Chicopee, MA. – June 27, 1958

Chicopee, Massachusetts – June 27, 1958

     Shortly after midnight on June 27, 1958, four U.S. Air Force KC-135 jet tankers were scheduled to make a transatlantic flight from Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee to London, England.  The purpose of the flight was to try to establish a new overseas speed record for the aircraft.   

     The first two aircraft took off without incident however, the third aircraft, (Ser. No. 56-3599), stalled just after takeoff and crashed about 1.25 miles off the end of the runway.  The tanker came down across the Massachusetts Turnpike and impacted on a farm located on Fuller Road where it exploded in a massive fireball that was seen for miles.  All fifteen men aboard were killed instantly. 

     The fourth aircraft was then ordered not to take off.

    The Turnpike was covered with debris and had to be closed to all traffic.  Electrical power was knocked out throughout the area as the aircraft had struck some power lines prior to impact.

     Of the fifteen men aboard, eight were civilian journalists.

     The dead were identified as:

     Brig. Gen. Donald W. Saunders, 45, of Athens, New York.  He was Commander of the 57th Air Division at Westover AFB.  To see a photo of Gen. Saunders, go to www.findagrave.com.   

     Lt. Col. George Broutsas, 39, of Brattleboro, Vermont.  He was the aircraft commander. He’s buried in Meeting House Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro.

     Captain James Shipman, 34, of Kansas City, Kansas.  He was the aircraft’s navigator. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  

     Captain John B. Gordon, 29, of Raleigh, North Carolina.  He’s buried in Mountain Memorial Park in Raleigh.  

     Lieutenant Joseph C. Sweet, 26, of Chandler, Arizona.  He’s buried in Resthaven Park East Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona.  

     Master Sergeant Donald H. Gabbard, 37, of Los Gatos, California.  He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

     Technical Sergeant Joseph G. Hutter, 26, of Miami, Florida.  He’s buried in Arlington, National Cemetery.

     Civilians aboard included:

     Daniel J. Coughlin, 31, of Boston – Associated Press 

     Norman Montellier, 37, of New York City – United Press International

     Glenn A. Williams, 41, of Bethesda, Maryland – U.S. News & World Report

     Robert A. Ginsburgh, (Also spelled Ginsburg in some accounts), 63, of the U.S. News & World Report. He was also a retired brigadier general from the U.S. Air Force.

     James L. McConaughy, Jr., Time and Life Magazine.

     Robert Sibley, 57, of Belmont, Massachusetts – Aviation editor of the Boston Traveler.

     William Cochran – National Aeronautical Association

     William Enyart – National Aeronautical Association

     The aircraft involved in this accident was part of the 99th Air refueling Squadron based at Westover.   

     This was the second accident for a Westover aerial tanker since aerial tankers had been assigned to the base in the spring of 1955.  The first accident occurred on January 22, 1957, when a KC-97 tanker crashed in Rome, New York, killing all seven crewmen aboard.     

     Sources:

     Unknown newspaper, “KC135 Falls In Flames Near Base At Start Of London Record Flight”, June 27, 1958

     Springfield Union, “Residents Terrified As Disaster Strikes”, June 27, 1958

     Fitchburg Sentinel, “Air Force Jet Plane Explodes After Westover Takeoff”, June 27, 1958

     www.findagrave.com

 

Westover Air Force Base – October 9, 1953

Westover Air Force Base – October 9, 1953

 

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:15 a.m. on the morning of October 9, 1953, Captain Joseph Vitale, 35, was preparing to take off on Runway 06 at Westover AFB in an F-86D Sabre, (Ser. No. 51-5948), for a routine training flight.  After receiving instruction from the tower, Capt. Vitale began his start down the runway, but for some unknown reason was unable to become airborne.  The jet left the end of the runway and struck a mound of dirt recently excavated from a trench, and went airborne for a distance of about 200 feet before slamming into the ground.  Captain Vitale was ejected from the aircraft, but it was unclear if it was due to a malfunction, or if he had done so intentionally.   

     When rescue personnel reached his side he was found to be unconscious due to a head injury.  He was admitted to the hospital, but never regained consciousness before succumbing to his injuries on October 16th. 

     Captain Vitale was an experienced aviator who’d flown 100 combat missions during his military career.  He’d earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and three battle stars while serving in Korea.  He was survived by his wife and four children.

     At the time of his accident Captain Vitale was assigned to the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB. 

     Sources:

     Unknown Newspaper, “Capt. Joseph Vitale and Lt. J.T. Rebo Die In Hospital”, October 10, 1053. (Lt. Rebo dies from injuries in a separate and unrelated accident.)

     usafunithistory.com, 60th F.S. – USAF Orders Of Battle    

 

Belchetown, MA. – May 3, 1962

Belchertown, Massachusetts – May 3, 1962

Near Quabbin Reservoir    

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

      At 9:00 p.m. on the night of May 3, 1962, Major William B. Howell took off from Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a routine training flight in an F-102 Delta Dart fighter aircraft.  At 10:32 p.m., as he was passing over the area of the Quabbin Reservoir, the aircraft abruptly disappeared from radar.  The weather at the time was rainy with flashes of lightning.

     A search was instituted, and the aircraft was located the following day in a thickly wooded area of Belchertown near the Pelham town line, to the west of Rt. 202, about a half mile from the nearest home.  The fuselage was demolished and it was apparent that Major Howell had been killed instantly.  The cause to the accident wasn’t stated.  

     Major Howell was assigned to the 76th Fighter Interceptor Squadron based at Westover AFB.

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “100 Men Searching For Westover F-102 In Quabbin District”, May 4, 1962, page 1

     Springfield Union, “Board Set Up To Investigate Plunge Fatal To Maj. W. B. Howell”, May 5, 1962, page 1 

 

 

 

Otis AFB – June 5, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – June 5, 1947

     On June 5, 1947, Ensign Orin William Ross, (24), was piloting a navy dive bomber making practice landings and take offs at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  While making a practice landing, the aircraft suddenly stalled and crashed onto the runway and exploded, killing Ensign Ross.  Ensign Ross was assigned to Carrier Squadron VA-17A stationed at Quonset Naval Air station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. 

     The exact type of aircraft was not stated.

     Ensign Ross is buried in Bristow cemetery in Bristow, Oklahoma.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, #25974219.

     Source: Cape Cod Standard Times, “Flyer Killed At Otis Field”, June 6, 1947, page 1

Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Located at Florence Road and Old Wilson Road, Northampton, Mass.  

To learn more about this accident, go to the Massachusetts military aviation accidents section of this website.  

Photos taken May 3, 2018.

Click on images to enlarge.

Memorial at the crash site.
Established 1999.

Cheshire, MA. – March 9, 1943

Cheshire, Massachusetts – March 9, 1943

 

P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 4:15 p.m. on March 9, 1943, a P-47B aircraft piloted by 2nd Lt. Sommers D. Levermore, 22, crashed on the farm of Adolph Geoffron, located on Windsor Road, in Cheshire, Massachusetts. 

     Two children on their way home from school witnessed the accident and ran to a nearby home to alert the homeowner, who then called the state police barracks in Pittsfield. 

     Several nearby residents made their way through the snow to reach the plane, which had come to rest in two pieces at a tree line at the edge of a field.  The pilot was still alive, and first aid was given, but he died a short time later before an ambulance could arrive. 

     The cause of the crash was not stated.

     Lt. Levermore was assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron at Westover Field in Chicopee, Mass.

     Lt. Levermore was from Rockville Center, New York.  To see a photograph of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #156413374.  

     Sources:

     Unknown Newspaper, “Cheshire Plane Crash Fatal To Army Pilot”, March 10, 1943.  (Article found on www.findagrave.com)

     Springfield Republican, “Cheshire Crash fatal To Young Army Flier; Plane Breaks In Two”, March 10, 1943, page 1

 

 

Bedford, MA – August 17, 1946

Bedford, Massachusetts – August 17, 1946

    

P-51 Mustang U.S. Air Force Photo

P-51 Mustang
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 17, 1946, a flight of two P-51 aircraft took off from Bedford Army Air Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, to participate in an air show.  They were scheduled to take part in a escort formation flight with a B-29 that was also participating in the show. 

     As the B-29 was flying at an altitude between 2,500 and 3,000 feet, the two P-51’s swooped down on it from above and broke away in a roll.   One of the P-51 pilots was 25-year-old 1st Lt. Severino B. Calderon, flying aircraft  #44-64315.   After rolling away from the B-29, Lt. Calderon climbed again and made another pass, this time coming within 50 to 100 yards of the bomber.  As he did so, the P-51 rolled over into a “split-S” and began diving towards the ground.   The plane crashed on the tracks of the Boston & Maine Railroad just ahead of a train bound from Boston to Chicago.  Fortunately the train engineer was alerted to the wreckage and stopped before hitting it.      

B-29 Super Fortress U.S. Air Force Photo

B-29 Super Fortress
U.S. Air Force Photo

     Lt. Calderon was a veteran of WWII.  He earned his pilot’s wings on December 5, 1943, and served with the 8th Air Force in England.  He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the American Campaign Medal, the European – African – Mideast Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.     

     To see photographs of Lt. Calderon, Google, “Severino B. Calderon American Air Museum Britain”.  www.americanairmuseum/person/203944

     During his time in England, Lt. Calderon flew a P-47 Thunderbolt named “SNAFU”.  There is presently a P-47 that has been restored to the markings of Lt. Calderon’s aircraft in England.  Photos of this airplane can been seen elsewhere on the Internet.    

     Lieutenant Calderon’s accident wasn’t the only incident to occur relating to the air show.  

     On August 15th, a flight of three P-51’s and two P-47’s left Mitchell Filed on Long Island, New York, to take part in the airshow at Bedford.  The aircraft were supposed to arrive two days earlier, but poor weather had kept them grounded at Mitchell Filed. Therefore they didn’t have ample time to rehearse their maneuvers before their first scheduled demonstration. 

     Their first flight was an aerial parade over Boston to advertise the opening of the air show.  A B-29 carrying news reporters was part of the parade, and the reporters requested that the escorting aircraft fly close to the bomber  so they could obtain photographs of the planes flying in formation.  As the planes were maneuvering into different formations, one P-51, (#44-64305), was suddenly caught in the prop-wash of the plane ahead of him, (P-51, #44-64308), and the propeller of 44-64305 caught the right wing of 44-64308 causing damage to the aileron and trailing edge of the wing.  Fortunately both aircraft were able to land safely.   

     Sources:

     Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #47-8-17-3 

     Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #47-8-15-4

     New York Times, “Plane Misses Train”, August 18, 1946

     American Air Museum In Brittan 

     Daily Mail Article: “Aces High: Re-built P-47 Thunderbolt To Take To The Skies In Recreation Of World War II Dogfights 70 Years Ago”, by Ben Griffiths for the Daily Mail, June 26, 2102. 

Gloucester, MA – November 10, 1929

Gloucester, Massachusetts – November 10, 1929

     On November 10, 1929, a U.S. Coast Guard amphibian aircraft with a crew of three aboard took off from Gloucester Harbor for a routine patrol flight.  No sooner had the plane become airborne when it was struck by a downdraft causing it to loose altitude and strike the forestay and rigging of an outward bound fishing schooner, the Jackie B.   The impact ripped the right wing from the airplane, and caused damage to the schooner’s masts. The plane’s momentum carried it another 100 yards where it crashed into the water and flipped upside down. 

     All three crewmen aboard the aircraft were seriously injured.  The pilot, Lt. L. M. Melka, was rescued from the sinking plane by Herman Mathisen who just happened to be passing by in a small boat when the plane hit the water near him.   The other two coastguardsmen, William Kenley, and Arthur J. Descoteau, were rescued by the crew of the Jackie B.  All three airmen were taken to Addison Gilbert Hospital where they were treated for a variety of injuries including fractures, shock, and hypothermia.  

     The aircraft was assigned to Coast Guard Station 7 in Gloucester.

     Source: Lewiston Daily Sun, “Coast Guardsmen Injured In Crash”, November 11, 1929

    

Northfield, MA – September 15, 1920

Northfield, Massachusetts – September 15, 1920

     On September 15, 1920, army aviator, 2nd Lt. Haven H. Spencer, 27, flew a de Havilland, DH-4B, biplane (AS-63454) from Mineola, Long Island, N.Y. to Northfield, Massachusetts, and crashed into a tree on landing.  Lt. Spencer was killed, but his passenger, Herbert McMillian, a student at Dartmouth College escaped with minor injuries. 

     In recent weeks, Lt. Spencer had accompanied the body of Lt. Irving C. Stenson, a fellow aviator from Chelsea, Massachusetts, who was killed in a plane crash at Kelly Field in Texas where both had been stationed, home for burial. 

     Lt. Spencer entered the Aviation Corps in August of 1917.  He was assigned to the 166th Aero Squadron. He was a native of Northfield, Massachusetts, born February 22, 1894, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Rev. George Spencer.  He’s buried in Center Cemetery in Northfield.

     Sources:

     Oklahoma Leader, “Aviator Killed When Plane Drops”, September 17, 1920  

     The Butte (Montana) Daily Bulletin, “Aviation Chief Killed”, August 21, 1920

     The (Washington DC) Evening Star, “Army Aviator Killed”, September 17, 1920, page 15.

     www.findagrave.com  memorial #127956908      

     www.accident_report.com

Braintree, MA – April 4, 1939

Braintree, Massachusetts – April 4, 1939

     On April 4, 1939, a flight of six U.S. Navy biplanes were cruising at 2,000 feet over the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, as part of the launching ceremony for the Navy’s new aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Wasp, (CV-7).   (The Wasp was launched April 4, 1939, and commissioned April 25, 1940. )

     While passing overhead, the aircraft began to execute a maneuver where each in turn would roll over and dive downward.  As they were doing so, the second and third planes in the formation collided in mid-air, and both crashed as a result.     

     The incident was witnessed by West Williams, a flight instructor who was flying another airplane nearby at the time.  West told reporters, “The second plane was just torn to pieces and plunged downward and crashed into a house, setting the house afire.  There were just pieces of fabric left floating down.  The pilot of the (other) plane may have been stunned for a moment and then tried to regain control.  The ship staggered and partially righted itself and then shot down in a power dive.  It seemed to hit a house about half a mile away from the first, and went up in flames.”        

     Both planes came down in the neighboring town of Braintree.  The first slammed into the home at 26 Edgemond Road, which was occupied by 74-year-old William Madden.  Madden escaped the burning house with only minor injuries, but died of a heart attack later in the day.   

     The second plane hit the roof of 30-32 Shepherd Avenue.   J. C. Kirkbride of the Cities Service Company’s refinery saw the second plane glance off the roof of the house where it then “bounced the length of two city blocks, and plowed into the living room of another house.” 

     John Tower, a World War I veteran, suffered sudden death as he tried to assist at the site of the second crash.  

     Another employee of the refinery told reporters he saw the body of one aviator lying on the ground with his parachute partially opened.  

     Each plane carried a pilot and an observer.  The dead were identified as:

     Lieutenant Commander Waldo H. Brown, 43, of Milton, Mass. (Naval Reserve)  (There is a memorial to Brown at Wychmere Beach in in the town of Harwich, Massachusetts.) 

     Aviation Cadet Ellsworth Benson,26, of Newton, Mass.  (Naval Reserve) Buried in Arlington, National Cemetery, Section 6, Site 9183.    

     Aviation Chief Carpenters Mate Walter Kirk, 40, of Quincy, Mass. (Naval Reserve)

     Aviation Chief Machinists Mate John Ausiello, 35, of Revere, Mass.  

 Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Navy Biplanes Fall On Houses At Braintree”, April 4, 1939, Pg. 1

The Palm Beach Post, “Fatal Air Crash Mars Launching”, April 5, 1939

(Book) NAS Squantum: The First Naval Air Reserve Base by Marc J. Frattasio, C. 2009

Cape Cod Chronicle, “Waldo Brown: The Man Behind The Wychmere Jetty Memorial” November 6, 2003    

www.findagrave.com – Ellsworth Benson

New York Times, “Wing-Crash Kills Four Navy Fliers”, April 5, 1939

    

    

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