Long Island Sound – December 3, 1953

Long Island Sound – December 3, 1953

     On the night of December 3, 1953, a Grumman Guardian with two crewmen aboard left the Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a routine training flight.  At about 7:30 p.m., while flying over Long Island Sound, the engine suddenly lost all power and the aircraft went down in the water.  Before it sank, the crew managed to set off emergency signal flares, don Mark IV survival suits, and get into a life raft.

     The flares were seen by two civil defense aircraft observers on duty in Branford, Connecticut.   Coast Guard and navy authorities were notified and a widespread search was begun.  

     The two crewmen were identified as Ensign James Shapiro and Aviation Mechanic First Class Donald Sockman. Both were rescued a few hours later by a Coast Guard plane and brought to Floyd Bennet Field on Long Island for treatment.           


     Newsday, (Long Island, N.Y.), “Rescued From L.I. Sound, naval Fliers Both In Good Condition”, December 5, 1953 

Long Island Sound – November 10, 1980

Long Island Sound – November 10, 1980

     On the night of November 10, 1980, a twin-engine Piper Navaho with four people aboard left Worcester, Massachusetts, for an unknown destination.  At 10:25 p.m. the aircraft disappeared from radar while over Long Island Sound, about eight miles southeast of Stratford, Connecticut.   Shortly before hand, the pilot had radioed that the aircraft was low on fuel.   A search and rescue mission was instituted, however nothing was found, and it was called off due to bad weather.  All four persons aboard perished in the accident.  


    Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Pilot of Lost Plane Identified”, November 12, 1980, page 12.     

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Two More Plane Crash Victims Identified”, November 14, 1980, Page A-5

Long Island Sound – June 17, 1968

Long Island Sound – June 17, 1968

     At 2:30 a.m. on the morning of June 17, 1968, a Cessna 411 with two Connecticut men aboard left Fisher’s Island, N.Y., bound for Trumbull Airport in Groton, Connecticut.  (Today the airport is known as Groton-New London Airport.)  The weather consisted of heavy fog, with a cloud ceiling of 800 feet, and less than a mile of visibility.  

     The following morning, someone noticed the pilot’s private automobile still parked at Trumbull Airport and began to question his whereabouts.  It was subsequently learned that the aircraft he’d been piloting had never arrived from Fisher’s Island.  A large scale search involving Coast Guard vessels and aircraft was begun.   

     A woman living near the now defunct New London-Waterford Airport reported hearing a plane circling the area at about 3:00 a.m. 

     A resident of East Lyme, Connecticut, also reported hearing a low flying airplane. 

     Investigators theorized that the aircraft had been unable to land at Trumbull Airport due to deteriorating weather conditions, and the pilot had flown to Waterford to attempt a landing there.        

     The aircraft was finally located in forty feet of water off the New London shore, and was recovered on November 15, 1968.  


     New London Day, “Wide Search Is presses For 2 Groton Men, Plane”, June 19, 1968 

     National Transportation Safety Board report, NYC68A0137

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the night of June 29, 1944, a flight of sixteen navy Hellcat aircraft were on a night formation training flight passing over Long Island Sound at an altitude of 500 feet.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 41482), piloted by Ensign L. N. Jones, suddenly lost power and fell away from the formation and hit the water.  The aircraft struck the water on a level keel and bounced upwards for a moment, and then struck the water a second time which caused the fuel tank to explode.  The blast flipped the plane over at which time it hit the water again and sank.  Ensign Jones was able to extricate himself while the plane was under water, and bobbed to the surface shortly after it disappeared.  Although injured, he was kept afloat by his life vest, and was rescued six hours later by a submarine.     

     The aircraft was not recovered.

     Ensign Jones was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report – dated June 29, 1944. 

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     In the early morning hours of June 29, 1945, Lt. (Jg.) George H. MacBride was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78176), on a radar mapping flight over Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut.  He was part of a three aircraft flight that had left Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island. 

     At 1:40 a.m., while flying over the area of Fisher’s Island, south of New London, the pilots of the other two aircraft observed an explosion on the water followed by a fire.  (The location was about two miles southwest of Fisher’s Island.)  A rescue PBY aircraft was sent from Charlestown NAS and arrived on scene within twenty minutes, and rescue boats arrived at about 3:00 a.m., but neither Lt. (Jg.) MacBride or his aircraft were recovered.  The cause of the accident could not be determined.

     Source: National Archives, 54-45, TD 450629CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

Long Island Sound – June 22, 1971

Long Island Sound – June 22, 1971

Between Fisher’s Island, N.Y., and New London, Ct.

     At approximately 6:30 A.M. on the morning of June 22, 1971, a red and white Cessna 172E, (#N 3831S), with four men aboard, took off from Windham Airport in Windham Connecticut bound for Fisher’s Island, New York.   

     The men were identified as:

     Dr. Harry Fox, 58, of Back Rd., Windham, Ct.

     Peter A. Tambornini, Sr., (Age unk.) of Main St. Willamantic, Ct.

     Charles V. Miale, 46, of Atwoodville Rd., Mansfield Center, Ct.

     Walter A. Card, 51, of Lover’s Lane Rd., Windham, Ct.     

     The purpose of the trip was reportedly to participate in a golf tournament.  The plane arrived safely at Fisher’s Island, but when it came time to return to Connecticut later in the day heavy fog had settled in over the area.  The return trip was expected to take 30 minutes and would require a flight path over Long Island Sound.  Shortly after take off, what was described as an explosion over the Sound was heard, but due to the fog nothing was sighted.  The Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue operation but nothing was found, and according to the NTSB report-brief, no wreckage was ever recovered.       


     National Transportation Safety Board report #NTSB  NYC71AN126

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.) “Four Feared dead In Crash Of Light Plane In Sound”, June 24, 1971

Long Island Sound – December 24, 1942

Long Island Sound – December 24, 1942


U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger
National Archives Photo

     On December 24, 1942, a flight of four navy TBF-1 Avengers left Norfolk, Virginia, bound for Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  After a stop in New Haven, Connecticut, the planes left for New London, flying over Long Island Sound along the coast of Connecticut.  Somewhere between New Haven and New London, Lt. (jg.) William Young Bailey and his aircraft disappeared from formation and was presumed to have crashed in the Sound.  The following day pieces of aircraft wreckage were found near New Haven.    

     Lt. Bailey was alone in the aircraft. 

     It is unclear whether or not Lt. Bailey’s body was recovered.  There is a memorial to him located in Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Ohio.  To see a picture of the memorial, and a photograph of Lt. Bailey, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #6290244.      


     The Sunday Morning Star, (Wilmington, Del.) “Navy Flyer Missing On Connecticut Trip”, December 27, 1942.  

Off Waterford, CT – February 10, 1970

Waterford, Connecticut – February 10, 1970

In Long Island Sound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Groton weather was then transmitted to 203.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



Long Island Sound – November 17, 1958

Long Island Sound – November 17, 1958

     On November 17, 1958, a four-passenger Piper aircraft left New York’s La Guardia Airport, (Now J.F.K. Airport) on a return trip to North Central Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island.  The aircraft was piloted by Albino Beltrami, 36, of Providence.  His passengers, George W. Horton, 49, of Cumberland, R.I., and Eugene Sullivan, 50, of Shrewsbury, Mass., were in the aluminum manufacturing business, and had been in New York on business.   Somewhere over Long Island Sound the plane disappeared. 

     No distress call had been received, and it was surmised that whatever had happened, had been quick.  Residents along the Connecticut shore in the area of Madison, Connecticut, reported hearing a low flying plane and then an explosion the night the plane went missing. 

     Three days later a hat believed to belong to Mr. Horton washed up on Hammonasset State Park Beach in Madison.  A friend of Horton’s stated he was “reasonably certain”  that the hat was one the missing man had bought a few days earlier due to the certain way Horton was known to crease his hats. 

     On November 21st, a tobacco pouch washed ashore at Madison, and was positively identified as belonging to the pilot of the missing plane.      

     A large scale search was concentrated in that area involving Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol personnel, but nothing further was found.   

     On April 28, 1960, a lobster fisherman was dragging for bait off Meig’s Point at Hammonasset Park when his net snagged on the missing airplane in 58 feet of water.  A month later divers confirmed it was the missing Piper with the remains of three men aboard.  


Providence Journal, “Hat Found On beach Linked To Lost Plane” November 20, 1958, Pg.1

Providence Journal, “Pilot’s Pouch Found On Beach”, November 21, 1958, Pg. 11

Providence Journal, “Skin Divers Locate Bodies Of Two R.I. men In Plane” May 17, 1960, Pg. 26 


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