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.

First Airplane Built In Norwich, CT. – 1910

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on July 19, 1910.

     FIRST AEROPLANE BUILT IN NORWICH

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Triplanes Constructed by Messrs Stebbins and Gaynet Will Be Tried Out In October – Practically Completed Now – Will Lift, It Is Estimated, 1,200 Pounds having 25-30 Horse Power Motor – Built at Sachem Park In The Past Three Months.  

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     The people of this city and the public in general who go to Sachem Park today will have an opportunity to see an aeroplane, the first practical flying machine to be brought to completion in Norwich. 

     In a little shed just north of St. Mary’s Cemetery this bird of the air stands with its snow wings poised ready for flight at the word of its creators.

     Back in 1908, William H. Stebbins and Louis Geynet began to have visions of flying through the air.  They began to study the science of aeronautics, they worked out theories , and finally they evolved a tiny model aeroplane, the forerunner of the full-grown machine they have today at their workshop at the park.

     Built In Three Months

     These young men, who are well known in Norwich and are both of a mechanical bent and inventive turn of mind, attended the big airship shows in Boston and New York, inspected to the minutest details their workings, watched the aviators at their flights, and finally in February of this year, they set up a workshop where they might build a machine of their own.  In spite of the difficulty and expense of procuring the materials, and other obstacles that came up  in their way in April, Messrs Geynet and Stebbins were ready to start.  Working themselves at every opportunity and employing several assistants during the large part of the succeeding three months , the men who are to essay that most difficult art, aviation, now have every rib in place, every cable taut, and as far as the machine itself is concerned are ready for flight today. 

To Have Tent Made

     It is a rough country, however, about Sachem Park, for airship flights, and the chances of mishap in case of an enforced descent are too numerous to be risked.  So Messrs Stebbins and Geynet are to have a special aeroplane tent made, and with this portable house they will be able to move to any suitable aviation grounds they may decide upon.  The tent will not be received before a month and as some preliminary ground trials are necessary to enable the aviators to learn how to control and manage their craft, Messrs Stebbins and Geynet state they do not expect to attempt a flight before October 1.

Triplane Type

Click on image to enlarge.

 

     In building their aeroplane, the Norwich men made a departure from the usual design, making their machine a triplane, instead of the biplane or monoplane type, that is to say it has three planes, one above the other, for the supporting surface in the air instead of the customary two or one.  The aeroplane’s spread, or its total width, is 24 feet.  The planes lap over each other , the topmost being 24 feet long by 7 feet wide, the middle 20 feet by 6 feet, and the undermost 16 by 5.  The planes are ribbed, with two-piece, laminated ribs of Oregon spruce, covered with special aeroplane fine-woven varnished linen fabric, air and moisture proof.  The planes are somwwhat curved upward to better catch the air.  Aluminum joints are used wherever possible to secure additional lightness and the machine is strongly braced and trussed with special galvanized twisted aeroplane cable, which has a breaking strength of 500 pounds to the inch.

25-30 Horsepower Motor

     The motive power will be furnished by a 25-30 horsepower Cameron aviation motor, weighing 200 pounds, seated upon a maple frame.  The seat for the operator is located just in front of the engine.  The steering apparatus is known as the auto-control, and is not far different from the steering gear of the automobile.  The balancing and elevating device in the front is worked by a steering wheel, while the tail ruder is controlled by a foot, the steering planes being so adjusted as to keep the craft stable and on an even keel.

     Three sizes of propellers will be owned by Messrs Geynet and Stebbins: six, seven, and 7 1/2 feet.  The motor turns up about 200 pounds thrust and 1,200 revolutions per minute, which will send the craft along at the speed of an express train.

Lifting Power 1,200 Pounds

     The three planes provide a lifting area of 400 square feet, which should lift about 1,200 pounds, the designers figure from what other planes have done.  The whole machine, without the operator, weighs 650 pounds.  The balance of lifting power, 550 pounds, therefore should provide for the operator, a passenger, gasoline, and other supplies, and still the craft should be within carrying capacity.

     The aeroplane is of a height that will permit it to be rolled out of the one-story workshop, built expressly for the machine with swinging doors, and fully equipped with electric motor, machinery and tools.  Three pneumatic tired wheels support the machine.  There is also a skid with springs on the underside which will break the force of the landing in a descent, and in case of a wheel being broken, protect the plane.

Hartford Aviator Commends Their Work        

     There have been many visitors at the aviation workshop of Messrs Stebbins and Geynet, and all who have seen the product of their time, brains and money, praise it highly, especially cheering to the designers being the encouragement given them by a Hartford aviator who recently saw their machine.  He commended their energy and enterprise and saw no reason why they should not be successful in the air.  Their plans have been long considered and carefully laid, and Stebbins and Geynet, aviators, are deserving of success.

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     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on August 30, 1910.

NORWICH FLYING MACHINE PROPELLERS

     Builders of Triplane Will Make Another Try With Present Engine After New Tires Are Received.

     Four big aeroplane propellers designed by Stebbins and Geynet of this city, and built under their supervision at their  shop at Sachem Park, are displayed in Preston Bros. window.  The heavy wooden blades that will drive through the air the first aeroplane built in Norwich and the first triplane in America, attract much attention from passersby.  All of the propellers are laminated, the first being walnut and mahogany of the Wright type, with a 52 inch pitch.  The second is of mahogany and ash, of the Curtis type, with a 6 foot pitch.  The other two are mahogany and walnut of the Chauviere (Paris) type, and of 4 feet pitch.  They are true screw propellers. 

     Stebbins and Geynet have not yet used their latest and largest propeller and they plan to give it a trail shortly with their present engine.  If the new propeller gives them sufficient thrust, they believe that the purchase of a new motor may not be necessary.

     At the present time they are waiting for pneumatic tired wheels, these parts of the machine having been damaged in their recent ground trial at Sachem Park.  The wheels are expected here from Hartford at any time.  The big aeroplane tent has been completed for some time so that Stebbins and Geynet will be all ready for their exhibition next week.

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     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on September 9, 1910.

WILL SECURE LARGER MOTOR

Stebbins and Geynet Have Sold Power Plant Of Their Aeroplane

And Will Order A New One 

     Stebbins and Geynet have sold this week the 30 horsepower Cameron engine which they had on exhibition with their aeroplane at the fair grounds.  They shipped it to the purchaser in Pennsylvania on Thursday evening.  This morning about 12:30 o’clock they passed through Franklin Square with their aeroplane on the way from the fair grounds to Sachem Park, where they built and keep the machine.  This morning they expect to leave to attend the aviation meeting at Boston, where they will decide on a new motor, to be of 50 horsepower.  They do not expect to have the aeroplane ready for flight until late in the fall or early spring largely due to the time, thirty to sixty days, required for the shipment of first class motors.

     There was a gratifying interest shown in their machine at the fair and their exhibition was a success.

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Litchfield, CT. – April 3, 1973

Litchfield, Connecticut – April 3, 1973

 Bantam lake

     On the evening of April 3, 1973, a piper Cherokee 180 left Worcester, Massachusetts, bound for Stewart Airport in Orange County, New York.   It is believed there were three people aboard, one being a student pilot.

     Shortly before 10:30 p.m., the control tower at Stewart Airport received a radio call from a pilot stating that his aircraft’s wings were icing up and that he was loosing altitude.  The pilot gave his position as being “over the Litchfield area.”

     At 10:30 p.m. a witness reported seeing an aircraft plunge into Bantam Lake off Point Folly.  The water depth in that area is between 10 to 18 feet. 

     Connecticut State Police divers responded to the scene and recovered two bodies, one a 37-year-old man from Washingtonville, New York, and the other a 30-year-old man from Newburgh, New York.  It was reported that divers were continuing the search for a third man believed to have been aboard, identified only as a “student pilot”. 

     Source:

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Two Killed In Connecticut Plane Crash”, April 4, 1973   

 

Brainard Field, CT. – January 31, 1970

Brainard Field, Hartford, Connecticut – January 31, 1970

     On January 31, 1970, two single-engine private aircraft collided in mid-air over Brainard Air Field in Hartford.  Each plane, one a Piper Cherokee, the other a Piper Arrow, carried two people; all four were killed in the accident.  

     The Cherokee, containing a pilot-instructor and his student, fell into the Connecticut River, while the Arrow, containing two men from Ridgefield, Ct., crashed into a wooded section of the neighboring town of East Hartford.  It was not stated who was piloting either aircraft.

     According to witness reports, one aircraft was approaching from the south while the other from the west, each at an altitude of about 2,000 feet.  Then both went into a banking turn at the same time and collided at a 45 degree angle directly over the field.  It was not specified which plane struck the other.    

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Four Die In Collision Of Two Light Planes”, February 1, 1970. (With photo)

Charles B. Whittlesey’s Airship – 1908

Charles B. Whittlesey’s Airship – 1908

 

     In or about August of 1908, Charles B. Whittlesey Jr., Age 9, of Hartford, Connecticut, saw plans for building a dirigible airship in a Sunday newspaper.  The plans didn’t seem too complicated, so he brought the matter to his father, Charles Sr., who was superintendent of the Hartford Rubber Works.  Mr. Whittlesey liked the idea of building a scale-model airship, and figured it would be good publicity for the rubber company. 

     After enlisting the help of several workers, construction was begun in a vacant area of the factory.  The finished airship had a cigar shaped gas bag that was eight-and-a-half feet long, and eighteen inches in diameter, made of “Indian Mull” and covered with rubber cement.  It could hold fourteen cubic feet of gas. 

     A framework was suspended beneath the gas-bag which held a small battery operated “Rex” motor that drove a four inch wide, three-blade wooden propeller 300 revolutions per minute.         

     The entire airship weighed slightly less than four pounds.

     When completed, the airship was named the “Hartford 1”. 

     Initial testing was done in November of 1908, and several successful flights were made in the back lot of the factory.  The gas bag wasn’t large enough to lift the ship to any great height, and the ship lacked a rudder, but Mr. Whittlesey could see the potential and planned to make improvements on the initial design.   

     The Hartford 1 was presented to Charles Jr. on his birthday, November 24, 1908. 

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “The First Airship Made In Hartford”, November 24, 1908.       

The Aerial Construction Company Of Hartford – 1911

The Aerial Construction Company Of Hartford – 1911

     The Aerial Construction Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was established in September of 1911 for the purpose of building a commercial airship of German design that could carry passengers.  The business office was located at 212 Asylum Street, Room 10, in Hartford.

     The company started with $50,000 in capital.

     The officers of the company were listed as: President, F. W. Dart; Vice-President, F. W. Stickle; Treasurer, F. C. Billings; Secretary, H. Franklin Wells; managing Director, Joseph K. Kopacka, all of Hartford.

     The company’s Chief Engineer was listed as John Twardus of Germany, who was known for his work in aeronautics.   

     The company announced plans to begin construction of its first airship, to be named “The Hartford Flyer”, as soon as possible.  The Hartford Flyer  would have a 135 foot long cigar-shaped gas-bag with a car situated underneath capable of carrying seven passengers and a pilot. The ship would be powered by a 75 h.p. motor capable of driving it through the air at forty to fifty miles per hour.

     It is unknown if this airship was completed.  

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “A New Commercial Airship”, September 19, 1911

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. – 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 

Connecticut Airplane Contest – 1912

Connecticut Airplane Contest – 1912

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Source:

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

 

 

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

 

New Haven, CT. – September 15, 1893

New Haven, Connecticut – September 15, 1893

 

     On the afternoon of September 15, 1893, aeronaut “Prince Leo”, age 16, was scheduled to perform a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Savin Rock in New Haven.  An estimated crowd of 1,000 people had gathered to watch the event.  After the balloon had risen about 300 feet it suddenly developed a tear allowing the gas to escape.  The balloon, with Prince Leo still aboard, rapidly fell and crashed into the top of a tree.  The impact tossed Leo from the car and he hit a live electrical wire used by trolleys.  When help arrived he was badly cut and in shock from the jolt, but he later recovered.    

     “Prince Leos” real name was Albert Leo Stevens, (1877 – 1944) who went on to become a world famous aeronaut.   Stevens began performing under the stage name, “Prince Leo, the boy aeronaut”, when he was just 13.  

     Sources:

     Weekly Expositor, (Michigan), “A Cheap Excursion To Saginaw”, (A fair advertisement), May 9, 1890

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Am Aeronaut’s Fall – Prince Leo Nearly Loses His Life At Savin Rock”, September 16, 1893  

 

Stamford, CT. – May 31, 1922

Stamford, Connecticut – May 31, 1922

Stamford Harbor

 

     On May 31, 1922, William Purcell of New York City was piloting his airplane along the Connecticut shore line with a passenger who was taking aerial photographs when the engine began running erratically.  Purcell safely brought the plane down near the property of W. W. Skiddy in Stamford, and after making repairs took off again.  As the plane was ascending the engine suddenly lost power, and the aircraft dove into Stamford Harbor and embedded itself in the mud.  Purcell and his passenger escaped uninjured and swam to shore.   

     The type of airplane was not stated. 

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.) “Airplane Falls In Stamford Harbor”, June 1, 1922

New Haven Harbor, CT. – June 21, 1919

New Haven Harbor, Connecticut – June 21, 1919 

     On June 21, 1919, Thomas R. Haggerty, of West Haven, Connecticut, was flying over the New Haven area with an unidentified passenger  when his airplane went down in New Haven Harbor.  (The cause was not stated.)

     Two men in a passing sailboat witnessed the crash and turned their boat toward the spot where the plane went down.  Both jumped into the water and dove to the bottom where Haggerty and his passenger remained trapped in their seats, being held in place by the safety straps.  After cutting the straps, the men brought the airmen to the surface.  Haggerty reportedly had to be resuscitated. 

      Source:

     Hartford Courant, “Narrow Escape For New Haven Flyer”, June 22, 1919 

 

 

 

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 

Winchester, CT. – September 18, 1921

Winchester, Connecticut – September 18, 1921

     Highland Lake is located in the town of Winchester, Connecticut.  During the summer of 1921, a pilot identified as “Gus” Parsons had been at Highland Lake offering sight-seeing flights.  On the evening of September 18, 1921, he took off with Mrs. George S. Green of Hartford, but darkness settled in faster than expected, and Parsons was unable to locate his landing field in the fading light.  He brought the plane down in a peach orchard on a hill overlooking the lake but nosed-over and broke the propeller and stove the nose into the ground.  There were no injuries.   

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Hartford Woman’s Narrow Escape In Airplane Mishap”, September 19, 1921

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

Harold Palmer’s Flying Machine – 1909

Harold Palmer’s Flying Machine – 1909

    Very little is known about Harold Palmer, other than he was the son of Ruben Tyler Palmer Jr. of 373 Pequot Avenue, New London, Connecticut.  

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Day, (Of New London, CT.), on November 29, 1909

     Harold Palmer Ready To Try His Flying Machine 

     “New London may have a young Wright or Curtis in its population, if a test programed for some day this week – possibly Tuesday – is successful.  The aviator is Harold Palmer of Pequot Avenue, this city, and the test, scheduled for some day this week, is to be a test of the capabilities of a flying machine which young Palmer has assembled after months of study and work.

     The airship was taken out on a wagon to the Niantic River, Waterford, a week ago Sunday as it was desired to have a sheet of water like the Niantic River over which to fly.  The ship was deposited on the John Brown place and ways were constructed.  From these ways the ship will be launched.

     The ascent will have to be quite abrupt as to get from the lot in which it is situated to the river it will be necessary to fly over telephone wires at quite a height.  The Niantic River was selected as the scene  of the trial as in event of the machine failing to fly and falling, the possibility of serious accident is minimized if water instead of land is beneath the airship and its occupant.

     Mr. Palmer has been interested in the subject of airships for some years.  Two or three years ago he started building an airship.  He was dissuaded by his father who purchased an automobile for the young man on the promise of his abandoning the plan of building a flying machine.

     He again took up the task and for months has been working at Hammond’s Ice House off Ocean Avenue. 

     All of the residents of the section of the country near the Niantic River are very much excited over the prospect of seeing an airship in flight or at least an attempt at flight.  They have faith, like the inventor, in the machine, and expect to see it soar skyward when the test is made.

     This airship is not the result of a few days heedless work, but represents many of the best ideas in aerial construction.  If it really flies Mr. Palmer and his friends will be much elated.

     Mr. Palmer is the son of Ruben Tyler Palmer, Jr., of Pequot Avenue.  He is in New York City and will return tonight.  He will then go to the Niantic River to prepare for the flight which, as can well be imagined, requires nerve.  Since his ship has been at the Niantic River Mr. Palmer has been staying at the home of Wilson N. Carroll, to be near at hand.”   

     Unfortunately, it was discovered that the engine installed in Mr. Palmer’s aircraft was too heavy, and not powerful to achieve flight, and it was announced that further testing would take place in the spring of 1910. 

     No further information has been found as of this posting.

     Sources:

     The Day, “Harold Palmer Ready To Try His Flying Machine”, November 29, 1909      

     The Day, “Some Sentences By The Judge”, (A local history column of long ago news events.), January 9, 1960

Mr. Gracier’s Aeroplane, Darien, CT. – 1911

Mr. Gracier’s Aeroplane, Darien, CT. – 1911

     The following brief news snippet was found in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, dated March 8, 1911.  No further details are known as of this posting.

     Noroton Heights is part of the town of Darien, Connecticut.

Building A Biplane 

     “Mr. Gracier, chauffeur for Anson Phelps Stokes is building a biplane flying machine in Noroton Heights.  The work will probably be completed before spring is over.  The machine is a 25-foot biplane resembling a Wright model and is being constructed entirely by Mr. Gracier.  It is to have a high powered motor.  Mr. Gracier expects to make his trail flights in Noroton Heights.”

     Source: The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Building A Biplane”, March 8, 1911, page 7

Daniel Mackney’s Flying Machine – 1911

     Daniel Mackney’s Flying Machine – 1911

     The following brief article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, on March 7, 1911.  The man in the story, Daniel Mackney, lived on Colonial Ave. in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Boy Of 19 Has Novel Plan For Flying Machine 

     “Daniel Mackney, 19, who lives on Colonial Avenue, believes he has solved the problem of aerial navigation, and he will seek an opportunity to present his sketches and possibly a small model of his aeroplane to the Aero Club of Connecticut at its next meeting.

     Mr. Mackney’s plan calls for a machine with four planes driven by a propeller of 12 angles.  The lifting power is to come from air forced by the engine until it impacts against the planes from the underside.  The sketch also shows a novel form of brake, useful for holding the plane in position before it is ready to start, thus dispensing with the services of the four or five men now used to hold some machines back until things are ready for the flight.” 

 

Professor Charles F. Ritchel’s Flying Machine – 1878

Professor Charles F. Ritchel’s Flying Machine – 1878

     Charles Francis Ritchel was born in Portland, Maine, on December 22, 1844, and died in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on January 21, 1911.  (At times his last name has been misspelled in the press as “Ritchell”, (two “ls”), and as “Richel”.)

     Professor Ritchel was a talented inventor with many patients to his credit.  Around 1870 he became interested in developing a flying machine that could travel the sky in any direction despite wind currents.  In Ritchel’s day, the only way to “fly” was in a balloon, but balloons were at the mercy of prevailing winds, updrafts, and down drafts, and in places like New England the possibility of being blown out to sea was certainly a concern.

     In November of 1876 Ritchel moved from Corry, Pennsylvania, to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to begin development of his flying machine. 

    By March of 1878 his first airship was nearing completion.  (It is said he eventually built five.) The final work was being done in the large hallway of the Riverside Hotel in East Bridgeport, and the project had reportedly caught the attention of famous circus owner and showman, P.T. Barnum. 

     Ritchel’s flying machine was of a dirigible type, with propellers that controlled upward and downward motion, and allowed for steering in the air.  The machine had no motors, and motion of the propellers was achieved by the pilot operating a series of cranks and levers utilizing his own muscle power.  The gas cylinder or envelope was described as being made of black silk, 24 feet long, and 12 feet in diameter, holding 3,000 square feet of gas.     

     By the spring of 1878 he’d completed construction, and on May 8th, gave a successful indoor exhibition of his new invention in one of the Centennial Exposition buildings in Philadelphia.    

      On May 25, 1878, a Maryland newspaper, The Democratic Advocate, had this to say: “After Edison’s speaking phonograph, what then?  Why Professor Ritchel’s wonderful flying machine, in Philadelphia, which sails gracefully through the Exhibition building, up, down, or whichever way you will, applauded by a large crowd of visitors.  A little while and the air ship will glide gracefully through the atmosphere at the rate of sixty miles an hour. We may then strike a bee line over mountains, rivers and oceans, for any desirable point, leaving such lumbering things as railroads and steamers, with the “slow coach” of the period before steam and railroads put them out of use.”       

     After Philadelphia, Ritchel exhibited his flying machine at a hall in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Among those invited to attend were members of the Franklin Institute, and others of the scientific community.   

     The following newspaper account relating to the Bridgeport exhibition is from The Charlotte Democrat, dated June 14, 1878.

   New Flying Machine 

      “Unlike many aerial machines, this one is not shaped like a bird, nor has it any wings.  It consists of a large bag of cylindrical form inflated with hydrogen, and a car provided with attachment designed to control the elevation and descent of the bag and to direct its course.  The bag is 24 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, and requires 3,000 feet of gas for its inflation. The rising and steering apparatus underneath has a framework made of brass tubing, and is provided with a seat for the passenger.  Directly in front of the seat is a crank which he turns to produce the power that puts in motion two small fans that can be operated singly or together.  The elevating fan has five blades, set spirally, and can be made to rotate at the rate of 3,000 revolutions per minute.  This fan furnishes, or is intended to furnish, the lifting power which constitutes the novelty and value of the invention, and by reversing the motion depresses the air ship on the same principle as it raises it.  At the end of the framework of the car, some 10 or 12 feet distant from the passenger, is another similar fan, which works at an angle with the air ship, and is designed to turn it any direction desired.  It may be stated that both fans work in the air on the same principle that the Fowler steering and propelling apparatus works in the water.  The exhibition was given in a large hall, a boy operating the cranks.  The boy commenced to turn the crank, the fan whizzed fiercely, and the bag rose three or four feet from the floor.  It refused to go any higher, however, but after ascending slightly sank back toward the floor at each trial.  Then the steering fan was set in motion, with about the same degree of success. The attendants ascribing the partial failure of the experiments to the boy who engineered the machine, another boy was substituted. He succeeded considerably better than the first, elevating the bag to the ceiling several times, and had turned it about half way around with the steering fan when two of the blades broke.  The experiment led to the opinion that, with some changes in the fan, the machine might be made to perform as intended.  As is well known, one great difficulty in balloon navigation is that the aeronaut is dependent for his elevation on the buoyancy of the balloon alone; another is that its course is dependent on the direction of the wind.  Mr. Ritchell thinks that his apparatus can be made to overcome both these difficulties. – Iron Age.”       

     It’s likely that the Bridgeport exhibition described above occurred early in the month of June, or even late May, given the publication date of  June 14, 1878 in a southern newspaper.   

     Apparently any problems with the propellers were corrected, for on June 29, 1878, the Scientific American reported that Ritchel’s invention had made a successful open-air trail flight in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 12th.  The Scientific American reported in part: “The first open air exhibition of Professor C. F. Ritchel’s flying machine was conducted at Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday afternoon, June 12.” (1878)    

     A large crowd had watched as the air ship ascended from a ball field near the Colt Armory and attain an altitude of 250 feet before sailing off over the Connecticut River.  It was reported that the pilot demonstrated that he could control the height and direction of the aircraft at will.   

     One account of the historic flight was recounted in the Marshall County Republican, on July 18, 1878.  

     The article stated in part:

     “When he ascended there was but little wind blowing, and the machine appeared under perfect control, but gradually a breeze sprang up, and it was deemed safest to make a speedy return, as there were indications in the sky of a gathering storm.  The machine turned and made its way back in the teeth of the wind until it was directly over the ball ground it had ascended from and there alighted only a few feet from the place of its departure.”

     As a point of fact, Professor Ritchel’s flying machine made two flights at Hartford – the second on the following day, June 13th.  

     The Marshall County Republican article continued:

     “On the second trial, some time was spent in getting the weight and lifting power so neatly balanced as to show that the machine had a lifting power of its own.  When this had been effected to Prof. Ritchel’s satisfaction, the apparatus rested quietly upon the grass, but could be lifted or set back with a light pressure of a finger.  When the word was given to “Go!” the operator, Quinlan, weighing 96 pounds, began turning the wheel, the horizontal fan revolved with a noise like a buzz saw, and the machine darted up almost vertically to a height of about two hundred feet.  There a strong, steady wind setting toward the southwest was encountered, and the machine was swept broadside on to the spectators. Then the operator was seen throwing his vertical fan into gear, and by it said the aerial ship turned around, pointing its head in whatever direction he chose to have it.  All this was the work of a few seconds.  Although Quinlan could move the apparatus about, he could not make any headway against the strong wind. “

     (“The operator, Quinlan”, referred to in the above passage was Mark Quinlan, who reportedly weighed less than 100 pounds.)  

     The wind pushed the machine towards the town of New Haven and observers lost sight of it after it went over a hill.  After struggling in the wind for about an hour, Quinlan landed in Newington, Connecticut, and waited until the winds died down before taking off again and returning to Hartford at 10 p.m. 

     From Hartford, the professor brought his machine to Boston where on July 4, 1878, he flew it for one hour and twenty minutes in a wind that was blowing 18 to 20 miles per hour.  A few days later on July 13th, an illustration of Ritchel in his flying machine appeared on the cover of Harpers Weekly magazine. 

    In September of 1878 Ritchell again brought his invention to Boston, and this time exhibited it inside the Tremont Temple.  A reporter wrote the following as he described the scene: “A strong light in front of a large reflector in the gallery made the hall lighter that I had ever seen it, and threw upon the wall the shadow of the machine, making a most uncanny picture.” 

      The flying machine was described in the newspapers as being “a frame of brass tubes and nickel plated pipes and rods, shaped something like a boat, and is hung to a tube which is supported beneath a huge cylindrical bag, twenty-five feet long, and some ten or twelve (feet) in diameter.”  It also contained a series of gears, shifts, and clutches, which made it “as pretty as a watch.” 

     “The machine is certainly a success,” the article stated, “but if it were not it would still be worth looking at and admiring for its beauty, and for the singular ingenuity displayed in planning and building it.”

     The gas bag was said to be made of rubber coated “zephyr cloth” capable of holding 2,200 square feet of hydrogen gas.  This contradicted earlier reports that the dirigible held 3,000 square feet of gas, but this may have been a different, or improved gas bag. 

     The machine could navigate the air by two sets of multi-blade fans, one positioned under the pilot’s seat to raise or lower the craft, and the second at the front of the aircraft to propel it forward or backwards or steer in one direction or another. 

     The fans were reportedly made of white Holly, each blade having about 50 square inches of surface, and capable of making 2,000 to 2,800 revolutions per minute.  The fans were powered by the operator manually turning hand-cranks and steering with his feet, without the aid of any mechanical engine. 

     As to speed performance, the article stated, “The best speed yet attained is ten miles in thirty minutes with the wind, but in a calm, seven miles an hour is as much as can be doe comfortable. Direct progress cannot be made against a wind more than seven miles an hour, but by tacking he had made four miles in less than two hours.” 

     The total weight of the machine, not counting the operator, was said to be 115 pounds.         

     The following year Professor Ritchell apparently constructed another flying machine as evidenced by the following newspaper article that appeared in the Helena Weekly Herald, on July 24, 1879. (Originally published in the New Haven Paladium)

     A New Flying Machine

     “Professor C. F. Ritchell of Bridgeport is constructing a flying machine which he is to use at Coney Island.  The India-rubber gas cylinder is being made at the Naugatuck glove shop.  This is slightly elliptical in shape, is forty-five feet three inches length, and about forty-three feet in circumference.  The cylinder is to be inflated with hydrogen gas and will have a sustaining capacity adequate to support the machinery necessary to operate the car, and two med additional , lacking about one pound weight.  The whole structure is thus almost upon a poise.  Still it will not rise except by operating the paddles or “rings” necessary for that purpose.  Its propelling agencies are so nicely constructed that the car may be raised or lowered, moved forward or backward, propelled in a circle, at the will of the operator. It is a very ingenious affair throughout and throws other machines of the sort into the background.”

     What is significant about Professor Ritchel’s invention is that it worked, and his flying machine demonstration in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 12, 1878, was said to be the first successful dirigible flight ever achieved in the state.  However, within a few years Professor Ritchel’s accomplishment was apparently forgotten, for a small news item that appeared in The Sun, (a New York newspaper) in 1909 stated the following: “Capt. Thomas S. Baldwin, an aeronaut, furnished Norwich with a new sensation this afternoon when he flew five miles in his dirigible balloon.  It was the first dirigible that ever flew over the state of Connecticut.” 

     Professor Charles F. Ritchel is buried in Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, Plot 46A, in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  

     Sources:

     Scientific American, June 29, 1878, page 405      

     Helena Weekly Herald, (Helena, Mont.) “A New Flying Machine”, July 24, 1879

     The Anderson Intelligencer, (South Carolina), “Navigation In The Air”, March 28, 1878

     The Democratic Advocate, (Westminster, Md.), (No headline) May 25, 1878.  

     The Charlotte Democrat, (Charlotte, N.C.) “New Flying Machine”, June 14, 1878

     The Canton Advocate, ( Canton S.D.) “A Flying Machine”, June 18, 1878

     Marshall County Republican, (Plymouth, Ind.) “A Successful Flying Machine”, July 18, 1878

     The Home Journal, (Winchester, Tenn.) general items, August 1, 1878

     The Vancouver Independent, (Vancouver, Washington) “The New Flying Machine”, September 12, 1878

     The Sun, (N.Y.) “Taft On Freedom’s Growth” (His visit to Norwich), July 6, 1909, page 2

     Book- “High Frontier: A History Of Aeronautics In Pennsylvania”, by William F. Trimble, University Of Pittsburgh Press, Copyright 1982  

     Wikipedia – Prof. Charles F. Ritchel

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 147446540

Willimantic, CT – September 15, 1910

Willimantic, Connecticut – September 15, 1910

 

   balloon  On September 15, 1910, an unidentified male aeronaut ascended in a balloon from the Willimantic Fair that was being sponsored by the Horseshoe Park Agricultural Association.  A gusty wind was blowing at the time, and once aloft the balloon caught fire.  As flames spread rapidly, the aeronaut was forced to jump, grabbing with him three parachutes, one of which was also on fire.  The second parachute didn’t open properly, and there evidently wasn’t time to deploy the third.  The man plunged into the Willimantic River wrenching his back, but otherwise suffered only minor injuries and was able to swim to shore and walk back to the fair.    

     Source: Norwich Bulletin, “Willimantic Fair” – “Aeronaut Falls Into River”, September 16, 1910

Ernest Petin’s Connecticut Balloon Ascensions – 1852

Ernest Petin’s Connecticut Balloon Ascensions – 1852

 

    Early balloon with net Ernest Petin, (1812-1897), was a French aeronaut from Paris who experimented with various means of flight.  He came to America arriving in Boston in 1852, and furthered his research in Connecticut.   Like many aeronauts of his day, he hoped to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon.

     The following news item appeared in The New York Herald on February 12, 1852:

     “M. Petin, the celebrated inventor of the theory of the aerial navigation, sailed from Havre for Boston, in the American ship Emperor, on the 14th instant, taking with him to the Unites States his three balloons, engines and machinery.

     It will be remembered that M. Petin was struggling with the Minister of the Interior and the Perfect of Police, to obtain their permission to produce his invention before the public.  This demand was finally rejected by the authorities, and the French aeronaut soon arrived at the decision to emigrate to America.  Perhaps before the end of the year, he will return to Europe, in his machine, across the Atlantic sea.”      

     It’s unknown when Mr. Petin made his first balloon ascension in the United States, but an advertisement in the New York Herald stated that Petin would make a “Grand Balloon Ascension” in one of his three large balloons at the Union Course on Long Island, New York, on May 21, 1852.  

     On July 4, 1852, large crowds had gathered at Bridgeport, Connecticut, to watch Mr. Petin make an advertised balloon ascension.  Unfortunately, as preparations were being made strong winds pulled the balloon loose from its moorings and sent it crashing into the eaves of a nearby home where the fabric was torn apart.  Petin suffered minor injuries.  

     On July 23, 1852, Mr. Petin made a balloon ascension from Bridgeport, Connecticut, with two companions with great results.  The Hartford Weekly Times pointed out that this was not the same balloon Petin was injured in on July 4th, which was described as “inferior” to the balloon utilized on the 24th.  

     The article gave no details of the July 4th accident, but research has uncovered a small news items that may shed some light.  On June 26, 1852, about eight days before the accident, a Virginia newspaper, The Daily Dispatch, reported the following: “Mons. Petin, the inventor of a new aerial machine, has announced his intention to make a balloon ascension on horseback during the celebration of the 4th of July.”   

     A Pennsylvania newspaper, The Weekly Lancaster Gazette, carried the same basic statement, however added that the event was to take place in New York.    

     In August of 1852, Petin made another balloon ascension from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in a balloon measuring 25 feet long and 70 feet in diameter, with a boat attached underneath.  With him were Gustave Regnard of France, and a Mr. Wood of Bridgeport.    

     64 men reportedly held the ropes securing the balloon until the signal to release was given.  The craft quickly rose to an altitude of 10,000 feet and began drifting towards Long Island Sound.  While passing over the Sound it rose to 22,000 feet where the temperature was recorded at 9 degrees below zero. 

     The cold was intense, and one of the men, it was not stated who, was “benumbed”, and “fell into a profound sleep”.  With great difficulty, Petin managed to open the release valve and descend rapidly to 13,000 feet.

     The balloon landed without incident at Riverhead, New York, a village on Long Island, New York.      

     On September 6, 1852, Petin and three companions made another ascension from Bridgeport in what was said to be the largest balloon ever used in the United States.  It measured 100 feet tall and 72 feet around, and contained 3,500 cubic feet of gas. 

     It rose to an altitude of 23,500 feet as it was carried over Long Island Sound, and then Long Island itself before coming down in the Atlantic Ocean six miles from shore.  Petin and his companions were rescued by members of the Coast Guard Lifesaving Station in Bridgehampton, Long Island.     

     On October 14, 1852, Petin made yet another ascension from Bridgeport which ended with similar results as the previous trip made a month earlier.  This time the balloon hit the water two miles from shore off South Hampton, Long Island, and once again Petin and his companions were rescued by the Coast Guard.  

     The following year Mr. Petin began making ascensions in New Orleans, La.

     Sources:

     The New York Herald, (Morning Edition), (No Headline) February 12, 1852

     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.) “Balloon Ascension On Horseback”, June 26, 1852

     The Weekly Lancaster Gazette, July 1, 1852

     New Orleans Daily Crescent, “A Collapse” , July 15, 1852 

     Hartford Weekly Times, (CT.)  “Balloon Ascension”, July 24, 1852

     Jeffersonian Republican, (Stroudsburg, Pa.), “Great Balloon Ascension”, August 19, 1852

     A History of the Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Part II, by Samuel Orcutt, Fairfield Co. Historical Society, Bridgeport, Ct. C. 1886

     Weekly National Intelligencer, (Washington, DC), “Narrow Escape Of Ballonists”, October 16, 1852 

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

  

 

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

 

 

Connecticut’s Laws Pertaining To Airships & Airplanes – 1911

Connecticut’s Laws Pertaining To Airships & Airplanes – 1911

     Connecticut was the first state to pass laws pertaining to airships and airplanes.  The laws took effect June 8, 1911. 

Click on images to enlarge.

CT Plan to License Airships

Law to regulate airshipr newspaper

Ct First State newspaper 1

Ct First State newspaper 2

Ct First State newspaper 3

Ct First State newspaper 4

Ct First State newspaper 5

 

Some thought the law might not be Constitutional.

 

Ct Law Good  newspaper 1

Ct Law Good newspaper 2

     In October of 1911 it was ruled by Connecticut’s Attorney General that balloons were not airships, and therefore did not come under the new law.

  

Greenwich, CT – November 8, 1957

Greenwich, Connecticut – November 8, 1957

    

DC-3 Airliner

DC-3 Airliner

     Shortly before 7:30 p.m. on November 8, 1957, a DC-3 aircraft owned by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was approaching Westchester County Airport in heavy rain in anticipation of landing.  Visibility was poor, and cross winds buffeted the aircraft. 

     Westchester County Airport is located in White Plains, New York, almost directly on the New York- Connecticut state line.  Just as the aircraft was about to land, a gust of wind pushed it off course, sending it over Hangar D and crashing onto King Street (AKA Route 120A) in the town of Greenwich. 

     The aircraft was a total loss, but fortunately all four persons aboard suffered only minor injuries.   (Pilot, co-pilot, and two passengers, both of which were top executives for RCA.)

     Source:

   New York Times, “Wind-Buffeted DC-3 Falls In Greenwich”, November 9, 1957

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

 

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