Granby, MA. – January 23, 1956

Granby, Massachusetts – January 23, 1956

Updated June 14, 2018

 

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 2:25 p.m. on the afternoon of January 23, 1956, an F-86D Sabre jet took off from Runway 05 at Westover Air Force Base for what was to be a routine training mission.  However, just after take-off, the jet crashed in the neighboring town of Granby.  It came down in an open pasture on the east side of Taylor Street not far from where it intersects with Brook and Carver Streets.  The aircraft created a four-foot deep crater where it struck the ground and exploded. 

     The pilot, 2nd Lt. John D. Ritchie, 20, of Lowell, Massachusetts, was killed instantly.  He’d been assigned to the 337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB.    

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “Pilot Dies In Granby Crash”, January 24, 1956, page 1

     Springfield Union, “Lowell Pilot Crash Victim”, January 25, 1956

Granby, MA. – February 1, 1965

Granby, Massachusetts – February 1, 1965

 

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 1, 1965, a flight of three Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets left Tampa, Florida, to return to Barnes Airport  in Westfield, Massachusetts, after completing aerial gunnery training.  As the aircraft entered the New England area they encountered a snowstorm and were diverted to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts.  There, the three planes circled the Westover Field area for about fifteen minutes, according to a husband and wife who lived Granby, Massachusetts, a town to the northeast of Chicopee.  As they watched the planes, one was seen to crash and explode in a gravel pit located in a wooded area, about 1,000 feet from the nearest home.  The witnesses said it was still snowing heavily at the time of the accident.  

     The downed aircraft, (Ser. No. 0-22019), had been piloted by Major James Romanowicz, age 45, of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.   

     Major Romanowicz was a veteran aviator, having served as an army pilot during World War II with the 10th Tactical Fighter Group.  He’d been serving with the Massachusetts Air National Guard since 1948, and had been rated a command pilot since 1959.   He’s buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol, Massachusetts.  He left behind a wife and six children.

     The other two aircraft landed safely.

     Sources:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed By Jet Crash In Mass. Town”, Date unknown.

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #89990193

     Springfield Union, “Athol Pilot Loses Life In F-86 Crash In Granby”, February 2, 1965

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