New Haven, CT. – September 15, 1893

New Haven, Connecticut – September 15, 1893

 

     On the afternoon of September 15, 1893, aeronaut “Prince Leo”, age 16, was scheduled to perform a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Savin Rock in New Haven.  An estimated crowd of 1,000 people had gathered to watch the event.  After the balloon had risen about 300 feet it suddenly developed a tear allowing the gas to escape.  The balloon, with Prince Leo still aboard, rapidly fell and crashed into the top of a tree.  The impact tossed Leo from the car and he hit a live electrical wire used by trolleys.  When help arrived he was badly cut and in shock from the jolt, but he later recovered.    

     “Prince Leos” real name was Albert Leo Stevens, (1877 – 1944) who went on to become a world famous aeronaut.   Stevens began performing under the stage name, “Prince Leo, the boy aeronaut”, when he was just 13.  

     Sources:

     Weekly Expositor, (Michigan), “A Cheap Excursion To Saginaw”, (A fair advertisement), May 9, 1890

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Am Aeronaut’s Fall – Prince Leo Nearly Loses His Life At Savin Rock”, September 16, 1893  

 

New Haven Harbor, CT. – June 21, 1919

New Haven Harbor, Connecticut – June 21, 1919 

     On June 21, 1919, Thomas R. Haggerty, of West Haven, Connecticut, was flying over the New Haven area with an unidentified passenger  when his airplane went down in New Haven Harbor.  (The cause was not stated.)

     Two men in a passing sailboat witnessed the crash and turned their boat toward the spot where the plane went down.  Both jumped into the water and dove to the bottom where Haggerty and his passenger remained trapped in their seats, being held in place by the safety straps.  After cutting the straps, the men brought the airmen to the surface.  Haggerty reportedly had to be resuscitated. 

      Source:

     Hartford Courant, “Narrow Escape For New Haven Flyer”, June 22, 1919 

 

 

 

New Haven, CT. – June 9, 1918

New Haven, Connecticut – June 9, 1918

     On June 9, 1918, a flight of six U.S. Army two-passenger airplanes left Mineola, Long Island, New York, on a practice flight over Long Island Sound and Connecticut.  The planes flew to New Haven, where the first five landed safely on a field near the Yale Bowl.  As the sixth aircraft was coming in to land it crashed into a tree causing moderate damage to the plane.  The occupants, both lieutenants, (one identified as R. W. Williams), were not injured.

     After a short stay, the other five planes left to return to Long Island. The two lieutenants had to return by train.  Arrangements were made to dismantle the airplane and bring it back to new York.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Airplane Strikes Tree In New Haven”, June 10, 1918 

First U.S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

First U. S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

     On January 22, 1916, The Manufacturers Exhibition opened in New Haven, Connecticut.  One display that drew great interest was a model of a dirigible airship that had been constructed by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven; the first dirigible ever built for the United States Navy.    

     At the time of the exhibit, the airship was in a hangar at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire, undergoing some final preparations before it would sail to Pensacola, Florida, to under go trials and testing.

     The initial order for the dirigible was placed May 14, 1915.  It was reported at that time that the ship would be constructed in New York, assembled in New Haven, Connecticut, and shipped for trials to the Pensacola, Florida, Naval Aeronautic Station, all under the supervision and guidance of the Connecticut Aircraft Company.     

     The model displayed at the exhibition was designed to be towed by a battleship traveling 25 miles per hour against a 15 mph wind to be utilized by lookouts, and spotters for directing ship’s fire during battle conditions.   Traditional balloons had proved to be problematic in this roll due to their lack of stability under these conditions which often resulted in seasickness for the observers.

     The completed dirigible was described as being be 175 feet long, 50 feet tall, and 35 feet in diameter. It would carry a crew of eight, and cost $45,636. 

     The balloon was built with inner compartments that divided the front from the back, either of which could be pumped full with regular air to displace the hydrogen gas so as to make one end of the ship heavier or lighter to aid in ascending or descending.    

     Government specifications required that the dirigible be capable of rising at the rate of 8 feet per second. 

     Fabric for the balloon was manufactured at the United States Rubber Company.   

     On March 13, 1917, with the United States now involved in World War I, contracts totaling $649,250 were awarded to four manufacturers to produce 16 additional dirigibles for the U.S. Navy. 

     The awards were as follows:

     Three dirigibles to be built by the Curtis Aeroplane Company in Buffalo, N.Y., for $122,250.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven, CT., for $84,000.

     Nine dirigibles to be built by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, for $360,000.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the B. F. Goodrich company in Akron, Ohio, for $88,000.  

     During its tenure in business, the Connecticut Aircraft Company build 177 airships and balloons of various kinds.  In 1921 the company was acquired by a Delaware corporation known as the Aircraft-Construction Corporation, and continued to produce dirigible airships under that name. 

     Sources:

     The Sun, (NY) “First Dirigible For The U.S. Navy Will Be Constructed In New York”, May 16, 1915 

     Tulsa Daily World, (Okla.) “U. S. Navy’s New Air Ship Fleet”, August 8, 1915 

     The Sun, (N.Y.) “Model Of First Dirigible Built For U. S. Is Shown”, January 23, 1916   

     The Chickasha Daily Express, (Okla.) April 1, 1916

     The East Oregonian, (Ore.) “U.S. Contracts For Sixteen Dirigibles”, March 14, 1917, (Daily Evening Edition, page 5.)

     The Bridgeport Times, (CT.) “Connecticut Aircraft Plane Will Be Operated By New Delaware Corporation”, September 1, 1921 

New Haven, CT – June 1, 1919

New Haven, Connecticut – June 1, 1919

Updated June 1, 2017

     On Thursday, May 29, 1919, a flight of three army aircraft from Hazelhurst Field on Long Island, New York, arrived at the town of Winsted, Connecticut, and landed safely at a former horse trotting park on Pratt Hill.  The following day, as the first plane was taking off, it crashed into a wooded area at the end of the park.  The unidentified pilot and his mechanic weren’t injured, and the plane wasn’t too badly damaged, and once it was hauled from the woods it was considered reparable.  The accident was blamed on soft, rough, terrain, causing a reduction in speed at take off. 

     All three aircraft and crews remained in Winsted until Saturday morning, May 31st.  On that day, the damaged/repaired aircraft took off for Meridian, Connecticut, while the other two left for New Haven arriving later in the day.             

     The following day was Sunday, June 1, 1919.  Both aircraft took off from New Haven, and as they were making a spiral descent towards Yale Filed they collided in mid-air. 

     One aircraft managed to land safely, but the other, a Curtis JN-6H biplane (AS-41885) crashed.  The pilot, 1st Lt. Melvin B. Kelleher, 23, and his mechanic, Corporal Joseph Katzman, were killed instantly.  (One source had Katzman listed as a private.)

     The army board of inquiry failed to find fault with either pilot involved in the collision.   

     Lt. Kelleher is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Frankfort, Indiana. There is also a memorial erected in his honor in Clinton County, Indiana.  (See www.findagrave.com, memorial numbers 28117193, and 124683338 to view the monument, and a photograph of Lt. Kelleher.)

     The burial place of Joseph Katzman is unknown.

     Sources:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Airplane Accident”, May 31, 1919

     Hartford Courant,(Conn.), “Winsted-Flier Was In Town Who Was Killed At New Haven”, June 3, 1919  

     Hartford Courant,(conn.), “Files Finding On Airplane Fall”, June 29, 1919

     New York Times, “Airplanes Colide; 2 Aviators Killed” June 2, 1919

     www.accident_report.com

     www.findagrave.com

 

 

West Haven, CT – August 17, 1907

West Haven, Connecticut – August 17, 1907

Updated February 7, 2018

 

    balloon On August 17, 1907, Theodore French, a young aeronaut from New Haven, Connecticut, was scheduled to give a parachute performance at Savin Rock in West Haven.  Three weeks earlier, he’d accepted a dare to go up in a balloon and be shot out of a seven-foot long tin “cannon”, and parachute to the ground.  On that occasion he landed safely.  On this day the performance was to be repeated, but with a slight change.  This time, the cannon would drop away from the balloon, it’s descent slowed by a parachute.  Then, as the cannon floated towards the ground, French would be shoot out of it, and land via use of a second parachute attached to his body.   

     When the balloon had reached a height of about 2,600 feet  the cannon was cut loose, and reportedly “swung clumsily” before French was discharged.  Once free of the cannon, French’s parachute failed to open, and he plummeted downward landing on the roof of a nearby piano factory and was killed instantly.  The cannon came down a few feet away.

     It was reported that Theodore’s father, Robert French, was the Chief of Police in New Haven, Connecticut.   Some sources put Theodore’s age at 19, others at 20.

     Sources:

     Topeka State Journal, “He Drops To Death”, August 19, 1907

     (A London England Newspaper) The Age, “Aeronaut Killed – Parachute Fails To Open” August 21, 1907

     Taranaki Herald, “Aeronaut Killed – Failure Of A Parachute”, August 20, 1907

     Evening Post, “Dashed To Pieces – Fate Of Aeronaut”, August 20, 1907, Page 7

     New York Times, “Half-Mile Fall From Sky Kills Boy”, August 18, 1907. 

 

 

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