Eagle Lake, ME. – June 14, 1979

Eagle Lake, Maine – June 14, 1979

     On June 14, 1979, a C-54 aircraft which had been converted for insecticide spraying work, was spraying for spruce budworm over northern Maine.  The spraying program was being conducted in an attempt to halt the spread of the budworm, and prevent it from killing evergreen trees throughout the state.    

     As the aircraft was passing near Eagle Lake in Aroostook County, a fire developed in the cockpit.  With no open area to set down, the pilot landed the huge aircraft on Eagle Lake.  The pilot and co-pilot were the only two persons aboard, and neither was injured.  The plane remained afloat and was towed to shore by boaters.  

     A logistical problem concerned just how the aircraft was to be removed.  One suggestion was to cut a one-thousand foot swath through the woodlands from the lake shore to a narrow dirt road leading away from the area.  Another idea was to float the plane to another area where it could be removed via another dirt road.  However, the aircraft has a 117 foot wingspan, which neither road could accommodate.  A third option was to dismantle the plane.   

     Source:

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Me. Officials Trying To Move Bug-spray Plane From Lake”, June 27, 1979, page A2 (with photo of plane in water.)  

Western Maine – November 3, 1959

Western Maine – November 3, 1959

Near Flagstaff Lake    

T-33 Shooting Star - U. S. Air Force Photo

T-33 Shooting Star – U. S. Air Force Photo

On November 3, 1959, two Air Force jets, at T-33 trainer, (51-4499), and a Delta F-102 fighter, (56-1497), were taking part in a radar training mission over western Maine in which the T-33 was to act as an enemy aircraft, and the F-102 was responsible for intercepting it via radar.   At some point near Flagstaff Lake, the F-102 made a mock attack run at the T-33, during which a mid-air collision between the two jets occurred. 

     The F-102 sliced the tail off the T-33 sending it into a downward plunge.  The pilot of the T-33, 2nd Lt. Frederick M. Johnson, 22, managed to eject safely from 30,000 feet.   He dropped to 14,000 feet before deploying his parachute, and came down in a tree.  Because of near total darkness, he had no idea how high the tree was, so he remained there for the night before climbing down at first light and hiking to a logging camp.      

F-102A Delta Dart - U.S. Air Force Photo

F-102A Delta Dart – U.S. Air Force Photo

     The second man aboard the T-33, was 1st Lt. Alfred Williams, 26, of Manchester, Connecticut.  He also ejected safely, but became entangled in his parachute lines and was killed when he landed head-first on the north side of Bigelow Mountain at the 1,500 foot level.   

     The partially opened parachute of the F-102 pilot, 1st Lt. Gary N. Sugar, 24, of Seattle, Washington, was located about fifteen miles from where Lt. Williams was discovered, but his body has never been found. 

     On February 27, 1979, a 54-year-old man from Stratton, Maine, was on an ice fishing trip at Flagstaff Lake when he noticed what appeared to be aircraft landing gear protruding from the muck of the lakebed.  The water level was unusually low at the time which explains why the discovery hadn’t been made earlier.  Navy divers were sent to investigate to see if the aircraft was still intact and if it contained the body of Lt. Sugar.                   

     The F-102 was armed with six Falcon missiles, and 24 rockets. 

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Airman Okay In Collision; 1 dead, 1 Lost”, November 4, 1959, Pg. 9    

     Woonsocket Call, “2 AF Planes Crash; Find 1 Airman, 2 Lost.” November 5, 1959, Pg. 18

     The Hour, (Norwalk, CT.) “Plane Wreckage Found Near Lake Believed To Be From 1959 Crash”, February 27, 1979, Pg. 26.

     Website – www.ejection-history.org

     Wikipedia – Flagstaff Lake Maine

    

 

       

Presque Isle, ME – November 2, 1942

Presque Isle, Maine – November 2, 1942

Lost WWII Plane Discovered in Quebec 

Updated April 19, 2016

 

OA-10 Catalina - U.S. Air Force Photo

OA-10 Catalina – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 2, 1942, an Army Air Corps OA-10 Catalina, (#43-3266), left its base in Presque Isle, Maine and landed in the St. Lawrence River at the town of Longue-Pointe-De-Mingan to deliver personnel to a new military airfield in the town.  The water was choppy, and when it was time to leave the pilot had difficulty taking off.  After one failed attempt, he tried again, and as waves buffeted the fuselage the aircraft suddenly capsized. The accident was witnessed by people on shore, and despite the rough water, local fishermen put out in their boats to attempt a rescue.  Four crewmen found clinging to the outside of the wreckage were pulled aboard boats just before the aircraft sank taking five crewmen still trapped inside with it. 

     The wreck lay undisturbed for more than five decades. Then in 2009, a Canadian dive crew working to document ship wrecks in that area located the lost plane and were surprised to see that it was still in one piece and in relatively good condition. The United States government was subsequently notified, and plans were made to recover any human remains which might still be inside.

     The removal took place in 2012, nearly seventy years after the accident.  In addition to human remains, divers found what one source described as “a trove of items that amounts to a time capsule of the war years” which included personal items such as a crewman’s aviator sunglasses, and a log book with the writing still legible. 

     Those lost in the accident included:

     Lt. Col. Harry J. Zimmerman of Bayside, New York.

     Capt. Carney Lee Dowlen of Dallas, Texas. 

     Sgt. Charles O. Richardson of Charlevoix, Michigan.  

     Pvt. Erwin G. Austin, 23, of Monroe, Maine.

     Pvt. Peter J. Cuzins of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

     Those rescued included:

     Capt. John B. Holmberg, of Chicago.

     Tech. Sgt. George C. Peterson, of Welch, Louisiana.

     Cpl. Robert L. Ashley of Riverside, California.

     Pvt. James E. Click of Lexington, Kentucky. 

     A letter written by Private Erwin Austin to his mother only a week before the accident was published in the Bangor Daily News on November 5, 1942. 

     It read in part:

      “For the last two weeks I’ve been on the PBY all the time except fro last Monday.  I have been up a lot, and Saturday we were up all the morning and then again all the afternoon.  I was the engineer in the forenoon and for an hour and a half in the afternoon.  I got tired so “Rich” took over for me. and I strapped myself into bed and went to sleep.  It is a lot of fun and one feels like he is doing his part.

     You might have seen one of these, but I doubt it as I don’t know of any operating down there, also except when landing the pontoons on the wings are retracted to make less drag.

     Yesterday we washed it out, inside and outside, and what a job.  Today it is in the hangar.  “Rich”, the engineer, is asleep on one of the four bunks, and I’m writing this letter on the navigators table.

     There is more room in this than there is in a big trailer, and it is equipped for living just as well.  In short, we can take off and stay up 22 hours before coming down, and all the time have all the conveniences of home.  We have a full load of water and enough food to last the full crew more than a week, and also there is a two plate electric hot spot stove and also a toilet.  So you can imagine how much at home one can be while in one of these.  I guess you can tell by my letters that I like this very much and hope to get one for myself. ”        

     Private Austin was attending the University of Maine when WWII broke out.  He put aside his studies on December 31, 1941, to enlist in the Army Air Corps.  He received his basic training in Jefferson Barracks, Mo., and from there was sent to the Boeing Aeronautical School in Oakland, California, from which he graduated on July 17, 1942. 

Sources: 

Associated Press, “Plane Found By Canadian Divers Believed To Be Maine-Based Catalina Lost In 1942”, August 8, 2009

Postmedia News, “WWII Plane Target Of Huge Recovery Effort In Quebec Waters”, by Randy Boswell, July 10, 2012

Associated Press, “U.S. Recovers Apparent Remains Of WWII Airmen”, July 30, 2012

Providence Journal, “Five Men Missing As Plane Crashes”, November 5, 1942, Pg. 12 

Bangor Daily News, “Monroe Youth Missing In crash Of Army Plane”, November 5, 1942, Page 1

Bangor Daily News, “5 Army Men Lost When Flying Boat Capsizes Off Main Coast”, November 5, 1942, Page 1.

 

Newry, ME – June 27, 1960

Newry, ME – June 27, 1960

     On June 27, 1960, a U.S. Air Force KC-97 Tanker was refueling a B-47 bomber when an explosion occurred.  The tanker crashed on Jonathan Smith Mountain and all aboard were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. William F. Burgess, 26, of Indian Lake, N.Y.

     (C0-pilot) 1st Lt. Lewis F. Turner, 25, of Spokane, Washington.

     (Navigator) 2nd Lt. Raymond S. Kisonas, 26, of Waterbury, Connecticut.

     (Flight Engineer) Master Sgt. Harold E. Young, 40, of Selma, Alabama.

     (Boom Operator)  T/Sgt. Robert P. Costello, 30, of Greenfield, Ill.     

     Some parachutes were reportedly seen.    

     The plane was based at the Plattsburgh AFB in New York, and was assigned to the 380th Bombardment Squadron.  

Sources:

New York Times, “Five Die In Air Crash”, June 28, 1960

New York Times, “Crash Victims Found”, June 29, 1960

  

Lake Cauconigumoc, Maine – Sept., 1927

Lake Cauconigumoc, Maine – September, 1927

     In early September of 1927, Connecticut’s Governor John H. Trumbull was visiting Maine’s Governor Ralph Owen Brewster in Maine.  Brewster had arranged for Trumbull to fly from Moosehead Lake to Augusta in a Maine State Forestry airplane, but after inspecting the aircraft, Trumbull decided he didn’t like what he saw, and opted to take a train instead.  

     On September 5, Pilot George Maxim of the Maine Forestry Department was flying two passengers over Lake Cauconigumoc in the very same airplane when it crashed and sank in the lake, taking Maxim and one passenger to the bottom.

      Source: New York Times, “Gov. Trumbull’s Judgment Saves His Life; Plane He Refused To Fly In Crashes In Lake”, September 9, 1927   

Lewiston AP, Maine – Nov. 16, 1937

Lewiston Air Port, Maine – November 16, 1937

On November 16, 1937, a BT-9A (36-122) military plane from Boston crashed at Lewiston Air Port.

Source: Lawrence Webster – Aviation Historian

Perham, Maine – Sept. 22, 1942

Perham, Maine – September 22, 1942

 

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 22, 1942, a flight of B-25 Mitchel bombers left Presque Isle Army Air Field bound for overseas duty.  Shortly after take off the planes were recalled to the base due to poor weather/visibility conditions.   One of the planes, (41-13049), crashed in a wooded area about six miles west of Perham Village, Maine, and exploded.  Local residents stated the blast was heard for miles around, and the site was marked by a large crater. 

      The tail section was discovered about a quarter of a mile away, which would seem to indicate a structural failure with the aircraft.   Two Nazi sympathizers were later arrested for tampering with an aircraft at Presque Isle leading to speculation that the B-25 had gone down due to sabotage.

     The B-25 was attached to the 310th Bomb Group, 379th Bomb Squadron, then based in Greenville, South Carolina.   

     All seven crew members were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

Pilot: 2lt. John F. Watson  Entered service from New York, (O-790435) Burial location unknown.

Co-Pilot: 2lt. John W. Rieves Jr. , 22.  He’s buried in Asbury Cemetery, McKenney, Virginia. For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #138056088.

S/Sgt. John S. Delano  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S/Sgt. James A. Kviz   Burial location unknown.

S/Sgt. Eugene J. Crozier He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S/Sgt. Frederick W. Rowbottom, 23.  He’s buried in Calvary Cemetery in Virginia, Minnesota.  For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #123323580.  

S/Sgt. Richard K. Riddle, 27.  He’s buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Ohio.  For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  memorial#47394120.

     Later in the day another B-25 (41-13098) belonging to the 379th Bomb Squadron took off from Presque Isle also bound for overseas duty, but it crashed shortly after take off in the neighboring town of Fort Fairfield, Maine.  For more information, see Fort Fairfield, ME – September 22, 1942  under “Maine Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.  

Sources:

New York Times, “Plane Falls On Wooded Hill”, Sept 23, 1942

57th Bomb Wing Association website http://57thbombwing.com/379thSquadronHistory.php 

www.findagrave.com

 

 

 

Munsungan Lake, Maine – March, 1951

Munsungan Lake, Maine – 1951

     In August of 1954 it was reported that aircraft wreckage had been found (on land) 300 feet from the shore of Munsungan Lake.  Maine State Police identified the wreck as being that of a plane that disappeared in March of 1951 after leaving Fort Fairfield. 

     Three shoes were found at the scene, but no human remains relating to the two men who had been aboard when the plane went missing. 

     The plane had been carrying two men from Aroostook County, Elwood Rasmussen, (37) of Caribou, Maine, and George P. Findlen Jr. of Fort Fairfield. 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “No Bodies Found With 1951 Wreck”, August 18, 1954, Pg. 4     

 

 

Greenville, ME – May 11, 1973

Greenville, Maine – May 11, 1973

     On the night of May 11, 1973, a Cessna 402, (N-2985Q), carrying six people went down in a wooded area between Greenville Airport and Moosehead Lake.  All aboard were killed in the accident.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Claude Goodrich, of Epping, New Hampshire. 

     (Co-pilot) Paul Crawford, of Nashua, New Hampshire.

     Passengers Stuart Kimball and his son David, 12, of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Peter Cook, 41, and his 15-year-old son Forrest, of the Manchester-Concord area.    

     Sources:

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Plane Crash In Maine Takes 6 Lives”, May 13, 1973, page C-10

     New York Times, “Six From New Hampshire Killed In Crash Of Plane”, May 13, 1973

     www.planecrashinfo.com

Oxbow, ME – May 26, 1977

Oxbow, Maine – May 26, 1977

     On may 26, 1977, a Cessna 182F (N3148U) crashed near Black Cat Pond in the town of Oxbow, killing all three persons aboard.  The dead were not identified.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Plane Crash In Maine Kills 3”, May 27, 1977

     www.planecrashmap.com

  

Loring Air Force Base – November 25, 1958

Loring Air Force Base – November 25, 1958 

Limestone, Maine

     On November 25, 1958, a U. S. Air Force KC-135 stratojet tanker crashed and burned on approach to Loring Air Force Base.  Two crewmen, Captain Herman J. Dosenbach, and T/Sgt. Charles A. Holsclaw, managed to escape the flaming wreck with non-life threatening injuries.  The other five members of the crew perished.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Captain John P. Eifolla, 41.

     (C0-pilot) Major John B. Brown, 39, of San Benito, Texas.

     Captain Bernard Morgan, 40, of Hope, Kansas.  He was survived by his wife Maxine and four children.

     1st Lt. Donald R. Gladdings, 29, of Shreveport, La. He was survived by his wife Patricia, and a daughter.

     (Boom Operator) T/Sgt. Ronald L. Champion, 26.  He was survived by his wife Joan, and a son.   

     The KC-135 happened to crash 100 yards from the wreck of a B-47 bomber that had crashed three days earlier on November 22.  The men guarding the wreck dove for cover as the plane approached.

     All four men aboard the B-47 had been killed in the crash.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “5 Die At Maine Base In Air Tanker Crash”, November 26, 1958  

     Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, “Jet Tanker Crash Kills Five Airmen”, November 26, 1958

      

        

Fort Fairfield, ME – September 22, 1942

Fort Fairfield, Maine – September 22, 1942

    

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 22, 1942, a U. S. Army B-25C bomber, (41-13098), left Presque Isle Maine Army Air Base en-route to overseas duty in England when it crashed in the nearby town of Fort Fairfield, Maine, off Fort Fairfield, Road.  All seven crewmen aboard were killed.  

     The plane was said to be flying in poor visibility conditions.

     Civilian witnesses stated they saw the aircraft burst into flames while still in the air. 

    

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. Ralph L. Drogula, 26.  He’s buried in Arlington national Cemetery.  Newspaper accounts list Lt. Drogula as a Second Lieutenant, but an internet photo of his grave indicates he was a First Lieutenant.  (See www.findagrave.com  memorial #49175499)

     (C0-pilot) 2nd Lt. James O. Crokcer

     S/Sgt. William H. Finch, 35. Buried in Fairview Cemetery, Fairview, Michigan.  

     S/Sgt. Billy John Hill, 22. Buried in Nocona Cemetery, Nocona, Texas.  

     S/Sgt. George E. Simmons, 22.  Buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Du Bois, Penn. (See www.findagrave.com memorial #58284089 for a photograph of S/Sgt. Simmons.)

     S/Sgt. Lawrence A. Robinson, 26.  Buried in Pine grove cemetery, Marlborough, N.H.

     S/Sgt. Joseph Mortino

     There was another B-25C that left Presque Isle earlier in the day which crashed in the town of Perham, Maine, just a few miles north-west of Fort Fairfield.  (The tail number of that plane was 41-13049.)   In that crash, the tail section was reportedly found 1/4 mile from the wreck site possibly indicating a structural failure.  (See “Perham. ME – September 22, 1942” under Maine Aviation Accidents on this website for more information.)  

      Both aircraft were part of the 379th Bomb Squadron, 310th Bomb Group, then based in Greenville, South Carolina.    

     Sources:

     New York Times, “14 Army Men Lost In Two Maine Crashes”

     57th Bomb Wing Association http://57thbombwing.com/379thSquadronHistory.php

     www.findagrave.com

 

Waterville, Maine – September 2, 1908

Waterville, Maine – September 2, 1908

     On September 2, 1908, Charles O. Jones was giving an aerial exhibition of his dirigible balloon, the Boomerang,  at the Waterville, Mane, fair grounds, when a small fire erupted while the ship was just over five-hundred feet above the ground.  When Jones realized the danger he pulled an emergency cord to rapidly deflate the envelope.  As he did so the fabric ignited, causing the frame suspended underneath containing Jones and the motor to fall away and crash to the ground.  Jones died about ninety minutes later of his injuries. 

     The accident was witnessed by his wife and child.

     Charles Jones was an intrepid early aeronaut.  Just a few weeks earlier on July 19, he and the Boomerang were almost carried out to sea over Long Island Sound. 

     On the afternoon of July 23, 1908, he made an ascension with the Boomerang from the Palisades Amusement Park during a severe electrical storm saying he needed the experience.  After rising to 3,00 feet he became lost in the clouds.  When he descended below the clouds he found himself in driving rain which short-circuited the batteries of his airship.  The airship was pushed ahead by the strong winds over Hackensack, New Jersey, where he was able to land safely.

     On July 26, Jones once again took off from Palisades Amusement Park, but this time his airship crash-landed on the roof of a house about a quarter of a mile away  from its starting point after being damaged by trees and electrical wires during the take off.     

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Airship Caught By Storm”, July 24, 1908  

     New York Times, “Airship Wrecked, Lands On House”, July 27, 1908 

     Bangor Daily News, “Aeronaut’s Tragedy Shocked State In ’08” by Wayne Reilly, August 31, 2008

Penobscot Bay – July 2, 1967

Penobscot Bay, Maine – July 2, 1967

     On July 2, 1967, a pusher Seabee carrying five people crashed in Penobscot Bay about 500 feet from shore in 35 feet of water.  The plane was nearly torn in half by the impact, and there were no survivors.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Victor Quintinella Jr., 37.

     David A. Mahoney, 46, his wife, Marjorie, 36, and their two sons, David J. 4, and Thomas D. 2.    

     Source: New York Times, “5 from State Dean In Maine Air Crash”, July 4, 1967 

 

Atlantic Ocean – February 26, 1965

Atlantic Ocean – February 26, 1965

About 700 miles east of Bangor, Maine, and 220 miles south of Cape Race, Newfoundland

     

B-47 Stratojet during refueling operations. U.S. Air Force Photo

B-47 Stratojet during refueling operations.
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 26, 1965, a flight of three B-47 bomber aircraft, and one KC-135 tanker plane, were en-route from Torrejon Air Force Base in Madrid, Spain, to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   The planes were returning to the U.S. after a three week deployment overseas.  

     The B-47s were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group assigned at Pease, and the tanker was part of the 71st Air Refueling Squadron at Dow Air Force Base, but all were under the command of the 8th Air Force.    

     As the formation was about 800 miles from the coast of Maine, the tanker began refueling operations.  After refueling one of the B-47s, a second moved into place.  At 9:40 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, a mid-air collision took place between the tanker and the second B-47 resulting in a massive fire ball.  Both aircraft went down in flames and into the icy water. 

RB-47E Stratojet U.S. Air Force Photo

RB-47E Stratojet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     No parachutes were seen by crew of the other aircraft, and even though the planes carried life jackets and rubber rafts, Air Force officials doubted any survivors could last long in the frigid water and cold temperatures.

     Between both planes, eight servicemen were lost.

     The crew of the B-47 consisted of:

     (Pilot) Capt. James B. Redding, 27, of Webster, N.Y.

     (Co-pilot) Capt. Milton S. Stone, 32, Normal, Ill.

     (Navigator) Capt. Frank Valasquez, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

     (Instructor Pilot) Major Charles E. Michigan, 34, of Medford, Mass.

     The crew of the KC-135 consisted of:

     (Pilot) Capt. Leland W. Payn, 32, of Lampassas, Texas.

     (Co-pilot) Capt. Robert G. Lowe, 29, of Arlington, VA.

     (Navigator) Lt. Milburn D. Taylor, 22, of Carbondale, Ill.

     Mstr. Sgt. Carey A. Addison Jr., 32, of Louisiana. 

 

Source: New York Times, “8 Crewmen Lost In Fueling Crash”, February 27, 1965

    

    

    

    

   

    

Blue Hills Bay – February 13, 1943

Blue Hills Bay – February 13, 1943

Surrey, Maine

     Little information is available about this accident as press reports were vague.

     On February 13, 1943, a two-man Navy plane crashed into Blue Hills Bay while on a training flight.  The type of plane was not identified.

     The pilot, Lieutenant John Shelley, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, was rescued by townsmen from Surrey, who braved the icy waters in a small boat to get to the downed airman.  

     An unidentified radioman was lost in the crash.  Lt. Shelley stated that both he and the radioman had managed to climb onto a wing of the partially submerged aircraft and the radioman attempted to swim the mile or so to shore.  The water was cold, with floating ice and strong currents. 

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “4 Lost, 2 Rescued In Plane Mishaps”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 5    

     (The headline does not match the story because two crashes were included in the same article.  The other accident occurred in Rhode Island.)

     Bangor Daily News, “Navy Man feared Lost After Crash In Blue Hill Bay”, February 15, 1943 

Pittsfield, ME – December 15, 1943

Pittsfield, Maine – December 15, 1943

     At 3:55 p.m. student pilot Rowland Kenneth Quinn, 18, took off from Pittsfield Airport in a Piper J5A (NC 35953) for a practice flight.  At 4: 45 p.m. while he was about four miles form the airport, the engine began running roughly and loosing r.p.m.  Quinn put the plane into a glide and throttled back to 1100 r.p.m.  At an altitude of 600 feet the engine stopped completely and Quinn aimed for an open field. 

     The aircraft struck hard and the landing gear was torn away.  The plane came to rest on its nose.     

     It was noted that the temperature was 10 degrees below zero at the time of the crash, which likely contributed to the engine failure.

Source: Civil Aeronautics Board Investigation Report No. 5234-43, Adopted May 22, 1944.

Northern Maine – May 19, 1972

Northern Maine – May 19, 1972

Several miles southeast of St. Pamphile, Quebec  

    

The TBM-3E Avenger modified for crop spraying  as it looked in 1991.  Note the engine is missing, and the cowl ring lies in the foreground.  Photo courtesy Larry Webster,  Quonset Air Museum.

The TBM-3E Avenger modified for crop spraying as it looked in 1991. Note the engine is missing, and the cowl ring lies in the foreground.
Photo courtesy Larry Webster,
Quonset Air Museum.

     On May 19, 1972, a former World War II, U.S. Navy TBM-3E Avenger that had been converted to a crop sprayer was on a flight from New Brunswick to Ottawa, Canada, on a course that took it over U.S. airspace.  While over northern Maine, the plane developed engine trouble and the pilot, Alan Woytaz, 40, was forced to make an emergency crash-landing in the Maine wilderness. 

     The former warbird belonged to Hicks & Lawrence Ltd., an aerial spraying company based in Ontario, Canada.   On the day of the crash, Woytaz was piloting one of four aircraft sent to New Brunswick to have the sprayers calibrated.  Afterwards, as the four planes made their way to a spraying job north of Ottawa, the carburetor on Woytaz’s plane malfunctioned.

     “I was real lucky,” Woytaz told reporters, “everything happened right, including the soft spruce saplings I could see below.  There I was, in the trees, not injured, but without a map.  My buddy had a map and his aircraft was flying away.”

    The area Woytaz had gone down in 1s extremely remote, and under other circumstances he might never have been found. Fortunately, one of the other pilots witnessed the crash, and circled briefly before having to fly on due to oncoming thunder storms. Woytaz was forced to spend the night in the aircraft until he was rescued the following day.     

Another view of the crash site.   Note brush and trees have been cleared.  Courtesy of Larry Webster Quonset Air Museum

Another view of the crash site.
Note brush and trees have been cleared.
Courtesy of Larry Webster
Quonset Air Museum

     The aircraft was not recovered, and remained where it fell for the next 19 years.  During that time portions of the plane were removed.  Three brothers from St. Pamphille, Quebec, hiked to the wreck, and over a period of three weekends, carefully disassembled and removed the engine, hauling it in sections through the thick forest and across a river to their home.  This was no easy endeavor, for the fully assembled motor weighs 2,600 pounds.  At their home, they reassembled the engine and preserved in in working order. 

     Other parts such as cockpit gauges were removed by the occasional souvenir hunter, and at one point a family of bears used the fuselage for their home, but overall the aircraft remained in good condition.     

 

The tail, wings, and nose of the aircraft   had been painted orange.   Courtesy of Larry Webster Quonset Air Museum

The tail, wings, and nose of the aircraft
had been painted orange.
Courtesy of Larry Webster
Quonset Air Museum

     Eventually the wreck came to the attention of the Rhode Island Aviation Heritage Association, which was interested in recovering and restoring it as a warbird.  The plane held special significance because it was the same type flown by former President George H. Bush during World War II, and Bush had received his flight training in Charlestown, Rhode Island.  If the plane could be salvaged, the plan was to restore it with the markings of Bush’s aircraft.  The association sought, and was granted, permission to salvage the Avenger.

     An incredible amount of planning and logistics went into the recovery.  As stated, the plane had gone down in a remote area, and the only practical way to bring it out was by air-lifting it via helicopter – a very big helicopter.   Yet before that could happen, the land surrounding the wreck had to be cleared, which meant cutting down trees and removing thick brush.  Over the years the plane had settled into the soil, which had to be dug away, and the wings had to be removed to reduce weight.     

Courtesy of Larry Webster Quonset Air Museum

Courtesy of Larry Webster
Quonset Air Museum

     Arrangements were made with the Connecticut Army National Guard to use one of their helicopters to air-lift the plane from the woods.  This was done as a three-day training operation for the Guard.  Once the plane had been extricated from the wilderness,  it had to be transported to Rhode Island by flatbed trucks.   Numerous man-hours went into this project.

     The engine wasn’t overlooked, and a deal was struck to purchase it from the men who recovered it.   It too had to be transported to Rhode Island.

      

    

How the Avenger looked upon arrival at the  Quonset Air Museum - 1991 Courtesy Larry Webster, Quonset Air Museum

How the Avenger looked upon arrival at the
Quonset Air Museum – 1991
Courtesy Larry Webster, Quonset Air Museum

  

Front view prior to restoration. Courtesy Larry Webster Quonset Air Museum

Front view prior to restoration.
Courtesy Larry Webster
Quonset Air Museum

     The removal took place on September 17, 1991, and within a few days the Avenger arrived at the Quonset Air Museum in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  Over the next several years volunteers worked diligently to bring it back to its former glory.  As a result, the TBM-3E Avenger, (Bu. No. 53914) is now on display at the Quonset Air Museum.

     Of the 9,839 TBM/TBF Avengers built, less than 200 survive today.     

Photo showing the interior restoration of the  TBM-3E Bu. No. 53914 Photo by Jim Ignasher

Photo showing the interior restoration of the
TBM-3E Bu. No. 53914
Photo by Jim Ignasher

Restoration nearly complete.  Photo by Jim Ignasher

Restoration nearly complete.
Photo by Jim Ignasher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Bangor Daily News, “Three Brothers Treated Engine Like Baby For Nearly 20 Years”, September 21, 1991, Pg. 1

Bangor Daily News, “Recovery Operation Had Its Exciting Moments, But It Was Scary Too.”, September 21, 1991.

Bangor Daily News, “Bomber Recovery Called ‘Fantastic'”, September 21, 1991, Pg. 1

Bangor Daily News, “Pilot Recalls Day Plane Crashed”, September 21, 1991

The Westerly Sun, photo and caption, October 23, 1991, Pg. 3

The Westerly Sun, Recovered Plane May Be Shown Locally”, September 20, 1991

Morning Sentinel, “WWII Bomber Recovered”, September 20, 1991, Pg. 6

Morning Sentinel, “WWII Bomber Retrieved”, more detailed article than one above- no date.

Kennebec Journal, “WWII Bomber Lifted Out Of Northern Maine”, September 20, 1991

Providence Journal, “Rivet By Rivet, Plane Aficionados Restore WWII Torpedo Bomber”, January 11, 1998, PC4C4 

Warbirds International, “Avenger Recovery” by Howard Weekly, Jr., January/February 1992

Other information and photos provided by Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist and Historian, Quonset Air Museum.

 

 

 

 

     

                       

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