East Lyme, CT. – June 3, 1967

East Lyme, Connecticut – June 3, 1967

     On the morning of June 3, 1967, a flight of four U.S. Navy/Marines A-4 Skyhawk fighter jets took off from the South Weymouth Naval Air Station in Massachusetts to take part in a training exercise in conjunction with National Guard units at Stone’s Military Ranch in the Flanders section of the town of East Lyme, Connecticut.  When the aircraft arrived over Flanders, they broke into two sections, consisting of two planes each.  Witnesses reported that the aircraft made a pass over the ranch and then climbed to about 1,500 feet before circling to make a second pass. As they came in for the second pass, one aircraft suddenly dropped out of formation and crashed into a thickly wooded hillside and exploded, throwing debris over a large area and starting several brush fires.  The pilot, 26-year-old Marine Reserve Captain James Perlin, of Kew Gardens, Queens, N.Y., was killed instantly.

     The scene of the crash was reported to be about one “mile off Flanders Road, and about a half-mile from the road leading into the military area”.  

     Sources:

      New London Day, “Pilot Crash – Hits Trees At Stone’s Ranch”, June 3, 1967, page 1. (With on photo of crash.)

     New London Day, “Pilot Warned He Was Flying Too Low, Officials Say Of East Lyme Jet Crash”, June 5, 1967, page 4. (With 2 photos of crash.)

Shelton, CT. – February 2, 1966

Shelton, Connecticut – February 2 1966

     On February 2, 1966, a Sikorsky CH-53-A helicopter was operating over the town of Shelton on a test flight, when it experienced a mechanical malfunction leading both test pilots to abandon the aircraft and attempt to parachute to safety.   The helicopter crashed between two homes, damaging one of them, but there were no injuries on the ground.  The crash site was reported to be about a mile from the Sikorsky helicopter plant in the neighboring town of Stratford.

    Both test pilots were killed.  One was identified as Robert Gary Perrone, 33, of Trumbull, Ct., a former Captain in the United States Marine Corps.  His parachute opened, but he fell among trees and rocks and did not survive. 

     The other test pilot was identified as Lloyd C. Blanchard, 40, of Stratford, a former Captain in the U.S. Air Force.  His parachute didn’t open.  (To see a photograph of Capt. Blanchard, see www.findagrave.com, memorial #49123793.)  

     The helicopter involved in the accident was being developed for the U.S. Marine Corps.  It was 88 ft. 6 in. in length, and designed to carry 38 troops into battle along with a crew of three to four men.   

     It was reported that this was the “second multiple death crash at or near the helicopter plant in recent years.”  In April of 1960 three men were killed in a helicopter crash at the plant airfield.

     Source:

     New London Day, “Helicopter Crash Kills 2 In Shelton”, February 3, 1966

East Hartford, CT. – February 28, 1960

East Hartford, Connecticut – February 28, 1960

     On February 28, 1960, 1st Lt. John K. Rude, Jr., 24, was piloting a National Guard helicopter over the East Hartford area when the aircraft suddenly developed engine trouble.  With little time to react, Lt. Rude set the helicopter down in a cemetery located in a crowded residential area.  Upon making the emergency landing the rotor blades were seriously damaged when they lopped off the top of a tall monument.  There were no injuries, and Lt. Rude was praised for his handling of the emergency situation and avoiding nearby homes.

     The helicopter had been in the air for a couple of hours on a routine training flight out of Brainard Field when the trouble developed.  Damage was estimated to be $15,000.

     Source:

     New London Day, “Waterford Pilot Safely Lands Disabled ‘Copter”, February 29, 1960 

 

Bethel, CT. – November 29, 1942

Bethel, Connecticut – November 29, 1942

     There are few details about this accident.    

Douglas C-39
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 29, 1942, an army C-39 aircraft, (Ser. No. 38-516), with seven men aboard was seen circling the town of Bethel for about fifteen minutes before someone aboard fired a red flare.  Then five parachutes were observed before the plane crashed in a wooded area.  Two men had remained aboard the plane and were killed.   Those who bailed out landed safely.

     The dead were identified n the press as:

     Major Herman B. Leeth, 46, of Indianapolis, Indiana.

     Captain John F. Meehan, Jr., from Wyncote, Pennsylvania.

     The survivors were identified as:

     Colonel George V. McPike of Hannibal, Mo.

     Major Robert V. Dunn, of Marion, Md.

     Captain Gerald Garrard, of Cordele, Ga.

     Lieutenant Ross De Lue, of Chicago, Il.

     A civilian, William Kurylo, of Middletown, Pa.

     The flight had originated at the Rome Air Depot in Rome, N.Y.  The reason for the distress flare and cause of the crash were not stated.

     Sources:

     Hartford Courant, “Plane crash In Bethel Is Fatal To Two”, November 30, 1942

     New York Times, “Two Army Fliers Killed”, November 30, 1942 

 

Rentschler Field – May 3, 1944

Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut – May 3, 1944

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of May 3, 1944, a B-24 Liberator with a crew of eleven men aboard, took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a night training flight.  While over the Hartford, Connecticut, area the aircraft developed engine trouble and the pilot, 2nd Lt. John W. Garrett, age 19, attempted to make an emergency landing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.  The B-24 crashed upon landing, killing Lt. Garrett, and injuring four members of the crew.  The other six escaped without injury. 

     Lt. Garrett is buried in Green Mountain Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. To see a photograph of Lt. Garrett, as well as a photo of his grave, see  www.findagrave.com, Memorial #114672261.   

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “Westover Pilot Is Killed In East Hartford Crash”, May 4, 1944   

     www.findagrave.com

West Hartford, CT. – September 7, 1944

West Hartford, Connecticut – September 7, 1944

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 7, 1944, a flight of B-24 Liberators out of Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, were on a combat training flight over the Connecticut River Valley when two of the aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision.  One aircraft crashed, but where it crashed was not stated.  It was initially reported that all of the crewmen aboard that plane parachuted safely however, by the end of the day it was realized that one man was missing.  His body was later recovered in the waters of Hartford Reservoir No. 5, located in West Hartford, Connecticut.

     The other aircraft was able to make it back to Westover Field. 

     The deceased aviator was identified in the press as Corporal John T. Melvin, age 20, of Selma, Alabama.  

     Sources:

     The Springfield Union, “Two Westover Planes Crash”, September 7, 1944.

     The Springfield Union, “Westover Man’s Body Is Found”, unknown date.

Windsor Locks, CT. – March 11, 1957

Windsor Locks, CT. – March 11, 1957

 

T-33 Trainer Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

      At 4;45 p.m. on the afternoon of March 11, 1957, two T-33 trainer aircraft took off from Westover Air Force Base to participate in a radar-search training mission.  The two T-33s were to act as “targets” for an F-86 Sabre jet.  After take off the T-33 pilots had been briefed to climb to an altitude of 40,ooo feet.

     One of the T-33s, (Ser. No. 56-1600), was occupied by 1st Lieutenant Harold D. Gibson, (20), and 2nd Lieutenant John W. Chandler, (24), both assigned to the 337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover. 

     While participating in the exercise over the Hartford, Connecticut, area, Gibson and Chandler’s T-33 disappeared, and a search was instituted.  The wreckage of the aircraft was later located in a wooded are about 2.5 miles from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks,  Both had been killed instantly.

     Lt. Gibson is buried in Parkhill Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia.

     Lt. Chandler is buried in Portland Cemetery in Portland, Maine.

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “Westover Jet Is Missing”, March 12, 1957, page 1

     Book: 60/33th Fighter Interceptor Squadron – Westover Memories, 1953-1960, by Stan Lukasiewicz, Trafford Publishers, C. 2005.       

 

Glastonbury, CT. – August 5, 1954

Glastonbury, CT. – August 5, 1954

 

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of August 5, 1954, two F-86 Sabre jets were on a routing training flight over Massachusetts and Connecticut.  One aircraft was piloted by Flight Lieutenant James L. Dell of the Royal Air Force who was on exchange duty with the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover Air Force Base to learn American tactics.  The other F-86 was piloted by Captain Leo C. Baca, USAF. 

     At about 3:00 p.m. that afternoon the two Sabres were back in the vicinity of Westover AFB ready to land, but due to severe weather, and other aircraft that were given priority, Baca and Dell were put in a holding pattern and told to circle. 

     By about 3:15 p.m. both jets were running low on fuel, and began heading for Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.  As they were making their approach to Rentschler, Captain Baca’s jet ran out of fuel, but he was able to glide his plane in for a safe landing.  At about the same time Flight Lieutenant Dell’s aircraft also ran out of fuel while he was at an altitude of 10,000 feet.  As the aircraft began to fall he attempted to eject, but found he couldn’t jettison the canopy. He had to manually beat against the canopy to get it to release.  When the canopy cleared the aircraft, Dell jumped and deployed his chute.  His F-86 came down in a wooded area in south Glastonbury and exploded. The canopy landed in the back yard of George Hall, the town’s chief of police. 

     Flight Lieutenant Dell landed safely.    

     Source: The Springfield Union, “Pilot Chutes To Safety In Jet Crackup”, August 6, 1952    

Newington, CT – July 20, 1931

Newington, Connecticut – July 20, 1931 

    

U. S. Air Force Photo Showing Early Formation Flight

U. S. Air Force Photo Showing Early Formation Flight

     On July 20, 1931, six U.S. Army Curtis Falcon airplanes left Mitchell Field on Long Island, N.Y. bound for Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, on what was to be a routine training flight.  Once airborne, the planes formed into two groups of three aircraft, each group flying in a triangular vee formation.  The first leg of the flight was uneventful, however as the planes approached Newington, Connecticut, a civilian silver and blue aircraft was seen approaching them head-on.  As the formations took evasive action, two army aircraft (27-286) and (29-306) collided in mid-air, and immediately burst into flame.  

     The crew of one aircraft, Lieutenant Francis Kelly, and his observer, Staff Sgt. David L. Spicer, managed to bail out safely.  Kelly landed in a tree, and Spicer on telephone wires, but fortunately both men received only minor injuries. 

     The crew of the other plane, Lieutenant Benjamin F. Lowery, of Tennessee, and Corporal Harold Strosnyder, of Kansas, were killed either by the flames or when their aircraft crashed near the grounds of the Cedarville Sanatorium in Newington.

     Mitchell Petricelli, a civilian on the ground, was seriously injured when a piece of falling wreckage happened to land on him. 

     The army pilots blamed the civilian aircraft for the accident, but others blamed the army planes for flying too close.  A New York Times story read, “Witnesses differ as to whether or not this plane, (The civilian aircraft) not officially identified, made the proper effort to avoid a collision, such as a single plane should when approaching a formation of six ships”         

     The pilot of the civilian aircraft was suspected of being Connecticut’s Deputy State Aviation Commissioner. 

    Connecticut’s Aviation Commissioner put forth the idea that there may have been a second civilian plane following the first, but that the army flyers hadn’t seen it due to haze, and ground observers missed it due to their attention being focused on the accident. 

     “If the civilian plane had not been there, the accident would not have occurred,” the Commissioner was quoted by the Times as saying, “but that does not mean that the civilian pilot was responsible for the accident.  Whoever the pilot was, he got out of the way and was not actually in the crash.  It was up to the army pilots to do likewise.”   

     A special grand jury for the state of Connecticut was convened to investigate the crash, but on September 1st it was reported the jury “had found insufficient evidence for prosecution.”  

Sources:

Niagara Falls Gazette, “Two Die, Two Escape When Army Planes Crash In Air, Fall To Ground And Burn”, July 20, 1931

New York Times: “Army Men Roused Over Death Crash”, July 22, 1931

New York Times, “Admits Being Near Colliding Planes” July 23, 1931

Farmers Weekly Review, “Flyers Collide In Air And Perish” July 29, 1931

New York Times, “Clear Flier In Army Crash”, September 2, 1931

 

Woodbridge, CT – July 23, 1938

Woodbridge, Connecticut – July 23, 1938

Updated Aug. 10, 2015

    

     On July 23, 1938, a U. S. Navy Douglas dive bomber attached to Torpedo Squadron 5 aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown, left Norfolk, Virginia, for a flight to Squantum, Massachusetts Naval Air Station.  At 2:25 p.m. the aircraft crashed in heavy rain on the farm of Chester H. Carpenter in Woodbridge, Connecticut. 

     The impact drove the nose of the plane eight feet into the ground, and wreckage was strewn about a wide area.  All three servicemen aboard were killed instantly.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Lieutenant James F. McDonough of Boston, Massachusetts. 

     Lieut. (j.g.) William J. Drumtra of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  

     Aviation Cadet John Richard Patch of Ipswitch, Massachusetts.

     A toy tricycle was found in the wreckage which McDonough was apparently bringing home to his child. 

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Three Navy Fliers Killed In Plunge”, July 24, 1938 

     New York Times, “Inquiry On Bomber Crash”, July 25, 1938

East Granby, CT – February 11, 1942

 

East Granby, CT – February 11, 1942     

U.S. Army A-29 Attack Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

U.S. Army A-29 Attack Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 11, 1942, a Lockheed A-29A attack bomber (41-23340) with six men aboard was flying at 28,000 feet when the aircraft suffered a catastrophic malfunction.  According to one press report, numerous people on the ground had seen the plane’s right wing fall off while it was still falling from the sky. 

     One witness was Gordon Hayes, an aircraft spotter on duty in the Suffield Observation Post.  He described how the aircraft went into a “corkscrew spin” as it came down.

     Another was Paul Hass of West Suffield, who said that at one point the plane appeared to straighten out before going into another spin, and from his vantage point one wing appeared to be missing.

     Mrs. Elmer Mortensen of Bloomfield related how she saw one crewman jump from the plane.  “Soon, a speck came out of the heavens”, she recalled, “Then as the speck grew, I saw a stream of smoke with it.  I heard the motor skipping, and then the plane came down fast, straight down it seemed.  While it was smoking a man bailed out with a parachute.” 

     An unidentified operator of a garage in East Granby also reported seeing the plane fall with a wing and a portion of the tail missing.  

     The plane crashed shortly before 4:00 p.m., in a gully behind the Petraitis residence at 161 South Main Street. There was no explosion or fire.  State police and officials from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks responded.  Hundreds of curious spectators descended on the scene and police were busy keeping crowds at bay.  

     The dead were identified as:

     1st Lt. Melvin W. Schoephoester, of Baraboo, Wisconsin. (Pilot)

     2nd Lt. Walter C. Boyle of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

     S/Sgt. Michael M. Kaufman of Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

     Sergeant Gordon Johnson of Renov, Pennsylvania.

     Sergeant Thomas F. Quinn of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

     Sergeant John T. Howey, Jr. of New York City.   

     Missing at the wreck site was the body of the pilot, and it was presumed he’d bailed out prior to the crash.  An open parachute was later found a few miles away in East Willington, and a search was conducted there without results.  Schoephoester’s body was later recovered less than two miles form the crash without his parachute. An official from Bradley offered his opinion that Schoephoester had slipped from his chute after jumping, and that the weight of the harness was enough to keep it open while prevailing winds carried it a considerable distance.

     Other parachutes were found in the wreckage, but not on the men. While army regulations required that parachutes be worn, it was speculated that the crew of the A-29 wasn’t wearing theirs when the accident occurred.   

Updated March 7, 2016

     The following information comes from the U.S. Army Air Corps accident investigation report of the incident. (#42-2-11-4)

     The aircraft was assigned to the 1st Mapping Squadron, 1st Mapping Group, based at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Ct.  At the time of the accident it was conducting a high altitude photographic mission.  

     As part of its investigation into this accident, the army interviewed 35 witnesses.  A statement issued by the accident investigation committee it said in part:

     “One fact of interest is the large number of witnesses who testified that they saw the right wing leave the airplane.  As can be seen from the photographs, both wings were in the wreckage, the right wing being badly crumpled and apportion of it under the remains of the fuselage. The committee has found no evidence to indicate failure of the wings. 

     It was later determined that what witnesses likely saw was the tail section, not a wing,  break away from the aircraft.

     Numerous witnesses have testified that they could see the ship trailing smoke at high altitudes.  The committee believes that this so-called smoke was in reality a condensation trail left by the airplane in-so-far as no traces of fire could be found in the wreckage.” 

     While examining the wreckage, investigators noted that both engine switches were cut, the throttles to the right engine were completely closed, while the throttles to the left engine were completely open, and the fuel selector valve for the right engine was turned off. 

     The right propeller appeared to have been feathered, and experts concluded that it was feathered at the time of impact.

     Investigators considered the possibility that the accident was caused by a failure of the automatic pilot, however the auto-pilot was so badly damaged that no conclusions could be drawn, only that the auto-pilot was in the “off” position after the accident.        

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-2-11-4

     Unknown newspaper, possibly the Hartford Courant – East Granby Public Library – Local History Room, “East Granby Bomber Crash Stirs Immediate Army Probe”, February 11, 1942.

     Unknown newspaper , possibly the Hartford Courant – East Granby Public Library – Local History Room. “Body Of Sixth Flyer Is Found In East Granby”, February 11, 1942

     Larry Webster – Aviation Historian

 

 

 

East Granby, CT – November 8, 1944

East Granby, Connecticut – November 8, 1944 

Updated December 16, 2017

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 8, 1944, a B-24J, (Ser. No.  42-51001), with twelve men aboard,  left Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a scheduled combat crew training mission.  Once airborne, the plane headed south over Connecticut.  While over Connecticut, one of the engines began trailing smoke and before long flames became visible.  Despite efforts by the pilot, the aircraft continued to loose altitude, and it became apparent that an emergency landing was the only option.   The pilot aimed for an open area of pastureland located off Route 9 in East Granby, on what was then known as the Seymour Farm.   As the plane passed over the highway it clipped a telephone pole sending it out of control into a marshy section of the pasture where the wings and fuselage broke apart before coming to rest.  There was no fire, but one injured crewman was trapped in the crumpled wreckage and it was several hours before he could be extricated.   

     Of the twelve crewmen aboard, five were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

      Cpl. Gaetano L. Fastiggi, a top-turret-gunner from New Rochelle, N.Y., born September 23, 1925.  He enlisted in the army on April 5, 1944.  He’s buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in New Rochelle.    

      Cpl. Henry Colt Fay Jr., a gunner from Milburn, N.J., born September 12, 1923.  He’s buried in the Winsted Old Burying Ground, in Winsted, Connecticut.    

      Cpl. Charles W. Powell, a gunner from Holdenville, OK., born September 7, 1920.  He’s buried in Holdenville Cemetery.

      Cpl. Furman Watson, a gunner from Seneca, S.C., born June 22, 1923.  He’s buried in New Hope Cemetery in Seneca.

      Pfc. Lester L. Shoemaker, a tail-gunner from Hanover, PA., born September 18, 1918.  He’s buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, in Hanover.  

     Those who were seriously injured included:

     The pilot, 2nd Lt. Roland C. Curtiss.

     The co-pilot, Flight Officer Reese A. McClennahan, Jr.

     The bombardier, Flight Officer Vincent M. Vallaro.

     Gunner, Cpl. Francis A. Crawford.

     Gunner, Cpl. Cono A. Galliani.

     Gunnery Instructor, Staff Sgt. Charles J. Nigro. 

     The navigator parachuted safely away from the plane and received only minor injuries.  

     Today a housing development occupies the crash site. 

     Sources;

     The Hartford Courant, “Five Flyers Killed, Seven Injured As Bomber Crashes In East Granby”, November 9, 1944, page 1.

     New York Times, “Bomber Crash Kills 5”, November 9, 1944

     Town of East Granby Death Records

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Cpl. Gaetano Fastiggi Killed With 4 Others In Bomber Crash”, November 9, 1944.

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Fastiggi’s Body Is Escorted Here”, November 11, 1944.

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Fastiggi Rites Attended By 300”, November 13, 1944.

 

 

 

East Granby, CT – May 7, 1954

East Granby, Connecticut – May 7, 1954 

 

F-51D Mustang U.S. Air Force Photo

F-51D Mustang
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On May 7, 1954, Major Robert Anderstrom, 33, was piloting an F-51 Mustang from Mitchell Field on Long island, N.Y. to Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, when he crashed into a wooded hillside on the west side of historic Old Newgate Prison in East Granby.  The subsequent explosion blasted the plane to pieces, and left a crater 12 feet deep, 20 feet wide, and 30 feet long. 

    One witness, Mrs. Frances B. Allen, recalled to reporters, “I thought it was a bomb it went up so fast.”

     Major Anderstrom was an experienced pilot having served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.  He was recalled to active duty in 1952 and assigned to the 131st Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Massachusetts Air National Guard based at Barnes Airport in Westfield, Mass.  At the time of his accident he was the Commanding Officer of the 831st Replacement Training Squadron, and training officer for the 131st FIS.  During his career he earned three air medals.

     Anderstrom was survived by his wife Theresa and three young daughters. He’s buried at St. Thomas cemetery in West Springfield, Mass.  To see a photo of Major Anderstrom, go to findagrave.com and see memorial #6722890 

Sources:

Hartford Courant, “Air Guard Major Loses Life In East Granby Plane Crash” May 8, 1954.

Air Force Print News Today, Release # 030413, “104th Fighter Wing Remembers Fallen Heroes With F-100 Rededication”, April 30, 2013

Findagrave.com  memorial # 6722890

 

 

Windsor Locks, CT – June 5, 1942

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – June 5, 1942

 Narragansett Bay – Rhode Island

 

Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps Photo

     On June 5, 1942, 2nd Lt. Martin Taub of Newark, New Jersey, was piloting a P-40E (41-24782) over Rhode Island when his aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay, killing him. 

     It was reported that he was the second serviceman from New Jersey to loose his life in an aviation accident over southern New England that day.  The other pilot was Richard M. Stafford, of Summit, N.J. who was killed in a crash at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Stafford’s plane was a P-40F, (41-13765). 

Sources: New York Times, “New Jersey Pilot Killed”, June 7, 1942

New Canaan, CT – January 2, 1943

New Canaan, CT – January 2, 1943

     At 7:30 p.m. on January 2, 1943, a U.S. Navy aircraft crashed on Ponus Ridge in the town of New Canaan.  The plane came down on the estate of Lindsey Bradford, and the wreckage was strewn for hundreds of yards.  The pilot was found still strapped to his seat lying against a stone wall. 

     As of this posting, no information is available as to the type of plane, where it was from, or the pilot’s identity.

Source: New York Times, “Crash Kills Navy Flyer”, January 2, 1943    

Near Bridgeport, CT – November 12, 1942

Near Bridgeport, Connecticut – November 12, 1942

    

P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 12, 1942, U.S. Army Captain Robert K. Noel, 23, was piloting a P-47C Thunderbolt, (41-6171), on a routine training flight over the Bridgeport area when according to witnesses the plane suddenly dove towards the ground and exploded on impact.

     Noel was from Beckley, West Virginia, and was engaged to be married to a Bridgeport woman in four days.  On the day he crashed, he had gone to Bridgeport Probate Court to obtain a waver of the state’s five-day waiting period.     

     Source: New York Times, “Army Pilot Dies In Crash”, November 13, 1942  

Poquonoc River, Trumbull, CT – August 2, 1935

     Poquonoc River, Trumbull, CT – August 2, 1935

     On the evening of August 2, 1935, a Connecticut National Guard aircraft with two men aboard crashed just after takeoff from Trumbull Field.  The plane went down in the Poquonoc River about 300 feet from the airfield. 

     Killed in the crash were the pilot, Lt. William H. Laughlin, and the observer, S/Sgt. Russell E. Clark.  Laughlin was a veteran WWI pilot.

     The plane had been on a training flight from Hartford to Trumbull, and was making the return trip when the accident occurred.

Source: New York Times, “Connecticut Crash Kills 2 Guard Fliers” August 2, 1935

Putnam, Connecticut – May 7, 1953

 PUTNAM, CONNECTICUT –MAY 7, 1953

                                                                      By Jim Ignasher

                                                                     Copyright 2015       

On a fog shrouded day in 1953, a Gruman AF-2W Guardian like the one pictured here crashed in Putnam, Ct. killing four servicemen. (U.S. Navy photo.)

On a fog shrouded day in 1953, a Gruman AF-2W Guardian like the one pictured here crashed in Putnam, Ct. killing four servicemen. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Mrs. John Grant was in her kitchen in western Putnam when the plane roared over the house; so low, that it seemed it barely missed landing on the roof!  She ran out into the yard but couldn’t see much due to a blanket of thick fog. Somewhere in the mist she could hear the aircraft circling and knew something was wrong.  Suddenly the plane swooped overhead a second time and she caught a glimpse of U.S. naval insignia on the fuselage before it was swallowed by the scud.  Rushing back to her kitchen she picked up the telephone; then the explosion occurred.

     She later told a reporter from the Providence Journal, “I had just picked up the receiver when I heard this awful explosion.  I ran to the kitchen door, but I couldn’t see anything but a puff of smoke.  A few minutes later one of my neighbors, Bert Pekham, came over and the two of us walked down to the crash.  We were the first ones there.

     It was a mess.  I saw one man on the ground about fifteen or twenty yards away from the plane.  I guess the other two men were inside.

    There were a few little fires – little patches of flame here and there – and one of the men was badly burned.”   

     Mr. Pekham related that he saw two bodies in the fuselage of the plane, another about fifty feet from the wreckage, and a forth lying 150 feet away near the edge of Carpenter Brook. 

     The plane had cut a 150 yard swath through a wooded hillside before skidding along the ground and crashing through a stone wall.  Debris was spread over a half-acre and some pieces were seen sticking out of trees twenty feet from the ground. 

     The date was May 7, 1953.  The aircraft was a single-engine Grumman AF-2W Guardian (Bu# 129273) which had left Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island roughly twenty minutes earlier on what was to be a routine flight to Grosse Isle, Michigan.  Yet somewhere over Putnam something went wrong, the exact nature of which has never been officially determined. 

     There were four servicemen aboard. The pilot: Ensign Donald R. Johnston;  Aviation Machinist Mate 3c Lee L. Donohue; Personnel Man 3c Edgar L. Lovett; and Radar Operator Gary L. Camp. There were no survivors.

    Navy investigators combed the site looking for clues.  While examining the wreckage it was determined that the plane had crashed with it’s wheels down indicating that the pilot might have been attempting to make an emergency landing in a nearby field, but this begged the question, what problem had the aircraft encountered?  Ground observers hadn’t seen any smoke or flames trailing from the plane, or heard any indication of engine trouble.  The plane had plenty of fuel, and no distress call had been received.  The crash had occurred along the designated flight route, therefore making it unlikely that the pilot had gotten lost.  

    The now declassified official navy investigation report (No. 53 – 05 -13) lists the official cause of the accident as “undetermined”.  However, an undated addendum added sometime afterwards hints at a possible reason for the pilot’s need for an emergency landing.  Blood samples of the deceased airmen sent for further laboratory analysis revealed higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide indicating a possible exhaust leak into the crew compartment. 

     The addendum stated in part, “Spectrophotometric analysis of the material as submitted indicated the presence of forty-seven per saturation of carboxyhemoglobin.  After consultation with Mr. Villatico, it is felt that, while the reported concentration of carboxyhemoglobin is not necessarily high enough to cause death (especially since the duration of exposure to this concentration is not known),  this blood level is more than sufficient to cloud the sensorium and interfere with coordination and reasoning.”  

     In short, higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide were found in the blood samples of the deceased.  Carbon monoxide is present in engine exhaust. 

     With this information, it can be speculated that the pilot became aware of engine exhaust leaking into the crew compartment and opted to land as soon as possible. 

        The AF Guardian was produced by Grumman Aircraft towards the end of World War II for use as an anti-submarine search and attack aircraft, and saw service during the Korean War.  Guardians were produced in two basic models; those that carried radar equipment and those that carried weapons.  The two models flew in pairs, one designed to find enemy subs, the other to destroy them.   

The Servicemen
                   

      The plane was piloted by 24-year-old Ensign Donald Richard Johnston of 839 Morgan Oak Street, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He was born in Cape Girardeau, November 13, 1928, the son of Martin P, and Anna V. Johnston.  He was educated in local schools and graduated from Central High School in 1946. After high school he went on to attend State College and enrolled in the United States Naval Reserve. 

     Eleven months after of the outbreak of the Korean War, Ensign Johnston was called to active service and reported for duty on May 10, 1951.  He was sent to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training, which he successfully completed in September of 1952. 

     After receiving his Navy pilot’s wings, and a commission as an Ensign, he went to Corpus Christi, Texas, for advanced flight training which he completed by December, 1952. 

     On Christmas day 1952, he arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, and remained there briefly until being ordered to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on January 1, 1953, where he was assigned to Anti-submarine Squadron 39. (VS-39)

     He was a member of the Centenary Methodist Church, and taught Sunday school until entering the Navy.  He was also an officer in the Wesley Foundation, a Methodist student ministry organization at State College.  He was also active in other college organizations such as the Mark Twain Society, dramatics, and the College Social Life Committee. 

     Ensign Johnston worked his way through college by finding employment at the Midwest Dairy Company. 

     Besides his mother and step-father, he was survived by three brothers, the Rev. Kenneth Johnston, pastor of the Methodist Church at California, Missouri; Harold Johnston, of Gulmon, Oklahoma; and Martin Johnston, of Daytona Beach, Florida.  His Father, Martin P. Johnston died in 1942.  

     Ensign Johnston is buried in Lorimar Cemetery in Cape Girardeau. 

     The youngest man aboard the plane was Aviation Machinist Mate 3c Lee Lincoln Donohue, who had been in the Navy for three years stationed aboard an aircraft carrier that took part in combat operations in the Korean War

     He was born in Neodesha, Kansas, February 12, 1932, and graduated Fredonia High School in Fredonia, Kansas, in 1949.  He was survived by his mother, M. Charlotte Donohue, his brother Joe, and many other relatives. His father Lloyd had passed away two years earlier.

     He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Roper, Kansas. 

Edgar L. Lovett

Edgar L. Lovett

      Twenty-two year old, Personnel Man, 3c, Edgar Lee (Cotton) Lovett, hailed from Paducah, Kentucky.  He was born in Murray, Kentucky, on December 7, 1930, the son of James E. and Thelma E. Lovett.  When he was three, the family moved to Paducah, where he attended Whittier Grade School, Washington Junior High School, and graduated from Tilghman High School in June of 1948.  After high school, he went on to attend Murray State College. While attending college, he earned money by working for a dry cleaners and a grocery store.

     He enlisted in the Navy May 17, 1951, and received basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station.  Afterwards, he was sent to serve in Guam, where he remained until October of 1952, when he was sent to Fort Slocum, New York to attend Personnel School.  From Fort Slocum he went to serve at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was eventually assigned to an aircraft carrier that conducted operations in the Korean Theatre during the Korean War. He had arrived at Quonset Navy Base in Rhode Island for re-assignment shortly before his death 

     Besides his parents, he was survived by a brother, James T. Lovett, of Louisville, KY., his grandparents, and several aunts and uncles. 

     His funeral was held at the Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, and burial took place at Maple Lawn Cemetery in Murray, Kentucky.

Gary Leon Camp

Gary Leon Camp

     Twenty-year-old Radar Operator, Gary Leon Camp, was on his way home to be with his mother on Mother’s Day when he lost his life.  He was born in Alton, Illinois on June 20, 1932, the son of John H. and Geraldine Griffin Camp.  He lived at 2020 Country Club Drive, in Alton.  

     He graduated from Alton High School in January of 1951, and entered the Navy less than three months later on April 16, 1951.  After training to become a radar operator, he was sent to Quonset Point NAS, in Rhode Island.

     In Alton, he had worked at the Square Deal Radio Shop as a television repairman, and was active in the Godfrey Methodist Church. 

     When he finished his hitch in the Navy, he planned to go to college to study chemistry.    

     His funeral, with full military honors, was held Tuesday, May 12th, at the Godfrey Methodist Church, and interment took place at Valhalla Memorial Park, in Godfrey Township, Illinois.

      All four men were assigned to Anti-Submarine Squadron 39, (VS-39)   VS-39 was originally known as Anti-Submarine Squadron 913, (VS-913), based at Squantum Naval Air Station in Massachusetts. 

     On June 1, 1951 the squadron was transferred to Quonset Point Naval Air Station where it began to be equipped with AF Guardians. 

     On February 4, 1953, three months before the Putnam accident, VS-913 was re-designated VS-39, and remained as such until it was disbanded in September of 1968.  

        As a footnote to this story, there was another accident involving an AF-2 Guardian (Bu. # 124785) in Killingly, Connecticut, on December 20, 1954 which is sometimes confused with the one in Putnam due to the close timeframe, proximity of the two towns, and the fact both planes were assigned to the same squadron. (VS-39) In the Killingly incident, the pilot made an emergency landing in an open field after an electrical fire erupted aboard the plane.  The crew escaped without injury, but the plane suffered substantial fire damage. Afterwards the wreck was buried nearby

     On September 5, 1996, an article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin that reported how pieces of the Killingly aircraft had been recovered and were going to be used in the restoration of an AF-2 Guardian in the possession of the Confederate Air Force Museum in Mesa, Arizona.  (The name was later changed to the Consolidated Air Force Museum.)   

 Sources:

United States Navy official crash investigation brief #53 05 13, National Archives.

Town of Putnam, Connecticut death records.

Providence Journal, “4 Quonset Fliers Killed In Crackup at Pomfret”, May 8, 1953, Page 1. (Note: the crash happened in the town of Putnam, not Pomfret, but the headline read Pomfret.)

Worcester Daily Telegram, “4 navy Fliers Die In Putnam Crash”, May 8, 1953, Page 26, col. 1.

 The Hartford Courant, “Navy Plane Crash In Fog Kills Four Near Putnam”, May 8, 1953, Page 1. (Includes Photo)

Windham County Observer, caption and photo, May 13, 1953, Page 1.

Obituary for Lee L. Donohue from the Fredonia Daily Herald, dated Friday, May 8, 1953.

The Southeast Missourian, “Cape Ensign Loses Life In Plane Crash In Connecticut”, May 8, 1953.

The Paducah Sun-Democrat, “Paducahan, 22, Dies In Navy Plane Crash”, May 8, 1953, Page 1.

Funeral notice; “Lovett Rites Will be Held Here Monday”, from The Paducah Sun-Democrat, May 10, 1953, Page 10A

The Alton Evening Telegraph, “Gary L. Camp Is Killed in Plane Crash”, May, 8, 1953, Page 1.

The Alton Evening Telegraph, “Military Services For Gary L. Camp”, May 13, 1953.

Interview with Lawrence Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist, Charlestown, Rhode Island.  

The Norwich Bulletin, “Field may yield rare crash…(Last part of headline unknown.)” September 5, 1996, Page B1.

A check with the Danielson barracks of the Connecticut State Police revealed that any reports older then twenty years have been destroyed.  Therefore, the state police report relating to this incident no longer exists. 

 

 

 

Windsor Locks, Ct. – April 8, 1942

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – April 8, 1942

 

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

     On April 8, 1942, a U.S. Army P-38 Lightning fighter plane, (Ser. No. AE-982) crashed at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks.  The pilot, Second Lieutenant Philip R. McKevitt of Vinton, Iowa, was killed.  

      Source: The Woonsocket Call, “Army Pilot Killed At Windsor Locks”, April 8, 1942.

     Update March 5, 2016

     Just after takeoff, Lt. McKevitt noticed a problem with the right engine, and attempted to circle around back to base for landing.  (Witnesses later reported hearing the engine sputtering.)  As he was doing so, the aircraft went into a spin with insufficient altitude to recover, and crashed.  The plane came down in an area a quarter of a mile from the Turnpike Road in the southwest section of Bradley Field, and burned. 

     The crash investigation committee requested that the right engine be sent to Middletown Air Depot to be dismantled and checked for any signs of sabotage. 

     Lt. McKevitt began his flight training on May 3, 1941, and graduated from Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, on December 12, 1941. He arrived at Bradley Field only the week before his accident.  

     Lt. McKevitt is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Vinton, Iowa, Lot 76-so. part of N. For a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com  memorial #43301321

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-8-1

     Windsor Locks Journal, “Army Pursuit Planes In Two Fatal Crashes”, April 9, 1942

 

Waterbury, Ct. – March 24, 1929

Waterbury, Ct. – March 24, 1929 

      On March 24, 1929, Captain Arnold R. Rasmussen (33) took off from Brainard Field in Hartford flying a National Guard airplane.  With him was a passenger, Francis H. Smyth of Waterbury, Connecticut. 

     It was the captain’s custom to fly over his home in Waterbury and wave to his wife and family, and this day was no different.  As the plane passed overhead, Rasmussen’s family came outside, but then they watched in horror as the engine suddenly lost power and the aircraft came hurtling out of the sky.  Family members scattered as the plane came in nose first and slammed into the street less than fifty feet from their home.  Captain Rasmussen was killed instantly, and Smyth was taken to Waterbury Hospital.      

     Captain Rasmussen was and experienced pilot.  He served with the regular army Air Corps during World War I, and at the time of his death was the adjutant of the 43rd Aviation Division, Connecticut National Guard.

      Source:  New York Times, “Connecticut Guard Pilot Dies in Crash Before Family”, March 25, 1929  

 

 

Norwalk, Ct. – June 9, 1944

Norwalk, Connecticut  – June 9, 1944

Updated July 1, 2017

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On June 9, 1944, Elizabeth Hooker, (27) a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft in Bethpage, Long Island, was flying a fighter plane at 8,000 feet over Long Island Sound when the aircraft caught fire.  She directed the plane towards shore and bailed out when it had dropped to 1,500 feet.  She had tried to make the plane settle in the water, but instead it continued on and crashed in a swamp near a house in Norwalk.  Miss Hooker came down about a mile from the crash site unharmed except for singed eyebrows.  

     Grumman sent a seaplane to bring her back to Long Island.

     The type of aircraft wasn’t mentioned. 

    Source: The New York Times, “Girl Flier Bails Out” June 10, 1944

     Update:

     The aircraft was a F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58829).  Miss Hooker took off for the test flight at 2:08 p.m., and at 2:39 p.m. radioed Grumman Tower that her plane was on fire, and at 2:41 p.m. that she was bailing out.   The plane crashed in a swampy area near Walter Avenue and Post Road.  The aircraft burned so completely that a cause for the accident could not be determined.  

     Source: National Archives Aircraft Trouble Report, TD440609CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Danbury, Ct. – August 19, 1927

Danbury, Connecticut – August 19, 1927

      On August 19, 1927, Hanford MacNider, the United States Assistant Secretary of War, was a passenger aboard an army airplane piloted by First Lieutenant Maxwell Balfour.  The plane was scheduled to land at Danbury, Connecticut, so the MacNider could address the American Legion Convention being held there. 

     The area had suffered heavy rains prior to MacNider’s arrival, and when the plane landed the wheels dug into some soft turf causing it to flip over.  Balfour suffered an injury to his hip, but MacNider was unhurt. 

      Source: New York Times, “MacNider Unhurt In Airplane Crash”, August, 21, 1927   

     Updated March 14, 2016

     The aircraft flown by Lt. Balfour was a PT-1, (Ser. No. 27-158), a bi-wing primary trainer used by the Army Air Service.  The cause of the accident was blamed on poor ground conditions.

     Source: Aircraft Accident Report, dated August 22, 1927.   

North Stonington, Ct. – June 28, 1944

North Stonington, Ct., (Pawcatuck) June 28, 1944

     Shortly before 6 p.m. on June 28, 1944, a single-seat navy plane from Quonset Naval Air Station was flying over the Westerly – Stonington area at 18,000 feet when the tail developed a “flutter”.  The pilot dropped down to 10,000 feet and the “flutter” got worse.  Since the pilot was near Westerly Air Field, he radioed a distress call, and said he would attempt to land there.  As he attempted to reach the field the “flutter” got even worse, forcing the pilot to bail out.

     The plane began falling from the sky, but as it neared the ground it leveled off of its own accord, and swept across North Stonington Road tearing away power lines and smashing into the home of Earl and Grace Norman.  Both received burns from exploding aviation fuel.     

     Meanwhile the pilot landed safely in a field about three miles away.

Source: Providence Journal, “Plane Hits House; Man, Wife Burned”, June 29, 1944, page 1

 

Litchfield, CT. – June 12, 1943

Litchfield, Connecticut – June 12, 1943

 

P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of June 12, 1943, a flight of three U.S. Army P-47 aircraft took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts for a training flight.  While the airplanes were passing over the area of Litchfield, Connecticut, two of the aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision. 

     One of the aircraft, a P-47C, (Ser. No. 41-6081), piloted by Lieutenant Andrew Lemmens, crashed and burned in a wooded area off Norfolk Road in the town of Litchfield, near the Goshen/Litchfield  town line.  Lt. Lemmens was able to parachute safely, and landed in the woods about a mile from the crash site.  Two local youths who’d witnesses the incident found the pilot and led him out of the woods. 

     The other aircraft involved was a P47C, (Ser. No. 41-6088).  Further details are unknown as of this posting.    

     Both aircraft were assigned to the 320th Fighter Squadron.

     Sources:

     The Torrington Register, (Torrington, Ct.) “Plane Crash Reported Near Goshen”, June 12, 1943, page 1

     The Torrington Register, (Torrington, Ct.), “Airplane Burns Following Crash In Litchfield”, June 14, 1943

Groton, CT. – July 4, 1945

Groton, Connecticut – July 4, 1945

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the night of July 4, 1945, a group of navy aircraft were making a series of landings and takeoffs at the Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field as part of a training exercise.   One of the aircraft taking part was an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70879).  Another aircraft was an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81612).

 

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

  Shortly before 11:00 p.m., the Corsair made a normal landing and taxied towards the end of the runway while the Hellcat made its approach and landed.  The Hellcat landed at a normal speed and proper interval from the Corsair however, due to excessive darkness, what the pilot of the Hellcat didn’t realize was that the Corsair hadn’t completely cleared the end of the runway.  At 170 feet before the end of the runway the Hellcat drove into the rear of the Corsair completely demolishing the Corsair, and causing substantial damage to the Hellcat.  Fortunately neither pilot was seriously hurt.    

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report dated July 4, 1945.

 

Long Island Sound – June 24, 1943

Long Island Sound – June 24, 1943

 

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the morning of June 24, 1943, a U. S. Navy PV-1 Ventura, (Bu. No. 33146), with five men aboard, left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight. 

     Those aboard included:

     Pilot: Lt. (Jg.) David William Gottlieb, age 22.

     Co-pilot: Lt. (Jg.) Thomas F. DeVane, age 22 or 23. 

     Radio Operator: ARM2c Philip N. Brown

     AMM3c John E. Williams

     AOM1c Robert W. Welker

     The men were assigned to VB-125, which at that time was stationed at Quonset Point.

     The purpose of the flight was for the crew to engage in a training exercise with a U.S. Navy submarine in Long Island Sound.  The aircraft was loaded with water filled practice bombs which it was to drop on the submarine while making mock attack runs.  

     While making a low level run on the submarine, the aircraft passed over the sub and began a shallow climb to the left.  In doing so the aircraft suddenly rolled up-side-down and dove into the water of Long Island Sound in an area about mid-way between Plum Island, New York, and Niantic, Connecticut.  The plane exploded on impact and sank immediately in 100 feet of water.  None of the crew survived.   

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #43-7392, dated June 24, 1943

 

Near Groton NAAF – June 13, 1944

Near Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field – June 13, 1944

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the afternoon of June 13, 1944, Lt. (jg.) Robert Shimer took off from the Groton NAAF in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41616), for a routine training flight. At some point the engine began streaming smoke while gasoline began to spray from the left wing.  Then the engine began running very roughly and Lt. (jg.) Shimer knew he couldn’t make it back to the airfield, so he was forced to make a crash landing in an open area nearby.  The aircraft was demolished, and Shimer suffered serious injuries.

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report, dated June 13, 1944  

Groton, CT. – July 20, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – July 20, 1944

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the night of July 20, 1944, a flight of F6F Hellcat aircraft were returning to Groton Field after a night training flight.  The pilot of one Hellcat forgot to lower the landing gear and belly landed on the runway.  The aircraft suffered heavy damage, but the pilot was unhurt.

     The aircraft involved in the accident was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated July 20, 1944

Groton, CT. – July 17, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – July 17, 1944

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On July 17, 1944, Ensign Robert Byron took off in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41485), from Groton Field with a tow target secured to the tail of his airplane.  He was to take part in a gunnery training exercise.

     Immediately after takeoff the engine began to sputter and loose power before stopping completely.  Ensign Byron crash landed in a creek with the tow target still attached. 

     The plane was damaged beyond repair.  Ensign Byron suffered non-life threatening injuries. 

     Ensign Byron was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     The cause was found to be mechanical, and no fault was assigned to the pilot.

     Source:  U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated June 17, 1944

 

 

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the night of June 29, 1944, a flight of sixteen navy Hellcat aircraft were on a night formation training flight passing over Long Island Sound at an altitude of 500 feet.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 41482), piloted by Ensign L. N. Jones, suddenly lost power and fell away from the formation and hit the water.  The aircraft struck the water on a level keel and bounced upwards for a moment, and then struck the water a second time which caused the fuel tank to explode.  The blast flipped the plane over at which time it hit the water again and sank.  Ensign Jones was able to extricate himself while the plane was under water, and bobbed to the surface shortly after it disappeared.  Although injured, he was kept afloat by his life vest, and was rescued six hours later by a submarine.     

     The aircraft was not recovered.

     Ensign Jones was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report – dated June 29, 1944. 

Off Groton, CT. – June 14, 1944

 Groton, Connecticut – June 14, 1944

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On June 14, 1944, Lt. A. C. Howard was practicing air defensive tactics with other aircraft at an altitude between five to six thousand feet over the Groton area.  At one point Lt. Howard’s aircraft, an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42754), and another F6F-3, (Bu. No. 41482), were involved in a mid-air collision.  Lt. Howard was killed when his plane plunged into the waters of Long Island Sound off Groton.  The other aircraft was able to land safely.

     The aircraft were part of Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46).           

     Source:  U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report dated June 14, 1944.  

 

Glastonbury, CT. – May 28, 1944

Glastonbury, Connecticut – May 28, 1944

 

P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter Aircraft
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of May 28, 1944, a flight of four U.S. Army P-47s were flying in formation over Glastonbury when two of the aircraft collided with each other.  One aircraft, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-8285). was piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard H. Ullman, Age 19, of Atlanta, Georgia; the other, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-22269), by another 2nd lieutenant.  The flight had originated at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Ct.

     Lt. Ullman was killed when his aircraft crashed and exploded in a wooded area.  The other pilot managed to successfully bail out of his stricken airplane and landed safely.  Meanwhile his airplane crashed and burned in a neighborhood known as Welles Village near the Glastonbury-East Hartford town line.  A wing of the aircraft struck the roof of one home, but there were no reported injuries. 

     Lt. Ullman is buried in Crest Lawn Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.  To see a photograph of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #126643026.     

     Source:

     The Hartford Courant, “Crashes Kill Two Airmen, Third Hurt”, May 29, 1944.  (The article also refers to two other army plane crashes.)         

Greenwich, CT. – July 2, 1945

Greenwich, Connecticut – July 2, 1945

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of July 2, 1945, 1st. Lt. George S. Fitch was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-8296), on a ferry mission from Michigan to Bradley Air Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  At about 4:20 p.m.  he encountered severe weather over the area of Greenwich, Connecticut, and crashed.  According to a statement released by Greenwich police, the right wing was found about a mile from the crash site.  The plane came down on the farm of  R. Lawrence Oakley, off Dingletown Road, and narrowly missed the house.  The debris field reportedly stretched for hundreds of feet.  Lieutenant Fitch was killed instantly. 

     Lieutenant Fitch had recently returned from overseas duty where he had served as a B-25 bomber pilot with the 489th Bombardment Squadron.  He’s buried in Rushville Cemetery in Gorham, New York.

     To see photographs of Lt. Fitch, visit www.findagrave.com, Memorial ID 78306938.   

     Sources:

      The Greenwich Press, (Greenwich, CT.), “Army Flyer Killed When Plane Crashes Here” – “P-47 Forced Down In Storm, Misses R. L. Oakley House”, July 3, 1945, page 1.   

     www.findagrave.com

     The Hartford Courant, “Storm Sends Plane Pilot To His death”, July 3, 1945

     The Hartford Courant, “Pilot Killed In Crash At Greenwich Identified”, July 4, 1945 

Coventry, CT. – May 30, 1943

Coventry, Connecticut – May 30, 1943

 

P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on the morning of May 30, 1943, an army pilot from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, was on a training flight over central Connecticut in a P-47B aircraft when a fire developed in the engine.  The pilot, who was not identified in the newspaper, managed to bail out of the burning aircraft, but when he did so was struck by the rear stabilizer, and suffered a severe injury to his thigh.  The aircraft crashed on the eastern side of Grant Hill Road in the northern portion of the town of Coventry, Connecticut.  The pilot landed safely in the area of Coventry’s Creaser Park, near Case and South River Roads.  He was attended to by a passing motorist before being transported to Manchester Memorial Hospital.   

     Source:

     The Hartford Courant, “Two Army Planes Crash, One Killed, Another Hurt,”  May 31, 1943, page 1.   (The article refers to two separate plane crashes.)

Stratford, CT. – September 15, 1974

Stratford, Connecticut – September 15, 1974

Sikorsky Airport

     On the evening of September 15, 1974, an experimental helicopter containing four men and one woman was taxing onto the airfield at Sikorsky Airport when it suddenly exploded.  The helicopter, a YCH-53E (Sea Stallion) prototype, was about to begin a demonstration test flight in the hopes of gaining a contract with the U.S. Navy or Marines.

     All five persons aboard suffered severe injuries and burns.

     By the time the fire was extinguished only the nose and tail section remained.

     Sources:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Copter Blast”, September 16, 1974, page A-6   

     Providence Journal, “4 In Copter Blast Reported Fair”, September 17, 1974, page B-2 

 

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     In the early morning hours of June 29, 1945, Lt. (Jg.) George H. MacBride was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78176), on a radar mapping flight over Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut.  He was part of a three aircraft flight that had left Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island. 

     At 1:40 a.m., while flying over the area of Fisher’s Island, south of New London, the pilots of the other two aircraft observed an explosion on the water followed by a fire.  (The location was about two miles southwest of Fisher’s Island.)  A rescue PBY aircraft was sent from Charlestown NAS and arrived on scene within twenty minutes, and rescue boats arrived at about 3:00 a.m., but neither Lt. (Jg.) MacBride or his aircraft were recovered.  The cause of the accident could not be determined.

     Source: National Archives, 54-45, TD 450629CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

East Haven, CT. – May 23, 1945

East Haven, Connecticut – May 23, 1945

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

      On the morning of May 23, 1945, a civilian test pilot took off from Bridgeport Airport in Bridgeport, Ct., in a U. S. Navy F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81778), for a production test flight.  At an altitude of 12,000 feet the engine began to misfire, and the pilot radioed that he would be making an emergency landing at New Haven Airport.  At approximately 3,000 feet, and while making a turn to begin his final approach, the aircraft caught fire and smoke and flames began to fill the cockpit.  While attempting to turn off the fuel selector valve the pilot received minor burns on his left wrist and both ankles.  At 2,000 feet the pilot bailed out and parachuted safely, coming down in the middle of  a creek.  He was assisted from the water by some local residents who took him to New Haven Airport where he was treated for shock and minor burns.

     Meanwhile, the unmanned aircraft crashed 75 feet from a home in the area of 263 Short Beach Road in East Haven.  There were no injuries to those on the ground, but the plane was completely destroyed.    

     Source: National Archives, ATR-1 (revised), TD450525CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

Ledyard, CT. – May 6, 1945

Ledyard, Connecticut – May 6, 1945

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of May 6, 1945, a flight of seven navy Corsair fighter airplanes took off from Groton Naval Air Station in Groton, Connecticut, for a training flight.  About eight miles north of the air base the pilots began practicing a series of various maneuvers and formation flying.  At one point the flight leader initiated a “follow the leader” exercise.  One of the pilots, Lt. (jg.) David Lee Johnson, 23, of Jamaica, Long Island, N.Y., was the last man in the first flight division.  As the line of planes were going through a series of rolls at 3,000 feet, Johnson’s aircraft, an F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81395), suddenly nosed over and crashed.  The aircraft exploded on impact and Johnson was killed. The aircraft came down on a farm in Ledyard, impacting just fifty feet in from the roadway.      

     Lt. (jg.) Johnson was assigned to VBF-152.

     Source: National Archives, TD450506CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.    

Preston, CT. – February 2, 1945

Preston, Connecticut – February 2, 1945

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On February 2, 1945, Ensign Nelson L. Hazard was piloting an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70211), over Connecticut on a routine training flight.  After using up the fuel from the right main tank, he turned on the emergency fuel pump and switched to using the fuel in his droppable fuel tank suspended beneath the aircraft.  The engine ran normally for about five minutes before it abruptly stopped.  Ensign Hazard then switched to his reserve fuel tank but the engine wouldn’t start.  He then tried switching to the left main tank but with no results.  The aircraft was at 6,000 feet at this time, and Hazard decided to remain with the aircraft and attempt an emergency landing. 

     After seeing an open field below, Hazard aimed for it, and came in with the wheels up.  At the edge of the field the plane scraped over the top of a tree which ripped away the droppable fuel tank.  The tank fell against a boulder and exploded.  Meanwhile, the aircraft hit the ground and skidded for 100 yards before coming to rest.  A small fire erupted on one wing, but burned itself out.  The pilot was not injured.

     The location of the crash was in a field off Brickyard Road in the town of Preston.     

     Source: National Archives TD 450202CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Bradley Field, CT. – April 19, 1944

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – April 19, 1944 

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of April 19, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Horace W. Cotton was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-8021), from Bradly Army Air Field when he developed engine trouble and requested clearance for an emergency landing.  Clearance was granted, and as Lieutenant Cotton was attempting to make it to runway 33,  his aircraft crashed about 100 yards short of the tarmac, and he was killed.   

     Lieutenant Cotton is buried in Fairmont Cemetery, in Denver, Colorado.  

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Forces Report Of Aircraft Accident, #44-4-19-30

     www.findagrave.com

Bradley Field, CT. – May 28, 1944

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – May 28, 1944 

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of May 28, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant William A. Benson, was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-74853), as part of a four aircraft, high altitude, training flight.   Soon after take off from Bradly Field, Lieutenant Benson radioed the flight leader that he had gasoline coming into his cockpit, and he was cleared to return to base.  At this point the flight was about ten miles distant from Bradley Field.

     Lieutenant Benson called for an emergency landing and was given clearance by control tower personnel.  It appeared to those in the tower that Benson’s aircraft was making a normal approach to the runway, when flames suddenly erupted from the right side of the engine and then engulfed the cockpit.  The aircraft then nosed over and crashed and exploded 200 yards short of the end of the runway.  

     Lieutenant Benson had received his pilot rating on March 12, 1944.

     Lieutenant Benson is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Saginaw, Michigan.  To see a photo of Lieutenant Benson, go to www.findagrave.com,  Memorial #99788097. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Forces Report Of Aircraft Accident, #44-5-28-15

     www.findagrave.com

 

Bradley Field, CT. – August 19, 1944

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – August 19, 1944 

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 19, 1944, 1st Lieutenant Walter L. Gibson Jr., took off from Bradley Army Air Field for a test flight in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser# 42-8307).  The reason for the test flight was due to troubles previously reported with this aircraft.  Prior to take off, Lt. Gibson had spoken with the line chief, and performed two thorough “run-up checks” of the aircraft.  Almost immediately after take off, when the plane had reached an altitude of only 250 feet, the engine began to cut out and emit black oily smoke.  Lt. Gibson called the tower and advised he was making an emergency landing and the tower replied that he could use any runway as all were clear.  As Gibson began to make a left turn the engine lost all power and the plane fell into a wooded area about a half-mile from the end of the runway.   The plane was wrecked and Lt. Gibson was killed.

     Lt. Gibson had attained his pilot rating on August 5, 1942. 

     Source: U.S. Army Air Forces Report Of Aircraft Accident #45-8-19-17 

 

Bradley Field, CT. – July 16, 1943

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – July 16, 1943

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On July 16, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant George S. Palmer, 24, took off from Bradley Air Field for a scheduled high altitude training flight in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-22356).  Shortly after takeoff he joined a formation of four aircraft.  When the formation reached an altitude of 15,000 feet, Palmer radioed the flight leader that the propeller on his P-47 wasn’t running right and that he was returning to Bradley Filed.  On the way back Lieutenant Palmer was killed when his P-47 went into an uncontrolled dive and crashed near Bradley Field.    

     Lt. Palmer was assigned to the 362nd Fighter Squadron, 379th Fighter group. He’s buried in Claquato Cemetery in Chehalis, Washington.

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Forces Report Of Aircraft Accident, #44-7-16-2

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #45179701

Bradley Field, CT. – August 4, 1944

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – August 4, 1944

 

 

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 4, 1944, a flight of four P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft took off from Bradley Field for a formation training flight.  Just after take off, one aircraft, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-22514), piloted by Lt. Sylvester F. Currier, began experiencing engine trouble.  After informing the flight leader of his situation Lt. Currier was ordered to return to Bradley Field.  As Currier was about 1.5 miles from the field black smoke began coming from the airplane’s exhaust.  The flight leader advised the lieutenant to land on the nearest runway as there was very little wind.  Unfortunately Lt. Currier’s aircraft didn’t make it to the runway, and crashed in a wooded area about a quarter of a mile from the end of Runway 6.  The engine and landing gear were torn away, and although Lt. Currier was strapped to his seat, the seat broke loose and the lieutenant was slammed against the instrument panel.  A small fire erupted, but was extinguished quickly by rescue crews.  The aircraft was a total wreck.    

     Lt. Currier was not seriously injured.  He’d received his pilot’s rating on April 15, 1944.

     Source:

     U. S. Army Air Forces Aircraft Accident report #45-8-4-15    

Bradley Field, CT. – March 22, 1944

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 1:30 p.m., on March 22, 1944, army 2nd Lt. Leeroy Halverson (Spelled with two e’s.) took off from Bradley Field for a routine training flight in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-8264).  About an hour later, as he was making his approach for landing, his aircraft crashed at the beginning of the runway and he was killed.

     Lt. Halverson was assigned to the 1st Fighter Squadron, First Air Force.  He’d received his pilot’s rating on February 8, 1944.   

     Lt. Halverson is buried in Union Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #126963224. 

     Source:

     U.S. Army Air Forces Report Of Aircraft Accident, #44-3-22-20 

Hartford, CT. – November 12, 1922

Hartford, Connecticut – November 12, 1922

Brainard Field

     On the afternoon of November 12, 1922, U. S. Army First Lieutenant John E. Blaney was piloting a DeHaviland biplane at the Hartford Air Meet, where he was taking part in a three-plane relay race.  At the end of his third lap around the course, he was expected to land at a designated mark on the ground near the finish line where another plane was waiting to take off and continue the race.   Lieutenant Blaney was flying low as he approached the mark at an estimated 140 mph.  Without warning, his aircraft clipped the top of a tree at the southern end of the field.  This caused him to lose control and crash into the ground where the plane exploded into a massive fireball killing him instantly. 

     The accident was witnessed by an estimated 20,000 people, many of whom made a rush towards the site of the crash, but police and other military personnel held them at bay.      

     Lt. Blaney was an experienced pilot who had served overseas during WWI.  At the time of his death he was assigned to the 5th Observation Squadron based at Mitchell Field at Mineola, Long Island, New York. 

     He was survived by his wife.

     Lieutenant Blaney is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Sutton, Nebraska.  To see a photo of his grave, and to read more about him, see www.findagrave.com, memorial #521232387.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “20,000 Watch Airman Swoop To His death At Brainard Field.”, November 13, 1922.  

South Windsor, CT. – February 23, 1919

South Windsor, CT. – February 23, 1919

 

     On February 23, 1919, two U.S. Army lieutenants took off from Hartford, Connecticut, bound for Boston, Massachusetts, to photograph the arrival of President Woodrow Wilson’s aircraft landing at Boston. 

     The pilot was identified as Lt. S. W. Torney, and the photographer was identified as Lt. Cundiff. 

     As the plane was en-route to Boston it developed engine trouble, and Lt. Torney was forced to make an emergency landing in a field on private property in South Windsor.  After inspecting the engine, it was decided that trying to reach Boston would be too risky, so Lt. Cundiff was told to stay behind and return to Hartford via trolley while Torney would fly alone back to Hartford with the airplane.     

     After making some minor adjustments to the motor, Lieutenant Torney took off and was approximately fifty feet in the air when his airplane suddenly lost power and crashed in another field about a quarter of a mile away.  The airplane suffered significant damage, but Lieutenant Torney was relatively unhurt.

     Lieutenant Torney stayed with his airplane to protect it from the gathering crowds until a local constable arrived.  

     Lt. Torney’s airplane had begun its trip from Mineola, Long Island, New York, the previous day with two others, all bound for Boston.  One of the three developed an overheated engine and was forced to return to Mineola shortly after taking off.   The other two made it to Hartford where they spent the night.  After receiving word of Lt. Torney’s accident, the third was sent to Boston to complete the assignment.  It was reported that it flew over the spot where Lt. Torney had crashed before proceeding to Boston.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.) “Army Airplane Wrecked In Fifty Foot Fall In So. Windsor Pasture”, February 24, 1919

 

Hamden, CT. – December 29, 1918

Hamden, Connecticut – December 29, 1918

 

     On December 29, 1918, U.S. Army Sergeant C. T. Cato of Waco, Texas, was flying a Curtis aircraft from Norwich, Connecticut, to Mineola, Long Island, New York.  This was a training flight, and the Sergeant was heading back to Long Island where he was stationed.

     As he was passing over the area of Hamden, Connecticut, the airplane developed engine trouble.  Looking for a place to set down, he spotted the grounds of the New Haven Country Club which, despite the name, is actually located in the town of Hamden, just to the north of New Haven.  As he brought the plane in for a landing the aircraft lost power and crashed into a tree.  Although the plane was wrecked, Sergeant Cato was not hurt.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “Curtis Airplane Is Wrecked In New Haven”, December 30, 1918     

 

Rockville, CT. – November 11, 1920

Rockville, Connecticut – November 11, 1920

Rockville is a village in the town of Vernon, Connecticut.

     On November 11, 1920, the Village of Rockville was celebrating Armistice Day.  (Today known as Veteran’s Day, marking the end of World War I.)  Part of the ceremonies were to include a flight made by and army airplane that had been brought in for the day.  The plane had been parked at the fair grounds for most of the morning to give the public ample time to view it. 

     When it came time for the flight, the propeller was spun to start the aircraft, and when the engine roared to life, the pilotless airplane suddenly pulled away and drove itself into a nearby parked automobile.   A U.S. Army Lieutenant was slightly injured when he was nicked by the spinning propeller.   The aircraft and automobile suffered significant damage.

     The cause was said to be an open throttle. 

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Rockville Airplane Has Accident”, November 12, 1920 

 

Rockville, CT. – August 8, 1920

Rockville, Connecticut – August 8, 1920

     Rockville is a village within the town of Vernon, Connecticut.  

     On August 8, 1920, U.S. Army Lieutenant Mark C. Hogue was giving an exhibition flight over Rockville with Councilman Fred C. Neff aboard as a passenger.  As the plane was coming in to land it lost airspeed due to hitting a pocket of thin air and fell into a tree.  Neither was injured.

     Lieutenant Hogue was later killed on July 23, 1925, when the aircraft he was piloting crashed just after take off from Boston Airport.  He’s buried in Forest View Cemetery, in Forest Grove, Oregon.  See www.findagrave.com, memorial # 90760504.   

     Sources:

     Hartford Courant, “Mark Hogue Has Narrow Escape”, August 9, 1920

     New York Times, “Two Die In Boston Plane”, July 24, 1925 

New Haven, CT. – June 9, 1918

New Haven, Connecticut – June 9, 1918

     On June 9, 1918, a flight of six U.S. Army two-passenger airplanes left Mineola, Long Island, New York, on a practice flight over Long Island Sound and Connecticut.  The planes flew to New Haven, where the first five landed safely on a field near the Yale Bowl.  As the sixth aircraft was coming in to land it crashed into a tree causing moderate damage to the plane.  The occupants, both lieutenants, (one identified as R. W. Williams), were not injured.

     After a short stay, the other five planes left to return to Long Island. The two lieutenants had to return by train.  Arrangements were made to dismantle the airplane and bring it back to new York.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Airplane Strikes Tree In New Haven”, June 10, 1918 

Middletown, CT. – May 9, 1920

Middletown, Connecticut – May 9, 1920

     On May 8, 1920, U.S. Army Lieutenant Kenneth M. Murray had flown from Long Island, New York, to Middletown, Connecticut, where landed at Brock’s Field in an area known as Farm Hill.  The aircraft he flew was a 90 horse power Curtis bi-plane. 

     The following day he was accelerating for take off with an unidentified passenger aboard when the plane’s undercarriage ran into a muddy portion of the field and sank into the soft earth causing the lower left wing to dip and hit the ground.  The wing caught the ground and caused the plane to ground loop, crumpling the wings, and breaking the propeller.  The plane was described as a “complete wreck”, but fortunately there were no injuries.   

     The wreckage was taken back to New York where it was felt the engine might be salvaged.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “Airplane Wrecked; Pilot Uninjured”, May 10, 1920

 

 

 

Newington, CT. – April 23, 1919

Newington, Connecticut – April 23, 1919

     On the afternoon of April 23, 1919, U.S. Army Lieutenant Darrell Monteith was in the process of taking off in a Curtis-H military aircraft at Newington, Connecticut, when a group of excited youngsters suddenly ran out onto the field in the direct path of the aircraft just as it was leaving the ground.  In an effort to avoid the children, Lt. Monteith made a hard left turn thus avoiding the children, but he failed to clear the top of a 30 foot tree.  The airplane crashed into the top of the tree and then went over an embankment where hit two parked automobiles.  

     Lt. Monteith and his mechanic, Sergeant Glen D. Schultz, received non-life-threatening injuries.  The aircraft was wrecked.     

     Lt. Monteith and Sgt. Schultz had been part of a flight of aircraft which had left from Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, to take part in a Victory Loan air show scheduled to take place in Springfield, Massachusetts.   As the flight neared Newington, Lt. Monteith noticed he was low on fuel and landed.  The other pilots, after seeing that Monteith was alright, continued on to Springfield where they performed a series of stunts.       

      Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Airman Uproots Tree To Avoid Hitting Kids”, April 24, 1919

Plainville, CT. – June 23, 1919

Plainville, Connecticut – June 23, 1919

     On the morning of June 23, 1919, U.S. Army Air Service pilot, Lieutenant French Kirby, and his mechanic, identified only as Sergeant Wharf, flew from Mineola, Long Island, New York, to Plainville, and landed safely.  The purpose of the flight was to take part in a town-wide celebration during which they were to give exhibition flights.  After making approximately 18 flights between the morning and afternoon, the two men took off again to fly over the Marlin-Rockwell Corporation Plant just as the parade would be coming to an end.  As they were doing so the aircraft lost power and fell from an altitude of about 200 feet and crashed near the plant, coming to rest upside down.  Remarkably, neither man was seriously hurt, and both were able to extricate themselves from the wreck.  

     A repair/salvage crew was sent the following day to bring the plane back to Mineola.

     The cause of the accident was blamed on a poor quality gasoline used to refuel the aircraft while it was at Plainville.

     Unfortunately Lieutenant Kirby was killed in another plane crash  about four months later. 

     On October 15, 1919, Lieutenant Kirby and an observer, Lieutenant Stanley C. Miller, were flying in a trans-continental air derby in Army Observation Aircraft #44, when the plane lost power over the Rigby Ranch in castle Rock, Utah, and crashed.  Kirby was killed instantly, and Miller succumbed a few hours later. 

     Lt. Kirby is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and Lt. Miller is buried in Woodlawn cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.    To see photos of their graves and to read a newspaper account about their accident, see www.findagrave.com, memorials 57195448, and 82156891. 

     Sources:

     The Hartford Courant, “Plainville Gas Poor, U. S. Airplane Plunges 200 Feet”, June 26, 1919 

     The Ogden Standard Examiner, “Lieut. Kirby Meets Instant Death In Utah”, October 16, 1919

     www.findagrave.com   

        

Missing Aircraft – February 10, 1943

Missing Aircraft – February 10, 1943

Updated June 30, 2017

     On the afternoon of February 10, 1943, a U.S. Army O-47B observation plane, (ser. #39-72) with two men aboard left Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, bound for Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, and disappeared en-route.  Searchers flying the intended route of the plane failed to locate anything.  It’s possible that the plane went down in Long Island Sound.

     The pilot was Flight Officer Talmadge J. Simpson, 23, of Atlanta, Georgia, and his observer was Corporal Louis T. Vogt Jr., 25, of Brooklyn, New York.     

     Update: This aircraft was located in October of 1976 in 50 feet of water near the Long Island Lighting Company loading platform in Northport, Long Island, New York, when a fishing boat snagged it nets on the wreckage.  

     Sources:

      New York Times, (No headline – press release from Westover Field, Massachusetts, from the Eastern Defense Command.), February, 14, 1943  

     Newsday, (long island, N.Y.), “A 33-Year-Old Mystery In The Sound”, October 24, 1976 

Killingly, CT – December 20, 1954

Killingly, Connecticut – December 20, 1954

     

Grumman AF-2 Guardian, Bu. No. 124785 Killingly, Ct., Dec. 20. 1954  U.S. Navy Photo

Grumman AF-2 Guardian, Bu. No. 124785
Killingly, Ct., Dec. 20. 1954
U.S. Navy Photo

      On the morning of December 20, 1954, navy Lt. (Jg.) George Delafield took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island in a Grumman AF-2W Guardian, (Bu. No. 124785), for what was to be an instrument training flight.  Shortly before 10 a.m., while over the town of Killingly, Connecticut, the aircraft’s generator stopped working resulting in an onboard fire.  Lt. Delafield managed to set the plane down in an open field and climbed out as soon as it came to rest.   He was uninjured, but the plane was a total loss.

     The aircraft was assigned to VS-39 at Quonset Point.  

     This accident is sometimes confused with another AF-2 Guardian that crashed in the neighboring town of Putnam, Connecticut, on May 7, 1953.  In that instance four men were killed.  The details of that accident can be found elsewhere on this website.  

    

Grumman AF-2 Guardian, Bu. No. 124785 Killingly, Ct., Dec. 20. 1954 U.S. Navy Photo

Grumman AF-2 Guardian, Bu. No. 124785
Killingly, Ct., Dec. 20. 1954
U.S. Navy Photo

     Only 398 AF Guardian aircraft were manufactured, making this a rare airplane when speaking in a historical context.  (Only a handful of examples are known to still exist, and not all are airworthy.)

     In 1996, members of the Confederate Air Force Museum, (Today known as the Commemorative Air Force Museum) visited the site in hopes of recovering pieces of Lt. Delafield’s AF-2W to be used in a restoration project of another AF-2W in the museum’s collection.   

     The Guardian aircraft in the museum’s collection was once flown by famous naval aviator Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale in the 1950s. During the Vietnam War, Stockdale flew 116 combat missions before being shot down and captured.  He spent the next seven-and-a-half years as a POW, four of them in solitary confinement for organizing a resistance movement among the prisoners.   For his efforts he was awarded the Medal of Honor.  He was also Ross Perot’s running mate in the United States 1992 presidential campaign.  

     Today the restored Guardian is in the Commemorative Air Force Museum’s collection as static display at their Arizona facility.

     The Norwich Bulletin, “Field May Yield Rare C…” (Rest of headline missing.) September 5, 1996  

     Wikipedia – Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale

     Wikipedia – Commemorative Air Force Museum 

 

Long Island Sound – December 24, 1942

Long Island Sound – December 24, 1942

    

U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger
National Archives Photo

     On December 24, 1942, a flight of four navy TBF-1 Avengers left Norfolk, Virginia, bound for Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  After a stop in New Haven, Connecticut, the planes left for New London, flying over Long Island Sound along the coast of Connecticut.  Somewhere between New Haven and New London, Lt. (jg.) William Young Bailey and his aircraft disappeared from formation and was presumed to have crashed in the Sound.  The following day pieces of aircraft wreckage were found near New Haven.    

     Lt. Bailey was alone in the aircraft. 

     It is unclear whether or not Lt. Bailey’s body was recovered.  There is a memorial to him located in Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Ohio.  To see a picture of the memorial, and a photograph of Lt. Bailey, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #6290244.      

     Source:

     The Sunday Morning Star, (Wilmington, Del.) “Navy Flyer Missing On Connecticut Trip”, December 27, 1942.  

Trumbull Airport – August 19, 1950

Trumbull Airport – August 19, 1950

Groton, Connecticut

     

B-26G Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

B-26G Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 19, 1950, a Connecticut Air National Guard B-26 aircraft took off from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, bound for Trumbull Airport in  Groton, Connecticut for a transport flight.  

     There were four men aboard; the pilot, 1st Lt. Martin E. Coleman, 32, of Hartford, Connecticut, and three passengers, Major William B. Duty, Capt. Paul E. Kimper, and Sgt. Kyle C. Thresher.   

     They arrived at Groton during a driving rainstorm which hampered visibility, and made for slick runway conditions.  While attempting to land, the plane skidded off the end of the runway, over a seven foot embankment, and plunged into the Poquonoc River and flipped on its back and sank, leaving only the plane’s belly and landing gear protruding from the water. 

     Lt. Coleman drowned, but the other three men escaped with minor injuries.

     Lt. Coleman was a member of the 118th Fighter Squadron, 103rd Fighter Group, then based at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  He enlisted in the 118th Observation Squadron (Ct. Nat. Guard) after his high school graduation in 1936, and in the Army Air Corps in 1941.  In 1943 he earned his pilots wings and flew a variety of aircraft while serving with the Air Transport Command.  After his discharge in 1946, he re-joined the Air National Guard.   He’s Buried in Northwood Cemetery, in Windsor, Connecticut.   (See www.findagrave.com, Memorial #150775556.)

     Sources:

     (New London, Ct.) The Day, “Air Force To Probe Fatal Crash At Trumbull Airport”, August 21, 1950

     www.findagrave.com

Norfolk, CT – March 31, 1943

Norfolk, Connecticut – March 31, 1943

    

Curtiss P-40   U.S. Air Force Photo

Curtiss P-40
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:34 p.m. on March 31, 1943, 1st Lt. Daniel H. Thorson, 24, took off in a P-40E fighter plane, (#41-36514), from Mitchell Filed, on Long Island, New York, bound for Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  The weather was cloudy with a 1,400 foot ceiling. 

     The trip was expected to take less than an hour, however when Lt. Thorson failed to arrive, and no word was heard from him, he was declared “missing”, and a search was instituted.   After a week the search was called off.  Then, on April 24th, two Yale Forestry School students conducting a timber survey on Blackberry Ridge in Norfolk, Connecticut, happened upon the wreck of Lt. Thorson’s plane.  The wreckage was scattered over a wide area at the 1,571 foot level, and it was surmised the ridge had been hidden by the low cloud cover. 

    

Lt. Daniel H. Thorson U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

Lt. Daniel H. Thorson
U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

     Daniel Henry Thorson was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana.  Before the war, he’d worked for Western Air Lines and Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles, California.  He enlisted in the Army on February 2, 1942, and completed his pilot’s training at Luke Filed, Arizona, on August 27, 1942.   He was survived by his parents and three sisters, and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Great Falls. 

     In June of 2003, a memorial to Lt. Thorson was dedicated at the site of his crash by a group of local citizens.  

     Sources:

     Norfolk/Connecticut Death records

     Memorial dedication pamphlet, dated June 25, 2003

     Great Falls Tribune, “Rites Conducted For Lt. Thorson”, unknown date.

     Great Falls Tribune, “Funeral Rites For Lt. Thorson Will Be Here”, unknown date.

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #59873652

 

Bozrah, CT – March 30, 1943

Bozrah, Connecticut – March 30, 1943

   

North American Texan Military Trainer
Author Photo

     On the morning of March 30, 1943, a flight of four SNJ-4 navy trainer aircraft from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, were on a cross-country training flight over the Norwich, Connecticut, area.  The cloud ceiling was at 4,000 feet, and the planes were flying under it.  

     The SNJ-4 was the navy version of the army AT-6 Texan.  It was a single-engine, two-seat, aircraft manufactured By North American.    

     The aircraft were on loan to British pilots assigned to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit – 22, (CASU-22) based at Quonset Point.  One of the aircraft, (#26816), was piloted by Midshipman Raymond Clarke, 19, of Nottingham, England, and his instructor, Sub-Lieutenant Donald Frederick Dillon, 21, of Aesterfield, New Zealand.   

    At about 10:25  a.m., while the formation was passing over the town of Bozrah, just west of Norwich, Clarke’s aircraft began to experience engine trouble, and had to drop out of formation.  The plane was over a semi-populated area and neither man attempted to bail out.  They crashed in a wooded area in the village of Gilman, which is located in the northern part of Bozrah.   

     The aircraft was seen by two contractors doing work on the Gilman Mill to be trailing black smoke with its engine skipping just before it crashed and exploded.   

     Midshipman Clarke was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He was the son of Herbert and Constance Hilda Clarke of Lenton Sands, Nottingham, England.  He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #15037563.  His date of birth is July 4, 1923.

     Sub-Lieutenant Dillon was a member of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer reserve.  He was the son of Henry Charles Julian and Frances E. Dillon, of Ashburton, Canterbury, New Zealand.   He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #15037560.  His date of birth is October 3, 1921.

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy crash brief, #43-6396

     Norwich Bulletin, “Two Fliers Lose Lives In Crash Of Plane At Gilman”, March 31, 1943.

     Pawtucket Times, “Dead Navy Fliers Are Identified”, March 31, 1943, page 1

     Providence Journal, “Fliers Identified”, April 1, 1943, page 22.

     Town of Bozrah death records.

     www.findagrave.com – Dillon, Clarke

 

Black Rock Harbor, CT – June 12, 1942

Black Rock Harbor, Bridgeport, Connecticut – June 12, 1942

    

P-47B Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 12, 1942, 2nd Lt. Edward S. Almgren, 23, was piloting a P-47B Thunderbolt, (#41-6930), over the Bridgeport, Connecticut, area on an aircraft familiarization flight.   When it came time to land at Bridgeport Airport, he lowered the wheels, and discovered the aircraft was loosing power.  At first he wasn’t concerned, for it was his first time flying a P-47, and with no previous experience for comparison, he assumed the loss of power was due to the lowering of the landing gear.  (At the time all instruments were reading normal.)  As he was beginning to circle the field at 1,400 feet and contacting the tower for instructions, the engine abruptly quit without any prior warning.   As the plane rapidly lost air speed and altitude, Lt. Almgren retracted the wheels and aimed for Black Rock Harbor on Long Island Sound.  When the P-47 hit the water it skimmed the surface for about 100 yards before it nosed over and sank.  Lt. Almgren had to hold his breath as he freed himself and swam for the surface.  He was quickly rescued by two men in a passing boat and brought ashore.

     Once on land, he went directly to his home at 2445 Fairfield Avenue which was only a short distance from the harbor, and called his superiors at the airport to let them know he was safe.   

     The aircraft was recovered from the water. The cause of the accident was found to be material failure with the engine.       

     At the time of the accident Lt. Algren was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-12-3 

     Unknown Newspaper, “Flier Is Saved In Harbor Crash”, Unknown Date. (Newspaper article was included with army crash investigation report. 

 

 

Bridgeport, CT – May 25, 1942

Bridgeport, Connecticut – May 25, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On May 25, 1942, an army pilot was landing a P-40F, (#41-13814), at Bridgeport Airport, when he misjudged the distance and undershot the runway.  The landing gear was folded backwards when it struck an earthen bank at the end of the runway, causing the plane to hit the runway on its belly and slide to a stop.  Although the plane suffered considerable damage, the pilot was uninjured.   

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-5-25-5 

Windsor Locks, CT – June 15, 1947

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – June 15, 1947

    

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 15, 1947, Captain William H. Greenleaf, piloting a P-47N, (#44-89106) took off from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks with seven other P-47 aircraft for a simulated combat training mission.  After the aircraft formed up over Bradley Field at 5,000 feet they split into two flights of four aircraft each, and each flight took turns making simulated attacks against the other.  

     When it was their turn, the group in which Captain Greenleaf was part of, climbed to 7,500 feet and made three successive mock attacks against the other group which was circling below at 5,000 feet.  After making two mock runs without incident, they climbed again for a third.  It was during this third mock attack that Captain Greenleaf’s aircraft never came out of the dive, and crashed at a step angle in a wooded area where it exploded and burned about 1/4 mile south of Bradley Field.     

     Capt. Greenleaf was killed instantly.

     Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the accident. 

     Captain Greenleaf was assigned to the 118th Fighter Squadron, 103rd Fighter Group, of the Connecticut Air National Guard.

     Source: Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report, # 47-6-15-1   

   

Bloomfield, CT – May 24, 1949

Bloomfield, Connecticut – May 24, 1949

    

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On May 5, 1949, two F-47N fighter planes of the Connecticut Air National Guard took off from Bradley Field for a training flight.  One aircraft, (#44-89346) was piloted by 1st Lt. Marshall J. O’Quinn, 30, and the other by Lt. Russell B. Elliott.    

     The F-47 was the designation given to the former P-47 Thunderbolt used extensively by the allies during World War II.  By 1949 they had been relegated to National Guard units. 

     At about 6:00 p.m., Lieutenant’s O’Quinn and Elliott were flying at 3,000 feet about 2 miles due west of Talcott Mountain, heading north.  Lt. Elliott was leading with Lt. O’Quinn on his left wing.  At this time Lt. Elliott made a 180 degree turn and began heading south, while Lt. O’Quinn turned east towards Bradley Filed.  Lt. O’Quinn’s radio had stopped working about five minutes earlier, and believing he was returning to Bradley due to some other malfunction with the airplane, Lt. Elliott turned to follow.   

     The airplanes passed over Heublein Tower atop Talcott Mountain with Lt. Elliott trailing and continued in a northeast direction.  Then Lt. O’Quinn made a shallow 360 degree turn at an altitude between 1,500 and 2,000 feet.  After completion of the turn, he climbed to 3,000 feet and rolled the F-47 on its back and went into a split-S maneuver pulling streamers from each wingtip.  Lt. Elliott watched as Lt. Quinn’s aircraft dove all the way down then level off just before it crashed.  Lt. O’Quinn was killed instantly. 

     Air force investigators were at a loss to explain the accident.  In their conclusions they wrote, “All reports and information concerning this pilot indicate that he was a steady conscientious individual not inclined toward rash and erratic handling of aircraft.  The reason for the maneuver which caused this crash is unknown.”   

     Lt. O’Quinn was a veteran of WWII, and received his pilot’s wings on April 15, 1945.  At the time of his accident he was assigned to the 118th Fighter Squadron, 103rd Fighter Group, 67th Fighter Wing, of the 1st Air Force.  

     He’s buried in East Cemetery in Manchester, Connecticut, in the veteran’s section.  To view a photo of his grave, go to www.findagrave.com and see Memorial # 1374190.

     Sources:

     Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #49-5-24-6

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 1374190 

Bradley Field, CT – December 26, 1948

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – December 26, 1948

 

     On December 26, 1948, an F-47N military aircraft, (Ser. No. 44-89370N), piloted by Captain James E. Elsner, 29, took off from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks for a training flight.  After a flight of about 50 minutes, the captain was returning to Bradley when he noticed the aircraft loosing power, and then the engine stopped completely.  Knowing he couldn’t make the runway, the pilot retracted the landing gear and made a crash landing through some trees and power lines before skidding to a stop about 500 feet short of the runway.  The plane didn’t catch fire, and the pilot escaped without injury.    

     Source: Air Force Accident Report, #48-C-12-26-1

Hartford, CT – October 2, 1920

Hartford, Connecticut – October 2, 1920

Updated January 27, 2016

     Hartford-Brainard Airport is a small airport south of downtown Hartford, and should not be confused with Bradley International Airport, which is in Windsor Locks.  

    Brainard Airport was established in 1921 because of a tragic accident which took the lives of two naval officers.  On October 2, 1920, the two officers, (Pilot) Lt. Arthur C. Wagner, and Lt. Commander William Merrill Corry, Jr., flew from Mineola, N.Y. and landed in an open area of the Hartford Club golf course because in 1920 airfields were few and far between.  They had come to Connecticut to meet with other military personnel.  

     Late in the afternoon they attempted to take off and return to New York, but as the plane began to rise the engine suddenly lost power and they crashed into a grove of trees.  Almost immediately the plane burst into flame.    Lt. Wagner was pinned in the wreckage, but  Lt. Cmdr. Corry had been thrown clear.  Yet despite his injuries, Corry returned to the flaming wreck and tried to rescue the pilot.  Two civilians who’d witnessed the crash, Walter E. Batterson, and Martin Keane, ran to his assistance, and together they pulled Wagner free and carried him a safe distance away.  

     Lt. Wagner was transported to an area hospital and died of his injuries later that night.  Lt. Cmdr. Corry was also badly burned in the rescue attempt, and died four days later on October 6th.  Both civilians also suffered burns, but they recovered.

     For his efforts, Corry was awarded the Medal of Honor (Posthumously).  Corry Airfield in Florida was later named in his honor in 1923.  Three U.S. Navy destroyers were also named in his honor, one in 1921, the next in 1941, and the third in 1945.

     Due to this horrific accident, Brainard Airport was established to provide aviators with a safe place to land and take off, without having to look for random open spaces to set down.  The airport was named for Mayor Newton C. Brainard.

     Lt. Cmdr. Corry is buried in Eastern Cemetery in Quincy, Florida.  He was born October 5, 1889, and died just one day after his 31st birthday. To see a photo of Lt. Cmdr. Corry and his grave, go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #7134215. 

     Sources:

     Meriden Morning Record, “One Aviator Killed In Hartford When Airplane Crashed To Earth”, October 4, 1920

     Hartford Courant, “Naval Flier Burned To death, Companion Badly Injured As Plane Crashes At Golf Club”, October 4, 1920

     Hartford Courant, “Airshow To Honor Brainard Airport’s 75 Years”, July 19, 1996 

     Congressional Medal Of Honor Society

     Wikipedia – Lt. Cmdr. William Merrill Cory, Jr.  

     www.findagrave.com

  

 

Barkhamsted, CT – April 15, 1949

Barkhamsted, Connecticut – April 15, 1949

   

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:22 p.m., on April 15, 1949, 1st Lt. Paul Arnold Roney, 29, took off from Olmsted Air Force Base in Pennsylvania bound for Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine, in an F-47N fighter aircraft, (Ser. No. 44-89422).  He was due to arrive at Bangor between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.  At approximately 4:15 p.m. Lt. Roney was killed when his plane crashed in the Peoples State Forest, about two miles southeast of the Riverton section of Barkhamsted, Connecticut.   

     The F-47 was an aircraft designation given to the P-47 Thunderbolt after WWII.   

     According to the Air Force crash investigation report of the accident, the aircraft struck the ground at an angle of approximately 75 to 80 degrees in a straight dive and was not spinning.  The aircraft was completely demolished and burned after impact.

     Due to the total destruction of the aircraft, conflicting witness statements, and uncertain weather conditions, Air Force investigators were unable to determine the cause of the crash. 

     Lt. Roney is buried in Black Hills National Cemetery, in Sturgis, South Dakota. 

     Sources:

     Army Air Forces Report Of Major Accident, #49-4-15-4 

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 32164313

    

    

Wolcott, CT – June 25, 1942

Wolcott, Connecticut -June 25, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 25, 1942, a flight of Curtiss P-40 aircraft were on a formation training flight over the Wolcott, area.  The aircraft were in a “string” formation following the flight leader.  At one point the formation dove low over the water of Hitchcock Lake, and one P-40, (41-36501),  struck the slipstream of the plane ahead which caused 41-36501 to dip, and the propeller to touch the water.  Upon contact with the water, the propeller abruptly stopped spinning, and an instant later engine oil covered the entire cockpit canopy.  The plane’s momentum carried it across the lake and into some tress at the shoreline.  Although the plane was wrecked, the pilot escaped with no injuries.  

     The aircraft were part of the 65th Fighter Squadron stationed at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.   

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-25-6

Milford, CT – June 20, 1942

Milford, Connecticut – June 20, 1942

    

P-47B Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 20, 1942, 2nd Lt. Eugene E. Barnum was flying in the No. 2 position in a three plane string formation over the Bridgeport, Connecticut, metropolitan area when his aircraft, a P-47B, (Ser. No. 41-5919), began having engine trouble after the trio came out of a step dive and leveled off at 3,000 feet.  First the engine started to misfire, then it began throwing oil, and trailing smoke.   Lt. Barnum dropped out of formation and attempted to fly back towards Bridgeport airport, but as he was passing over Milford, his engine abruptly stopped, with the propeller frozen.  Knowing he could not make the airport, Lt. Barnum crashed landed in a marsh area.  The plane suffered heavy damage, but Lt. Barnum escaped with minor injuries.  After climbing out of his plane, he sat and waited for help to arrive. 

     At the time of this forced landing Lt. Barnum was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron at Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He received his pilot’s wings on April 29, 1942.

     To see more biographical information and photographs of Lt. Barnum, see 56thfg.us/56th_Fighter_Group/Bio

     Source: U.S. Army Aircraft Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-20-3

    

Seymour, CT – June 30, 1942

Seymour, Connecticut – June 30, 1942 

    

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 30, 1942, a flight of three P-47 aircraft were engaged in a training flight over Seymour, Connecticut.  One of those aircraft (#41-5911) was piloted by 2nd Lt. Henry Andrew Plahetka, 25, of Chicago. 

     The following is a partial narrative from the Air Corps investigation report (42-6-30-3):

     “During a routine formation training flight, the flight leader dived from 10,000 feet to approximately 5,000 feet.  On pulling out of the dive the tail assembly of Lt. Plahetka’s plane, the third and last of the flight, separated from the fuselage causing the plane to spin to the ground.  The maximum speed obtained by the Flight Commander, in the dive, was 375 MPH.”

     Lt. Plahetka’s plane crashed in a thickly wooded area owned by a water company to the rear of what was known as the “Arthur Brooks place”, in the Great Hill section of town.  (One source identified the water company as the Ansonia Water Co., and another as the Birmingham Water Co.)   

     According to press reports, pieces of the tail section came down on property on Bungay Road, Great Hill Road, and Curry Road.  

    It was determined that Lt. Plahetka had considered bailing out by the fact that the emergency canopy release was found about a mile from the crash site, and that his seatbelt had been released.  It’s possible he chose to stay with the aircraft because he feared for the safety of civilians on the ground.  When his plane impacted, he was thrown from the cockpit and killed.   

     Investigators blamed the cause of the accident on “100 percent material failure on the part of the aircraft structure.”  The P-47 Lt. Plahetka was piloting was a “B” variant, and had been delivered to the Air Corps on June 6, 1942 – just 24 days before the accident.  

     Lt. Plahetka enlisted in the Air Corps in Chicago on November 3, 1941, and obtained his pilot’s wings on May 20, 1942.  At the time of his accident he was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron based in Bridgeport, Connecticut.     

     After this training flight he was due to begin a five day furlough so he could return to Chicago and get married.  He’s buried in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery, in Niles, Illinois.  (See www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 133140833.)

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident,#42-6-30-3

     Unknown newspaper article accompanying army investigation report, “Lt. Plahetka crashes To Death In Birmingham Water Co. Woods After Plane’s Tail Assembly Falls Apart”, unknown date.

     Unknown newspaper article accompanying army investigation report, “Army Pilot Dies In Crash At Seymour”, (AP) June 30, 1942   

     www.findagrave.com

 

   

Bridgeport Airport, CT – May 21, 1942

Bridgeport Airport, Connecticut – May 21, 1942

    

P-36C  Ser. No. 38-204 Bridgeport, Connecticut May 21, 1942

P-36C Ser. No. 38-204
Bridgeport, Connecticut
May 21, 1942

     At 7:40 p.m. on May 21, 1942, 2nd Lt. George D. Hobbs was returning to Bridgeport Airport after an interception mission when he discovered that the landing gear on his P-36C airplane (Ser. No. 38-204) wouldn’t come down using the electric switch, so he was forced to bring the wheels down manually.  He then discovered that the flaps weren’t working either.  After trying to work them manually, he came in for a landing, but the brakes failed after touchdown, and the aircraft continued on into a dyke at the end of the runway.   Although the aircraft suffered damage, Lt. Hobbs was not injured.

     Lt. Hobbs was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron (I) based in Bridgeport, Ct.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-5-21-28.  Photo of aircraft is from the  report.       

Norwalk Airport, CT – December 12, 1938

Norwalk Airport, Norwalk, Connecticut – December 12, 1938

     On December 12, 1938, 2nd Lt. Lawrence A. Spillman, was piloting a North American BC-1 aircraft, (Ser. no. 38-379) on a training flight over Connecticut when he encountered thick cloudy weather.  The aircraft’s radio receiver wasn’t working properly, and with deteriorating conditions, he thought it wise to set down at the nearest airfield rather than attempt to make it back to his home base of Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.  

     As he came in to land at Norwalk Airport, the aircraft hit a patch of soft ground and flipped over on its back.  Neither Lt. Spillman, or his passenger, 2nd Lt. Leroy L. Stefonowicz, were injured.  

     The men were assigned to the 5th Bomb Squadron based at Mitchel Field, Long Island, N.Y.

     Norwalk Airport was a small airfield that no longer exists.  Today, All Saints Catholic School at 139 W. Rocks Rd. occupies the site of the former airport.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, dated December 16, 1938.   

Bradley Field, CT – May 24, 1942

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – May 24, 1942 

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 2:45 p.m., on May 24, 1942, 2nd Lt. Charles Jaslow was attempting to take off from Bradley Field.  Just as his aircraft, a P-40E, (Ser. No. 40-396), left the ground, it was struck by a cross wind and pushed towards a mound of dirt at a construction area just to the side of the runway.  His plane’s landing gear struck near the top of the mound and was torn away.   The plane then hit the ground and skidded to a stop, but did not catch fire.  Fortunately Lt. Jaslow didn’t suffer any serious injuries.     

     Lt. Jaslow was assigned to the 65th Pursuit Squadron, 57th Pursuit Group.

     Source:

    U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-5-24-4   

Bradley Field, CT – May 25, 1942

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – May 25, 1942 

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 4:30 p.m., on May 25, 1942, 2nd Lt. Thomas J. Beasley had just taken off  from Bradley Field in a P-40E,  (Ser. No. 40-392), when he discovered a problem with the aircraft’s oil pressure system and attempted to return to base for an emergency landing.  After receiving instructions from Bradley tower, he was attempting to land when he suddenly saw another aircraft making for the same runway.  At that time he made a skidding turn to the left in attempt to get into the wind, but his left wing dropped in a stall.  Lt. Beasley was able to regain control of the plane, but due to his now diminished air speed the aircraft dropped flat onto the runway from an altitude of 30 feet and proceeded to skid for 75 yards before coming to rest and catching fire.   Although the aircraft was a total loss, Lt Beasley escaped with minor injuries. 

     The aircraft was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group. 

     Source: U. S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-5-25-9    

Bradley Field, CT – May 11, 1942

Bradley Field, Connecticut – May 11, 1941

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     This incident actually involves two separate accidents, in the same type of aircraft, flown by the same pilot, on the same day, at the same air field. For reasons that will become obvious, the pilot’s name will not be revealed to protect his privacy.

    

 

  

 

P-40E  #40-44057 Bradley Field Connecticut May 11, 1942

P-40E #40-44057
Bradley Field Connecticut
May 11, 1942

     The first accident involved a P-40E, (Ser. No. 40-44057) that took off from Bradley Field for an early morning training flight.  Upon its return from a successful flight, the left tire on the landing gear blew out upon landing causing the plane to nose over causing damage to the aircraft, but no injury to the pilot. 

     Subsequent investigation revealed that the tire was excessively worn, and should have been replaced before the plane was certified as airworthy. 

     As with any accident, the pilot was sent to the flight surgeon for a medical evaluation.  It was during this exam that the doctor determined the pilot was emotionally upset due to the accident, and shouldn’t fly for the rest of the day.  The pilot’s commanding officer was apprised of this situation, but scheduled the pilot to fly again that afternoon in spite of the doctor’s recommendations.    

P-40E  #40-42766 Bradley Field Connecticut May 11, 1942

P-40E #40-42766
Bradley Field Connecticut
May 11, 1942

     That afternoon the pilot took off in another P-40E, (Ser. No. 42744) for his scheduled training flight.  After another successful flight, he once again landed at Bradley Field.  This time the landing gear collapsed just after the plane touched down.

     Investigators partially blamed supervisory personnel for the second accident.

       What became of the pilot was not recorded.

 

     Sources: U.S. Army Air Force Technical Reports of Aircraft Accident, #42-5-11-16, and #42-5-11-17  (Photos of the accidents are from those reports.)

Mystic, CT – December 11, 1941

Mystic, Connecticut – December 11, 1941

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

      At 12:45 p.m., 2nd Lt. Hudson G. Dunks, took off from Trumbull Airport in Groton, Connecticut, in a Curtiss P-40C, (Ser. No. 41-13500) for a scheduled training flight.  The weather at the time was clear and with unlimited visibility.  His orders were to familiarize himself with the Groton area and to stay within ten miles of the air field, and to not go above 2,500 feet.

     Less than a half-hour later, while Lt. Dunks was flying over Mystic, Connecticut, (9 miles from Trumbull Field.) the left wing of his aircraft abruptly ripped free causing the plane to crash. 

     Army investigators determined that the wing had separated due to “negative stress” attributed to “100 percent material failure” and found no fault with the pilot.     

     Lt. Dunks was assigned to the 59th Pursuit Squadron (I) based at Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.  He’d received his pilot’s rating on August 15, 1941.   

     Lt. Dunks is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Union City, Michigan.  To see a photograph of Lt. Dunks, and one of his grave, see www.findagrave.com Memorial # 34847185

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #41-12-11-2     

Trumbull Field, CT – April 26, 1941

Trumbull Field, Groton, Connecticut – April 26, 1941

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 7:35 a.m., on April 26, 1941, a Curtiss P-40 aircraft, (Ser. No. 39-183), piloted by 2nd Lt. William A. Webber, took off for a gunnery training flight from Trumbull Field, but crashed shortly after takeoff.   Lt. Webber did not survive.

      The cause of the crash was determined to be a rag blocking the intake manifold which caused a “power plant failure”. 

     The accident investigation committee praised the pilot, and wrote in part, “The judgment of the pilot in attempting to continue  flight is believed to have been excellent in view of the fact that at the time of his engine failure he was only a few hundred feet above houses, wires, and other obstructions.”   

     In short, the pilot elected to stay with his plane to protect civilians on the ground. 

     As to the rag, the committee wrote the following, “It is not believed that it is within the jurisdiction of this committee to investigate further the circumstances surrounding the presence of the rag in the intake manifold screen.” 

     Lt. Webber was assigned to the 33rd Pursuit Squadron at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York.  He received his pilot’s rating on May 11, 1940. 

     Source: U.S. Army Aircraft Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #41-4-26-2

Off Bridgeport, CT – April 21, 1942

Off Bridgeport, Connecticut – April 21, 1942

Long Island Sound

    

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

      On April 21, 1942, 2nd Lt. Willard J. Webb was piloting a P-38E, (Ser. No. 41-2111) at 15,000 feet over the Bridgeport Airport on a performance test flight.  He’d just completed the flight and was starting to head down to the field when the aircraft began to violently shudder and shake.  The following is an excerpt from the Army crash investigation technical report in Lt. Webb’s own words.

     “At 12:58, I was directly over the field at 15,000 ft., at which time I recorded the completion of the performance test.  I turned at 90 degrees to the right, and 90 degrees to the left, making a combination of a lazy 8 and a power let-down, at which time the plane began to shake violently and automatically going completely out of control.  The violent shaking of the airplane left me without any control over the airplane.  I cut  my gun, rolled stabilizer back with no results.  At this time, the speed was tremendous, so my next decision was to jump.” 

     Lt. Webb managed to bail out as the aircraft plunged into Long Island Sound.  Ha too came down in the water and was rescued by a boat and brought ashore where he was treated for a dislocated shoulder.

     At the time of his accident, Lt. Webb was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron (I).  He received his pilot’s wings October 31, 1941.

     Source: U.S. Air Corps Tactical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-24-13  

Bradley Field, CT – April 4, 1942

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – April 4, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 4, 1942, 2nd Lt. Robert E. Gibson was landing at Bradley Field in a P-40E (Ser. No. 40-425) when a strong crosswind suddenly pushed the aircraft off the runway and into an obstruction wrecking the plane.  Fortunately Lt. Gibson only received minor injuries.

     Lt. Gibson received his pilot’s rating March 9, 1942.  He was assigned to the 66th Pursuit Squadron.   

     Source: Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-4-2

Stratford, CT – February 15, 1942

Stratford, Connecticut – February 15, 1942

    

P-39 Aircobra - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-39 Aircobra – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 10:45 a.m., on February 15, 1942, 2nd Lt. Harry L. Mathews, 24, took off from Bridgeport Municipal Airport in a Bell P-39C, (Ser. No. 40-2972), for an aerobatic training flight over the area.  After circling the field once he called for landing instructions and was given instructions to land on the east-west runway from the east.   After completing another half-circle of the airport the plane fell about one-and-a-half miles from the airport coming down in an area known as Lordship marshes, in the Lordship Village section of Stratford. 

     The first to arrive at the crash site were members of the Lordship Volunteer Fire Department, who raced from their fire station about a quarter of a mile away.   There they found Lt. Mathews had been killed in the crash.  

     A woman who witnessed the crash from her home at 491 Washington Parkway, Lordship, told reporters that the plane’s engine was sputtering, and as it was in a left turn about 100 feet above the ground it suddenly fell to the marsh landing on its left wing and nose.  There was no fire afterward.   

     The accident was blamed on mechanical failure with the aircraft’s engine.  

     Lt. Mathews, of Gates, North Carolina, was survived by his wife, Mary, whom he had married only two months earlier on December 18, 1941.  Prior to entering the Air Corps in April of 1941, he graduated Wake Forest College, and had been a school teacher.  He received his basic flight training at Randolph Field, Texas, and  graduated from Pursuit Training School at Victoria, Texas, December 12, 1941.  At the time of his death he was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron.

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-2-15-2

     Unknown Newspaper, “Flier Killed In Stratford”, unknown date.

  

Groton, CT – February 8, 1942

Groton, Connecticut – February 8, 1942

     At 10:40 a.m., on February 8, 1942, 2nd Lt. Melvin B. Kimball, and Staff Sergeant Sherrill Roark, began a scheduled training flight from Trumbull Field in Groton.  As their aircraft, a Stearman PT-17, (Ser. No. 41-8001) began to lift from the ground, Lt. Kimball noticed a lack of power in the engine.  As the plane struggled to climb to 50 feet, Kimball decided to return to the field, and initiated a turn.   While doing so, the plane went down in a swamp next to the airfield and flipped over on to its back.  Neither man was seriously injured.

     The accident investigation committee determined the possible cause of the crash to be carburetor icing. 

     The men were assigned to the 65th Pursuit Squadron stationed at Trumbull Field. 

     Lt. Kimball obtained his pilot’s rating December 12, 1941.

     Lt. Kimball later served in China under Brig. Gen. Claire Chennault.  In March of 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “repeated dangerous missions flying men and material to fighting front bases in Free China.”  He was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft; a Japanese Zero on November 8, 1942, and a bomber aircraft on December 26, 1942. 

     He was later credited with two more aerial victories on January 16, 1943, and May 8, 1943.   

      Sources:

     U. S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-2-8-7 

     (N.H.) Newmarket News, “Lt. Kimball Receives Distinguished Cross”, March 26, 1943 

     Book – Army Air Force Victories: a daily count, by Arthur Wyllie, 2004

Long Island Sound, CT – January 25, 1942

Long Island Sound, Connecticut – January 25, 1942

    

P-39 Aircobra - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-39 Aircobra – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of January 25, 1942, 2nd Lt. Robert H. Wetherbee left La Guardia Airport in New York in a Bell YP-39 (Ser. No. 40-38) bound for Bridgeport, Connecticut, on a ferry mission.  While flying at an altitude over Long Island Sound the engine began to cut out.  The fuel pressure would vary from 5 to 8 pounds, and occasionally rise to 12 and 14 pounds.  Lt. Wetherbee worked the “wobble pump” in an effort to stabilize the fuel pressure, but found that the pressure would not remain steady.  Then the engine began running extremely rough before finally quitting altogether. As the aircraft dropped to 600 feet,  Lt. Wetherbee had no choice but to make a forced landing in the Sound just off the coast of Norwalk, Connecticut. 

     The accident investigation committee noted that the same aircraft had been grounded after its previous flight for a similar problem with the engine, and found no fault with Lt. Wetherbee.  

     Lt. Wetherbee received his pilot’s rating on October 31, 1941.   He was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron as a Flight Commander.

     Source: U.S. Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-1-25-3

         

 

    

 

was flying making his way from

Bridgeport Airport, CT – January 18, 1942

Bridgeport Airport, Connecticut – January 18, 1942

    

P-39 Aircobra - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-39 Aircobra – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of January 18, 1942, 2nd Lt. Burdette L. Wertman landed in a P-39D (Ser. No. 41-6801) at Bridgeport Airport after a routine training flight.  As the aircraft touched down and began rolling down the runway, Lt. Wertman discovered that the brakes were inoperable.  The aircraft continued rolling until it struck a dirt wall at the end of the runway.  The collision wrecked the aircraft, but Wertman was uninjured.   

     Source: U. S. Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-1-15-4

Stratford, CT – March 26, 1942

Stratford, Connecticut – March 26, 1942

   

P-39 Aircobra - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-39 Aircobra – U.S. Air Force Photo

      Shortly before 10:30 a.m. on the morning of March 26, 1942, 2nd Lt. Edward G. Armstrong was flying a P-39 single-seat fighter aircraft (Ser. No. 40-36) on a training flight over the Stratford, Connecticut, area in which he was going through aerobatic maneuvers with the aircraft.   According to witnesses, the aircraft’s engine suddenly quit while at 500 feet, and the plane went into a spin from which it did not recover.  It crashed in St. Michael’s Cemetery, only a few feet from Bruce Brook, which boarders one side of the cemetery.  There was no fire, but the plane was demolished, and Lt. Armstrong was killed instantly. 

     The cemetery is located at 2205 Stratford Ave., in Stratford.  It is surrounded by a densely populated area, and it’s possible that Lt. Armstrong remained with his aircraft to avoid having it crash into nearby homes.   

     Lt. Armstrong was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron in Bridgeport, Ct.  He received his pilots rating December 12, 1941.

     According to a newspaper article in the Bridgeport Herald, Lt. Armstrong was the second fatality in his squadron since it came to the Bridgeport area.  On February 15, 1942, Lieutenant Harry L. Mathews, 24, of North Carolina, was killed when his P-39C (40-2972,) crashed near the Bridgeport Municipal Airport while on a training flight.  For more information, see the page about Lt. Mathews on this website – New England Aviation History       

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-3-26-7

     Bridgeport Herald, “Plane Crash In Stratford Kills Second Army Flyer”, March 26, 1942 

    

Groton, CT – March 8, 1942

Groton, Connecticut – March 8, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 8, 1942, a Curtiss P-40E, (41-24786), piloted by 2nd Lt. Gerald A. Brandon of the 61st Pursuit Squadron, crashed on take off from Trumbull Airport in Groton.  The aircraft failed to gain altitude as it left the ground and the left wing clipped a fence post at the end of the runway which caused the plane to rotate 90 degrees and crash into a field.  Lt. Brandon survived.     

     Source:

     U.S. Army Crash Investigation Report #42-3-8-2 

Windsor Locks, CT – August 21, 1941 – The case of Lt. Eugene M. Bradley

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – August 21, 1941

The Case of Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley

P-40 Warhawk U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 21, 1941, Second Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley was killed when the P-40C fighter plane he was piloting (# 41-13348), crashed at Windsor Locks Army Air Field during a training flight.  What makes this accident historically significant is that it led to the air field being re-named in his honor.  We know it today as Bradley International Airport. 

     The accident occurred while Lt. Bradley was  taking part in a mock dog-fight with 1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr.  Both men were assigned to the 64th Pursuit Squadron of the 57th Fighter group which had just arrived at Windsor Locks two days earlier.

     Portions of the Army crash investigation report of the accident are posted here for historical purposes.     

2nd Lt. Eugene Bradley Accident Investigation Report Face Sheet CLICK TO ENLARGE

2nd Lt. Eugene Bradley

Accident Investigation Report Face Sheet

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Lt. Mears gave a statement to Army investigators in which he related the following:  “Lieutenant Bradley took off at 9:30 a.m., August 21, 1941, for a combat mission.  I took off at 9:35 a.m., and met him at 5,000 feet over the airdrome.  After Lt. Bradley dropped into formation, we proceeded to 10,000 feet.  Normal combat procedures were started and, on the first turn, I got on his tail.  After making several turns we had lost between four and five thousand feet (of) altitude.  Just before getting him in my sights the last time, I called Lt. Bradley on the radio saying that this was enough.  Immediately following this he went into a diving turn and pulled out so hard that heavy white streamers appeared off his wing tips; at this point I was pulling up and away and he went out of sight under my left wing.  I then banked to the left again to see where Lt. Bradley had gone and saw him in a spin; the spin appeared to be a normal spin, but slow.  I immediately told him to straighten out and get out.  He continued in the spin until he crashed, about a mile west of Windsor Locks Airfield”      

Witness Statement Of 1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     (Later in the war, Lt. Mears was promoted to Lt. Colonel, and became commander of the 57th Fighter Group.)

     The accident was also witnessed by at least four men on the ground, each of whom gave statements to investigators.       

Witness Statement Of 2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     One of those four was 2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby, who wrote in his statement: “I observed the plane in what appeared to me to be the last 3/4 of a slow roll at approximately 4,000 to 4,500 feet.  It continued to roll until bottom side up and then came down in a half roll.  It was not a spinning motion but one of a roll until it turned one turn to the left.  Then it stopped rolling and continued to dive into the ground.  This cessation of roll was at an altitude of approximately 750 feet.  The plane at all times appeared to roll deliberately as if under control until the pull-out should have been started.”      

     (On July 20, 1942, Lt. Bilby survived a crash landing while piloting a P-40 in Africa, (#41-13911).  While overseas, he would be credited with shooting down  3.5 enemy aircraft, and would go on to command the 64th Pursuit Squadron.)    

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Guy C. Howard CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Guy C. Howard

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Master Sergeant Guy C. Howard told investigators: “August 21st, at about 10:00 a.m. M/Sgt. Smith, Baird and I were standing on the ramp watching two P-40’s dog fighting.  The airplanes were to my belief at 5,000 feet or better. After a couple of tight turns one airplane got on the other’s tail and stayed there momentarily then pulled up and away.  The other stayed in the turn and turned over on it’s back, (and) nosed down into a slow spin.  It spun slowly to about 500 feet then stopped, and dove at a slight angle to the ground.”  

     Master Sergeant Smith related, “On or about 10:00 a.m. August 21, 1941, I was standing on the ramp with two other Non-Commissioned officers, Master Sgt. Baird and Master Sgt. Howard, watching the dog-fight between two P-40’s, estimated altitude 5,000 feet.  These planes were circling.  When breaking formation both planes let out twin streamers from the tails of the ships.  While the leading ship was making a left bank going away, the other ship nosed down, went into a tail spin and at an altitude of approximately 800 feet, the ship seemed to straighten out and went into a nose dive.  Before the ship hit the ground it seemed as if the pilot was fighting the controls of the ship to straighten it out, because the ship was wriggling in a manner to indicate this.”

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Smith CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Smith

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Master Sergeant Charles C. Baird stated:  “About 10:00 a.m. August 21, 1941, I was standing on the ramp watching two P-40C’s doing aerial combat.  The altitude was about 5,000 feet.  the leading ship made a sharp turn to the left and went into an inverted left spin.  It made about four turns in the spin.  At approximately 500 feet the ship came out of the spin and went into a vertical dive.  The nose had not come up at all when it disappeared from sight.”

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Charles C. Baird CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Charles C. Baird

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     The accident investigation committee wrote in part: “It is the opinion of this committee that insufficient evidence exists to permit an exact classification of this accident.” 

     After describing the accident in the narrative, the committee wrote: “There is no evidence to establish whether the accident resulted from materiel failure, personnel error, or from other causes.  Whether or not the pilot had full use of his faculties after the spin out and during the decent cannot be determined.  Had there been materiel failure the pilot had sufficient altitude to leave the ship, but since his safety belt was found to be buckled after the accident he apparently made no attempt to get out. There was also ample altitude (5,000 feet) in which to regain control of the airplane after it spun out.  Since a doubt exists in (1) the pilot’s use of his faculties, (2) whether or not the airplane could be controlled in its descent, or (3) whether materiel failure occurred; the cause of this accident cannot be determined.”     

     The investigation committee also ruled out sabotage.

Investigation Committee Findings CLICK TO ENLARGE

Investigation Committee Findings

CLICK TO ENLARGE

      There are photographs in existence reportedly showing the wreck of Lt. Bradley’s P-40 aircraft, however there is no indication in the accident investigation report that any official photos were taken as part of the investigation.  In fact, one portion of the accident investigation committee’s narrative states, “Photographs of the wreck would not add useful evidence…”  Therefore, it can be surmised that any photos of Lt. Bradley’s wrecked aircraft were taken by other persons not involved with the investigation.   

     In 2005, a search was begun to locate the site of where Lt. Bradley’s P-40 crashed.  It was no small undertaking, for the airport had grown and changed significantly since World War II, and although Lt. Bradley’s fatal accident was the first to occur at the field, it wasn’t the last.   

     According to an Associated Press newspaper article which appeared September 15, 2009, when Bradley’s P-40  crashed, parts of the engine were buried thirteen feet deep, and only the tail was seen protruding from the ground.  Heavy equipment removed the wreckage, and the hole was filled by using a bulldozer.   Therefore, researchers didn’t expect to find a complete aircraft, only small pieces of one, which would then have to be identified as coming from a P-40.  

     Researchers sifted through various state and military records, old aerial photographs of the air field, newspaper collections, and other sources while gathering information in their quest.  Several potential sites were examined.  The wreck site was finally determined to be under Runway 33 of Bradley International Airport.  The runway was extended in the 1960s to allow jet airliners to land, and the site was unknowingly paved over.              

     Eugene Bradley was born in Dela, Oklahoma, July 15, 1917,  and was 24-years-old at the time of his death.  He’s buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, in San Antonio, Texas, Section E, Site 67.  He was survived by his wife and unborn child.     

     Windsor Locks Army Air Field came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army in 1941 after acquiring the land from the State of Connecticut.  The air field was re-named to honor Lt. Bradley on January 20, 1942.  After the war the airfield reverted to civilian use and is today Connecticut’s primary airport.          

Sources:

U.S. Army Crash Investigation Report, dated August 25, 1941     

Associated Press, “68-Year-Old Plane Crash Site Possibly Found”, by Joe Piraneo, September 15, 2009 

Associated Press, “Crash Site Of Bradley Airport’s Namesake Pinpointed”, November 26, 2010

Connecticut’s Archaeological Heritage: “The Search For Lt. Eugene Bradley’s Plane Crash”, by Nick Bellantoni, Thomas Palshaw, Paul Scannell, and Roger Thompson. (No Date)  

57th Fighter Group – First In Blue, by Carl Molesworth, Osprey Press, copyright 2011.  

Findagrave.com, Memorial #14952762  (Has photo of Lt. Bradley)  

Wikipedia – Bradley International Airport

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Updated August 21, 2017

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On July 12. 1945, five navy fighter aircraft from Groton (Ct.) Naval Air Station were participating in a dive-bombing training flight over Little Narragansett Bay on the Connecticut/Rhode Island state line. All planes were scheduled to make eight runs at the target.  The first seven runs were completed without incident.  As the flight of aircraft were making their eighth run, Lt. (Jg.) Frankilton Nehemiah Johnson, 23, piloting an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81435), made his dive on the target from 8,000 feet and leveled off at 80 feet at the completion of his run.  It was at this time that his aircraft was seen to suddenly nose over and crash into the water of Little Narragansett Bay about 140 feet from shore.  The plane exploded on impact and he was killed.       

     Little Narragansett Bay is a body of water located on the Rhode Island/Connecticut state line where the towns of Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Ct. meet.  

     Johnson’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent home to New Orleans, La., for burial.  He’s buried in Garden of Memories, Metairie, Louisiana. (see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #119852076)   

     Lt. (Jg.) Johnson was assigned to Air Squadron 19, aboard the USS Lexington.   

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-64

     National Archives, AAR 21-45, TD450712RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.findagrave.com

Preston, CT – October 19, 1944

Preston, Connecticut – October 19, 1944

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

      On October 19, 1944, Ensign George Kenneth Krause, 22, and Ensign Merle Henry Longnecker, 20, were piloting F6F Hellcats over the Norwich State Hospital area conducting mock interceptions for training purposes when the two planes collided in mid-air and crashed to the ground about one mile north-east of the hospital.  Both men were killed.

     Both men were assigned to Carrier Air Service Unit (CASU) 25 at Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field in Rhode Island. 

     Krause is buried in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.     

     Longnecker was survived by his wife Blanche.  He’s buried in New Rockford, North Dakota.

     Sources:

     Rhode Island Department Of Health death certificates

     The Norwich Bulletin, “Veterans Group Plans 70th Anniversary Tribute To Pilots killed In Preston Crash”, October 17, 2014 

 

New Haven, CT – June 1, 1919

New Haven, Connecticut – June 1, 1919

Updated June 1, 2017

     On Thursday, May 29, 1919, a flight of three army aircraft from Hazelhurst Field on Long Island, New York, arrived at the town of Winsted, Connecticut, and landed safely at a former horse trotting park on Pratt Hill.  The following day, as the first plane was taking off, it crashed into a wooded area at the end of the park.  The unidentified pilot and his mechanic weren’t injured, and the plane wasn’t too badly damaged, and once it was hauled from the woods it was considered reparable.  The accident was blamed on soft, rough, terrain, causing a reduction in speed at take off. 

     All three aircraft and crews remained in Winsted until Saturday morning, May 31st.  On that day, the damaged/repaired aircraft took off for Meridian, Connecticut, while the other two left for New Haven arriving later in the day.             

     The following day was Sunday, June 1, 1919.  Both aircraft took off from New Haven, and as they were making a spiral descent towards Yale Filed they collided in mid-air. 

     One aircraft managed to land safely, but the other, a Curtis JN-6H biplane (AS-41885) crashed.  The pilot, 1st Lt. Melvin B. Kelleher, 23, and his mechanic, Corporal Joseph Katzman, were killed instantly.  (One source had Katzman listed as a private.)

     The army board of inquiry failed to find fault with either pilot involved in the collision.   

     Lt. Kelleher is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Frankfort, Indiana. There is also a memorial erected in his honor in Clinton County, Indiana.  (See www.findagrave.com, memorial numbers 28117193, and 124683338 to view the monument, and a photograph of Lt. Kelleher.)

     The burial place of Joseph Katzman is unknown.

     Sources:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Airplane Accident”, May 31, 1919

     Hartford Courant,(Conn.), “Winsted-Flier Was In Town Who Was Killed At New Haven”, June 3, 1919  

     Hartford Courant,(conn.), “Files Finding On Airplane Fall”, June 29, 1919

     New York Times, “Airplanes Colide; 2 Aviators Killed” June 2, 1919

     www.accident_report.com

     www.findagrave.com

 

 

Lebanon, CT – September 3, 1944

Lebanon, Connecticut – September 3, 1944

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On September 3, 1944, Ensign Timothy Edward Sullivan of the 46th Fighter Squadron was piloting  an F6F Hellcat over Lebanon on a gunnery practice mission when he crashed in Red Cedar Lake and was killed.  The accident occurred about 100 yards from Camp Moween, a summer resort for campers. 

     State troopers from the Colchester barracks had to wade through thick brush to reach the crash scene.  Recovery efforts were hampered by a silty bottom strewn with tree trunks and partly submerged logs.  Ensign Sullivan’s body was recovered hours later in about 12 feet of water by a diver from the Groton submarine base.  

    Ensign Sullivan was from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and was 20-years-old at the time of his death.    

Sources:

The Norwich Bulletin, “Navy Pilot Dies In Plane Crash Into Lebanon Lake” , September 5, 1944

Rhode Island Department of Health Records. (N.K. GOV 82)

History of Fighting Squadron 46, Men-O-War. (Has squadron photos and a picture of Ensign Sullivan.)   digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/ww_reg_his/132/

 

Groton, CT – October 9, 1945

Groton, Connecticut – October 9, 1945

      On October 9, 1945, navy pilot (rank unknown) John Seymour Tyler, 24, was killed when the plane he was flying crashed in Groton, Connecticut.   The type of aircraft, and details of the accident are not available.

      Tyler’s body was brought to Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being transported to New York for burial.  According to a Rhode Island death certificate, he was born in San Francisco, California, and listed an address of Hudson Parkway, New York, N.Y. 

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death certificate #45-97

Windsor Locks, CT – August 31, 1945

Winsor Locks, Connecticut – August 31, 1945

Updated August 22, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the morning of August 31, 1945, Ensign Richard Henry Di Sesa, age 22, was part of a flight of twelve airplanes out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station practicing formation flight training over the Connecticut River Valley area.  Ensign Di Sesa was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42802), and was flying in the number 2 position in the second division of the flight.   

     At one point, while the formation was only at 2,000 feet, it began a slight downward glide over the Connecticut River in a “follow the leader” pattern.  While pulling out of the glide over the river, Ensign Di Sesa’s aircraft struck two high tension wires strung 120 feet above the water.  His aircraft went out of control and crashed into the ground killing him instantly.     

     Ensign Di Sesa’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island before being sent to Brooklyn, New York, for burial. 

     Di Sesa died just three days after his 22nd birthday.

     For a photo of Ensign Di Sesa, go to:

     www.warmemorial.columbia.edu/richard-henry-di-sesa

     Sources:

    North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-84

     National Archives, AAR VBF-97B-1 revised, TD450831, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

East Haddam, CT – June 24, 1949

East Haddam, Connecticut – June 24, 1949

     On June 24, 1949, an F-47N aircraft (Ser. No. 44-89432) belonging to the Connecticut Air National Guard crashed in the Hadlyme section of East Haddam while on a training flight.  Witnesses reported the plane to be trailing dark smoke as it went down.  The pilot, 2nd Lt. Robert S. Leighton, 25, of Portland, Maine, was killed. 

     Investigators were unable to determine a cause for the crash.

     Lt. Leighton is buried in Saint Hyacinth Cemetery in Westbrook, Maine.

     This accident was the third fatality involving a Connecticut Air Guard F-47 in two years, prompting Major General Frederick G. Reincke  to ground all F-47’s belonging to the Connecticut National Guard until further notice.

     Sources:

     The New Era, (Deep River Ct.) “F-47’s Grounded Following Crash”, June 30, 1049, Pg. 4 

     Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #49-6-24-1

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial #157286689

   

       

Westbrook, CT – June 27, 1943

Westbrook, Connecticut – June 27, 1943

    

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On Sunday, June 27, 1943, a U.S. Army, P-47B (41-5951), piloted by Robert McKeith 19, left Long Island, New York, and was passing over Long Island Sound when the plane caught fire.  His aircraft, trailing brown smoke, was seen by aircraft spotting posts in Westbrook and Deep River Connecticut. 

     As McKeith passed over Westbrook, he aimed his aircraft towards Wrights Pond and away from any populated areas.   At this point the smoke and heat became too much and he bailed out and landed safely.  The P-47 came down in a wooded area near Wright’s Pond in the Pondmeadow district of Westbrook.     

     The cause of the fire was not stated.

     McKeith was from Rochester, New York.  His rank was not stated.

     Source:

     The New Era, “Pilot Escapes In Sunday Plane Crash”, July 2, 1943, Pg. 1

 

Groton, CT – October 19, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – October 19, 1944

     On October 19, 1945, a navy fighter plane crashed into the roof of a home belonging to Fillibert L. Bergeron, causing substantial damage to the structure.  (The specific type of aircraft and the exact address are not stated.)  As the plane tore through the house, it snagged the blanket off a sleeping 2-year-old girl.  After striking the home, the aircraft continued onward and came down in a nearby school yard. (The name of the school is not stated.)  State troopers found the blanket amidst the aircraft wreckage. 

     The pilot was identified as navy Lieutenant W. J. McCartney, of Toledo, Ohio, who survived the ordeal with non-life threatening injuries. 

     The sleeping girl was unharmed.       

     Source:

     New York Times, “Plane Wrecks Room; Sleeping baby Saved”, October 20, 1944.    (Two photos with article.)

    

Lyme, CT – June 21, 1943

Lyme, Connecticut – June 21, 1943

   

P-47 Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On Wednesday, June 23, 1943, two P-47B fighter planes assigned to the 326th Fighter Group, 322nd Squadron, based at Westover Field in Massachusetts, were engaged in a training flight over Lyme, Connecticut, when they collided in mid-air in the vicinity of the Lyme School.

     The pilot of one plane, (41-6035) Lt. Elmer Buss, was able to bail out safely, but the pilot of the other plane, (41-6052) Lt. William Carlton Ives, 21, was killed. 

     Lt. Ives is buried in Highland Park Cemetery in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. For a photo of his grave, see www.findagrave.com #86564235.   

     Source:

     The New Era, (Deep River Ct.)  “Pilot Dies In Crash Of Planes At Lyme”, June 25, 1943, pg. 1

 

Farmington, CT – April 11, 1945

Farmington, Connecticut – April 11, 1945

    

P-47D Thunderbolt - U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47D Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 11, 1945, a U.S. Army P-47D (42-22360) left Bradley Filed in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, for a combat training flight, and crashed during flight maneuvers while over the town of Farmington.  According to witnesses, the aircraft plunged strait down into a swampy/wooded area on a farm where it exploded, leaving a crater reported to be 12 to 15 feet deep, and 30 feet wide.  One source identifies the farm as belonging to John Lipski, and another as belonging to Leo Grouten.  Apparently the two properties border each other and the crash occurred near the property line.   

     The pilot was identified as 2nd Lt. Vincent Hugh Core, 20, of Brooklyn, New York.      

     In 1987, 41 years after the crash, David Tabol, a Farmington Boy Scout, erected a granite monument near the crash site as a memorial to Lt. Core.  (The site is now part of the Unionville State Forrest.)   Further back in the woods is a crude piles of rocks, which some believe was left by the military clean-up crew to serve as a marker for the site.  

     Sources:

     The Bristol Press, “Pilot Killed, Plane Blown To Pieces In Crash In Farmington”, April 11, 1945, pg. 1

     The Bristol Press, ” Army Investigating Crash Of Plane In Farmington; Brooklyn Flier Is Killed”, April 12, 1945

     The Bristol Press,”WWII Tragedy, Air Force Pilot Crashes, Dies In Unionville Forest In 1945″, by Ken Lipshez, October, 1995.

     Connecticut Department Of Health Death Certificate

         

Somers, CT – April 6, 1942

Somers, Connecticut – April 6, 1942

    Updated March 6, 2016

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

    On April 6, 1942, a U.S. Army P-38 Lightning, (AF-112) piloted by 2nd Lt. Raymond Allen Keeney, 24, crashed in a potato field in the Somersville section of the town of Somers, Connecticut, and burst into flames.  The wing of the plane clipped a tree just before the crash.  

     Lt. Keeney was born and raised in Somers, Connecticut, and was familiar with the area which he was flying over.  He attended local schools, and after graduation from the Texas Institute of Technology he enlisted in the Air Corps on March 17, 1941, in Lubbock, Texas.  It was while attending Texas Institute that he met his wife Christine, whom he married October 31, 1941, which was also the day he received his pilot’s wings.    At the time of his death he was assigned to the 62nd Pursuit Squadron.    

     Lt. Keeney died on his 24th birthday.  He’s buried in the family mausoleum in West Cemetery in Somers, CT.

      Sources:

     Pawtucket Times, “U.S. Pilot Killed In Plane Crash”, April 6, 1942,Pg. 7

     Findagrave.com #137939503

     U.S. Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-12-30-1

    Unknown newspaper attached to Air Corps investigation report, “Flyer Meets Death Near Somers Home”, unknown date.

     Unknown newspaper attached to Air Corps investigation report, “Lt. Keeney Killed In Somersville”, unknown date.  

     Hartford Times, “Funeral Wednesday For Lieut. Keeney Air Crash Victim”, April 7, 1942.

      

Stamford, CT – August 27, 1933

Stamford, Connecticut – August 27, 1933

     On August 27, 1933, Army Air Corps pilot Captain Ernest Emery Harmon, 40, took off from  Washington, D.C. bound for Mitchel Field on Long Island, N.Y.  As he neared the New York City metropolitan area he encountered heavy fog and wound up over the coast of Connecticut instead of Long island. 

     At 10:00 p.m. he was seen circling low over the  Turn-of-the-River section of the town of Stamford, Connecticut.  After making a wide circle his plane suddenly dove towards the ground and struck group of trees.  The aircraft glanced off the top of one tall tree and then flew on into another smashing the ship to pieces.  The ship came to rest about 300 feet off the Long Ridge Highway, which today is Route 104. 

     Captain Harmon’s body was found about 1/8 of a mile from, the wreck.  It was speculated that he was thrown from the plane during the first tree strike as he hadn’t been high enough to use his parachute.  

     Captain Harmon was a well known and skilled aviator.  He gained national fame in 1919 when he made the first “Round-the -Rim” flight of the United States, flying counterclockwise along the entire borders of the U.S.  The flight, made in a Glenn Martin Bomber, took 114 hours and 45 minutes, covering a distance of about 10,000 miles.  He’s buried in Arlington national Cemetery.

     For photos and other information about Captain Harmon, go to the Arlington National Cemetery Website.  http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/eeharmon.htm

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Army Plane Crash Kills Air Veteran”, August 28, 1933

     Arlington National Cemetery Website

         

East Granby, CT – July 9, 1982

East Granby, Connecticut – July 9, 1982

     On July 9, 1982, 1st Lieutenant Daniel Peabody, 27, of the Connecticut Air National Guard, took off from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks in an A-10 Fighter for a routine training flight.  At 3:35 p.m. as he was returning to Bardley, the aircraft lost power on final approach, and Lt. Peabody was forced to eject at an altitude of only 1,000 feet.  While he landed safely, the A-10 crashed in a field in East Granby, tumbled across a roadway, and through a boundary fence at the edge of  Bradley Field, leaving a debris field that stretched more than 100 yards.    

     Source:

     The Hour – Norwich Ct. “Air Force To Investigate Jet Crash”, July 10, 1982, Pg. 3, by Martin J. Waters.  

East Granby, CT – July 25, 1964

East Granby, Connecticut – July 25, 1964 

     On July 25, 1964, a Connecticut Air National Guard F-100F Super Sabre fighter jet assigned to the 118th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron took off at 12:43 p.m. from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks for what was to be an Air Defense Command training mission.  At 1:44 p.m., as the jet was approaching Bradley Field, it crashed about a half-mile short of the main runway just after the pilot reported a flame-out.  Both crewmen aboard were killed.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Captain Thomas G. Jurgelas, 31, of South Windsor, Conn.  He was survived by his wife and two children.

     Captain Wesley A. Lanz, 29, of Rockville, Conn.

     Both men were former classmates, graduating in 1957 from the University of Connecticut.

     Source:

     New York Times, “2 Connecticut Men Killed In Jet Crash”, July 26, 1964

     Providence Journal, “Two Air Guard Officers Killed In Conn. Crash”, July 26, 1964

 

Marlborough, CT – April 10, 1933

Marlborough, Connecticut – April 10, 1933

         Rentschler Field was an airfield that opened in East Hartford, Connecticut, in 1931, and remained active into the 1990s.  It was named for Frederick Brant Rentschler who established the aviation division at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft of East Hartford.  Today the Pratt & Whitney (football) Stadium at Rentschler Field occupies the site.    

      On April 10, 1933, Lieutenant Harold Fairchild, 24, took off from Rentschler Field for a test flight of a new aircraft.  Lt. Fairchild received his flight training through the army at Kelly Field in Texas.  He then went on to advanced training and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.  A month later he joined the Aeronautical Research Department of Pratt & Whitney as a test pilot.  The purpose of this flight was to test the altitude limits of the aircraft. 

     It was well known at the time that a pilot needs supplemental oxygen when flying above 10,000 feet.  When Fairchild reached an altitude of 35, 000 feet, it was believed that his oxygen system either ran dry or failed, causing him to loose consciousness.  The plane plummeted nose first out of the sky and crashed on a farm belonging to John Rankl in Marlborough, Connecticut, a town southeast of East Hartford.   

     Lieutenant Fairchild was born in Pelham, New York, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1921.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Lieut. Fairchild Dies In Connecticut Crash”, April 11, 1933

     Historic Pelham, http://historicpelhamblogspot.com  “Two Pelham Brothers Lost Thei Only Sons In Eerily-Similar Early Aviation Incidents”, June 11, 2015

     Wikipedia

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