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    

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