighboring communities, and in nearby Rhode Island.  Strangely, nobody had reported a plane crash, only parachutes, which raised the possibility of enemy saboteurs. 

     State and local police, aided by auxiliary volunteers, and the army, scoured the landscape in both states, but nothing was found.  At one point excitement rose when one group of volunteers reported that the parachutists were “bottled up” in Narragansett Bay, but this too was false.

     Authorities learned that neither the army nor the navy was missing any aircraft, and there had been no reported bailouts or scheduled parachute jumps in the area.  No explanation for the sightings was ever given. 

     Updated May 12, 2016

     On January 8, 1988, a heavy snow storm was blowing across central New Hampshire.  It was during this storm that authorities received an s.o.s. radio message from a man identifying himself only as “Dale”, a survivor of a small jet crash.  Dale claimed five people had been aboard; one was dead, and the other three seriously injured.

     The May Day call sparked a large scale search and rescue operation that later involved up to 20 aircraft.  One aircraft in particular was a navy plane that was re-routed to begin the search.  The pilot flew low level search patterns in dangerous weather conditions for over four hours, all the while remaining in radio contact with “Dale”.  Unfortunately the plane was forced to leave the area due to deteriorating weather and low fuel capacity.  The following day the downed plane report was determined to be a hoax.   

     Investigation led authorities to a 29-year-old man from Laconia, New Hampshire, who was charged and put on trial in May of 1988.  He was convicted, and sentenced to one year in a federal prison, and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation.   

     Coincidentally, it was about the time of the man’s trial that the following incident occurred.  

     Updated May 6, 2016

     On the night October 3, 1988, a man identifying himself as a Captain from Pease Air Force Base contacted authorities in the town of Milford, New Hampshire to report that a B-1 bomber aircraft with two men aboard had crashed in a wooded area behind Chappell Tractor Sales Inc. on Route 13 South.  The man further reported that the pilot had managed to eject from the aircraft before it crashed. 

     Milford Fire and Police responded to the area, as did members of the U.S. Air Force, but within an hour it was determined that the call had been a hoax. 

     Updated October 20, 2017

     Shortly after midnight on November 8, 1974, a man called the Connecticut State Police Montville barracks to report that he’d heard what he thought was a sputtering airplane engine followed by a loud crash in the vicinity of the Waterford-East Lyme town line near I-95.  Another caller described hearing a “low whining noise” before the crash.  Several others also called to report a crash.

     An air and ground search was organized, but nothing was found, and there were no reports of any missing aircraft.  No emergency radio distress called had been received, and all Connecticut civilian and military aircraft were accounted for.  The search was called off and the report was determined to be “unfounded”. 


     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Crash Report Is Said Unfounded”,  November 8, 1974, page 2

     Hartford Courant,” No Trace Found Of Airplane”, November 9, 1974, page 4.



The (Woonsocket) Evening Reporter, “Joker Causes Excitement” , April 4, 1906, Pg. 3

Woonsocket Call, “Bomber Crashes In No. Providence”, April 25, 1942, Pg.1

Woonsocket Call, Army Plane Crash Report Probed”, May 4, 1942 Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Report Proves Franklin Hoax”, May 5, 1942, Pg. 2

Woonsocket Call, “Chutists Sought Near Fall River”, November 5, 1942, Pg. 1

Bangor Daily News, “”N.H. man Indicted In Plane Crash Hoax”, February 25, 1988

Bangor Daily News, “Trial Opens In Case Of Staged Plane Crash”, May 3, 1988

Bangor Daily News, “N.H. Man Convicted Of Faking Plane Crash”, May 5, 1988  

Nashua Telegraph, “Jet Crash Hoax Draws Searchers”, October 4, 1988






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