Off Waterford, CT – February 10, 1970

Waterford, Connecticut – February 10, 1970

In Long Island Sound

     At 4:21 p.m., Pilgrim Airlines Flight 203 left Trumbull Airport (Today known as Groton-New London Airport) bound for J.F. K. International Airport in New York.  It had been scheduled to depart at 4:05 p.m., and arrive at 4:55 p.m.  (The sixteen minute delay was due to ground delays, and no fault of the crew.)

     The aircraft was a turbo-prop De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, registration N124PM.

     There were five persons on board: the pilot, Alfred Crofts, 44, of North Stonington, Connecticut; the first officer, George B. Fox, 23, of Orient Point, New York, and three passengers; David F. Baker, George T. West Jr., and Willis G. Worchester.  The three passengers had just been visiting the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Groton, Connecticut.  

     Weather and visibility conditions were poor, and the pilot was flying on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).  When the flight reached the New York area it was put in a holding pattern for an extended period of time.  

     By 5:00 p.m. conditions at Kennedy had deteriorated.

     At 5:27 p.m. Flight 203 was contacted by Kennedy to establish radar identification, however it was learned that the radar transponder aboard the aircraft wasn’t working.  After several attempts to remedy the problem without success, Flight 203 was diverted to Tweed Airport in New Haven, Connecticut. 

     At 6:13 p.m. Flight 203 was cleared for approach to Tweed.  However, at 6:17 p.m. the pilot reported they’d missed the approach, and the flight was advised to contact the Westchester (NY) Approach Control as part of standard missed-approach procedure.  

     Flight 203 established contact with Westchester and asked for the weather at Groton, Connecticut, and the controller advised he would get the weather and give instructions. 

     The flight responded, “203, roger. We’d appreciate it if you hurry.” 

     Groton weather was then transmitted to 203.

     At 6:18 p.m. Flight 203 again contacted Westchester Approach Control: “Westchester, we’d like to ah get direct Groton right now.”  Westchester advised they were working on getting clearance.

     203 repeated that they had to get Groton, and the Westchester controller replied he had to coordinate with New York, and was in the process of doing so.

     At 6:20 p.m. Flight 203 advised, “Ah, Westchester, 203, ah we got minimum fuel now, we gotta get to Groton.”

     “Pilgrim 203,” the controller responded, “I have advised Kennedy of that, they’re working on your clearance now, and I’ll have something as soon as they give it to me.”  

     Flight 203 was granted clearance shortly afterwards, and made its approach to Groton at 100 feet off the water due to a 200 foot cloud ceiling.  On final approach the pilot was in communication with his company via radio.  As he skimmed over the water hoping to make shore, he reported that one engine had stopped.  Seconds later the other engine quit, and the pilot advised he was going to ditch.  The plane crashed into Long Island Sound in 60 feet of water off Harkness Point.  It had run out of fuel.

     All aboard perished. When the plane was recovered from the bottom, it was discovered that no bodies were inside.  Two of the passengers bodies were recovered at a later date, but the flight crew and the other passenger were never found.  


     NTSB Investigation Report, Report # NTSB-AAR-71-1, File #3-0001, SA-418, Adopted January 27, 1971   

    (Connecticut) The Morning Record, “Evidence Probed In Plane Crash”, April 1, 1970 page 20   



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