Hillsgrove Airport, RI – December 31, 1934

Hillsgrove Airport, Rhode Island – December 31, 1934

Warwick, Rhode Island

     At 3:30 p.m. on December 31, 1934, an army reserve 2nd Lieutenant took off from Boston Airport bound for Hillsgrove State Airport in Rhode Island.  He arrived at Hillsgrove at 4:10 p.m. and attempted to land.  As he came in over the runway he overshot the landing and crashed through a fence and ended up on the roadway beyond. 

     Although the plane suffered damage, neither the pilot or his passenger were injured. 

     The aircraft involved was an O-1E observation plane, (Ser. No. 29-304) 

Click on image to enlarge.

    

Consolidated PT-3A, Ser. No. 29-121
Damaged at Hillsgrove, R.I.
November 4, 1935

     About ten months later on November 4, 1935, the same pilot was flying a PT-3A trainer aircraft, (Ser. No 29-121) from Mitchel Field, Long Island, N.Y., to Hartford, Connecticut, when he was blown off course by a strong easterly wind and wound up over Rhode Island.  After finding Hillsgrove Airport, he landed to refuel.  At time he landed there was construction going on at the airport involving the installation of runway lights.  Landing in a strong cross wind, the lieutenant’s aircraft drifted over into one of the construction ditches situated along the runway and ground looped.  Damage to the aircraft consisted of left wing crumpling and the left landing gear being torn off.   The pilot was uninjured.

     Sources:

     Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, (Two reports) dated January 14, 1935, and November 15, 1935.  

     Photo Credit: Louis C. McGowan, R.I.

 

Warwick, R.I. – November 1, 1962

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 1, 1962

     On November 1, 1962, a plane carrying a pilot and one passenger crashed in heavy fog as it approached Hillsgrove Airport. (T.F. Green Airport.)  The pilot survived the crash, but his passenger did not.  

Source: New York Times, “Pilot Found Alive In Crash; Passenger Is dead In Cabin”, November 2, 1962

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935 

Warwick, Rhode Island     

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard. Today known as T.F. Green State Airport - Warwick, R.I.

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard.
Today known as T.F. Green State Airport – Warwick, R.I.

     On the morning of August 28, 1935, veteran pilot Joshua Crane Jr., 37, began his final approach to a temporary field adjoining Hillsgrove Airport from an altitude of 1500 feet.  Crane was flying a Waco, model YOC, (NC-14621), a four passenger aircraft.   Also aboard was Arthur E. Howe, 26, of Philadelphia.  Both were en-route from Boston to Cleveland, Ohio, and were stopping at Hillsgrove to pick up a third man, Arthur L. Johnson of Cranston. 

    The weather was clear with a southwest wind of 20 miles per hour and gusty.  When the plane had dropped to 500 feet, a gust of wind sent it into a left spin and it plunged to the ground in a small lot on Occupassatuxet Road in Warwick’s Hoxie section, miraculously missing any houses in the area.  (Occupassatuxet Road no longer exists.  It was taken by eminent domain during an airport expansion project.) The impact drove the plane’s motor into the passenger cabin causing severe crushing injuries to both men.   

     Bystanders pulled Crane and Howe from the crumpled wreck and both were transported St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition.  Crane died shortly afterwards, and Howe was reportedly only given a 50-50 chance of survival.   

    The death of Joshua Crane came as a shock to the New England aviation world, for he was regarded as an excellent pilot throughout the region. He began flying after graduating from Harvard University in 1917 at the age of twenty.  At that time, World War I was raging in Europe and he enlisted in the United States Navy as a pilot where he received training at Squantum, Massachusetts, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.  By 1918 he was stationed in England flying anti-submarine patrols trying to prevent German U-boats from attacking convoys.  

     While in England, he met his future wife Dora, and they married in 1920.  

     After leaving the navy, he continued flying in the relatively new sport of air racing where his reputation grew.  Besides racing, he also became involved with several air-passenger service ventures that flew out of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.   By 1930 he had become general manager of Southern New England Airways, Inc., a long defunct service that once flew out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  During the literally thousands of hours he logged in the air, it was estimated that he had transported more than 25,000 passengers.

     In addition to passengers, he also flew humanitarian missions and ferried people for the government.  On one occasion he flew from Boston with a planeload of prisoners destined for the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  Shortly before his death, he had taken Rhode Island’s Governor Theodore Francis Green and a military aide to an army camp in upstate New York to observe war games.  The plane that the governor flew on was the same one that Mr. Crane was piloting the day he crashed. 

     Like many pilots, Crane had his share of “close calls”.  One incident occurred in November of 1930 when a glider he was piloting went down in Pawtucket.  Neither he nor his two passengers were seriously hurt. In April of 1933 his plane loaded with passengers crash landed in southern Rhode Island when the motor lost power, but thankfully those aboard suffered only minor injuries.  Then in July of that same year the landing gear collapsed as he touched down at an airport in Skowhegan, Maine. 

     In February of 1934 he became stranded on an island that he owned known as “No Man’s Land” located about three miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  (Today the island is known as “Normans Land”). On that occasion, he had “nosed-over” on landing and damaged the propeller which forced him to wait until the Coast Guard could bring a new one.   

     The accident which killed Joshua Crane was investigated by the Department of Commerce.  Investigators who examined the wreckage found, “The airplane was so broken up that very little could be learned as to the control system prior to the accident except that all control surfaces were still attached, and the left wing flap was found to be in full down position while the right one was in full up position.  In analyzing this accident, full cognizance was given to the fact that most probably the left wing flap functioned while the right one did not.” 

    This possible malfunction of the flaps, combined with gusty wind conditions, may have led to the crash.  

Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, Joshua Crane Jr., Dead, Passenger Injured In Crash”, August 28, 1935, Page 1.

The Providence Journal, “Joshua Crane, Jr., Fatally Injured As Plane Crashes”, August 29, 1935, Page 1.

Department Of Commerce, Report of the Accident Board 

 

 

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On December 22, 1940, two aircraft, each flown by student pilots, collided in mid-air directly over Hillsgrove Airport.  One, an Aeronca Cub, flown by Gilbert B. Kornstein, 19, and the other a Taylorcraft, flown by Millard McInnis, 26.   

    The impact broke the tail off the Aeronca, sending it plummeting to the ground killing Kornstein instantly.

     McInnis was able to nurse his damaged plane down, clipping a tree and flipping over in the Norwood section of Warwick, about three miles from the airport.  He required a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from a leg wound, but he survived. 

Source: 

Woonsocket Call, “Young North Smithfield Flier Dies In Mid-Air Crash”, December 23, 1940, Pg. 1  

    

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