West Greenwich – March 24, 1943

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – March 24, 1943

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

P-47B Thunderbolt

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 24, 1943, two Army P-47B fighter aircraft (41-6002) and (41-6040) were training over southern Rhode Island when both were forced to land for reasons not stated in the press. One plane, piloted by Flight Officer Oscar C. Kline, 22, of Barrington, New Jersey, came down on Nooseneck Hill Road in West Greenwich, barely missing an automobile before cartwheeling into the woods lining the east side of the highway.  The plane caught fire but did not explode.  The flames were quickly extinguished by the driver of the vehicle that was almost hit, and some other passers by, using brush-fire pump cans obtained from the nearby home of Richmond’s Chief of Police, John Potter.  Unfortunately Flight Officer Kline died as he was removed from the plane.  

     The second P-47B landed about a mile-and-a-half farther down Nooseneck Hill Road in the town of Richmond, near Dawley Memorial Park.  

     Witnesses told investigators that the two P-47s had circled the area several times with their wheels down before attempting to land. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Plane Crashes Kill 2 Pilots – Officials Of Army, Navy Probe Accidents In South County”, March 25, 1943   (This headline is in error.  Only one pilot was killed.)   

Woonsocket Call, “Pilot Identified In State Crackup”, March 25, 1943, Pg. 1 

Springfield Union, (Mass.), “Westover Fighter Pilot Killed, Another Escapes In Two-Plane R.I. Crash”, March 25, 1943

Four P-47 Thunderbolts Lost February 11, 1943

Four P-47 Thunderbolts Lost February 11, 1943

Cranston, R.I., Narragansett Bay, & Atlantic Ocean

        

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

     On the morning of February 11, 1943, a flight of four P-47B Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, for what was to be a routine half-hour flight to Trumbull Field in Groton, Connecticut. None of them ever arrived at their destination.

     Conditions were foggy that morning, with a cloud ceiling of only 900 feet. Once airborne the pilots would have to rely on their instruments to get them where they were going.

     The flight leader was 1st Lieutenant Gene F. Drake. The other three pilots, all second lieutenants, were Raymond D. Burke, Robert F. Meyer, and John Pavlovic. All were assigned to the 21st Fighter Squadron of the 352nd Fighter Group. The 352nd was a newly formed unit then based at Trumbull Field.

   The flight took off at 10:15 a.m. with Lieutenant Drake flying aircraft #41-5922, Lieutenant Burke, #41-5943, Lieutenant Mayer, #41-5940, and Lieutenant Pavlovic, #41-5944.

     Witnesses later reported that the formation circled the airfield three times, but by the third pass one of the planes had disappeared. The remaining three P-47s were last seen headed in a southerly direction.   

“X” marks the approximate location in Cranston, R.I., where Lt. Meyer crashed Feb. 11, 1943

     The missing plane was piloted by Lieutenant Mayer. How he became separated for the group is unclear, but just minutes after take-off he crashed on some railroad tracks in the city of Cranston, Rhode Island, which borders Warwick to the north. Witnesses stated the right wing of Lt. Mayer’s aircraft struck a boxcar parked on a siding which caused it to crash and burn. Lt. Mayer was likely killed instantly. The site of the crash was located just south of Park Avenue, about four miles from Hillsgrove Field.

     Meanwhile, the other three P-47 pilots were heading southeast in zero visibility towards Jamestown and Newport instead of southwest towards Connecticut.  Shortly before 11:00 a.m. Lieutenant Raymond Burke crashed in the waters of Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport on the eastern side of the island.  (For those unaware, the town of Jamestown is located on Conanicut Island, situated in the middle of Narragansett Bay.)  A short time later, one of the other P-47s crashed on the western side of the island, just off shore from Fort Getty, where the 243rd Coast Artillery was stationed.

     One serviceman who was stationed at Fort Getty was 2nd Lieutenant Roland D. Appleton who reported hearing a low flying aircraft pass over his duty station and then a loud crash out over the water a short distance from shore. Several enlisted men also reported hearing the same, but due to heavy fog nothing had been observed. However, within a few minutes the scent of gasoline wafted to shore confirming what they all suspected.

     In his official statement to investigators, Lieutenant Appleton later wrote, “I immediately called for a boat from the Fort Getty dock to go out searching. I called the Fort Wetherill dock to send a boat out and was informed that the USAMP Hunt would be sent at once to the area. In addition a Coast Guard boat was sent to assist in the search. Seaward Defense Station and the Adjutant, 243d Coast Artillery (HD), were notified.”

     By this point, the military was dealing with two downed aircraft, one on either side of the island.  

     Lieutenant Appleton’s statement continued, “Within 10 or 15 minutes the fog lifted and I searched the area with field glasses but did not discover any signs of the plane. A report was received that an oil or gas slick was sighted about 500 yards off shore and that the gas odor was still strong. The shore patrol continued searching.

     It is believed by the undersigned that the plane crashed and sank within a very few minutes. Approximately an hour and a half after the crash a black canvas bag about 15 inches long filled with cotton was picked up on shore. The center of the cotton was dry which indicated to me that it had been in the water but a short time. Other articles picked up on shore included a piece of leather possibly from an earphone, four rubber pieces of peculiar design, a handkerchief with numbers on it.

     The circumstances of the crash and the sounds heard at the time would indicate that the plane exploded just prior to or at the instant of crash.”

     Unfortunately, the numbers on the handkerchief were not recorded in the investigation report.  

     One of the officers in charge of the search detail along the shoreline at Fort Getty was Captain Stanley W. Smith. In his official statement to investigators he wrote; “At 1700 I went down to the beach again to investigate a stick-like object projecting out of the water approximately 50 yards off-shore. The visibility was poor. It was projecting about two feet above the surface of the water and appeared to be a stick.   It was impossible to distinguish any color on it or to tell just what it was without going out in a boat to see the object.”  

     Another officer who assisted in the Fort Getty search was Captain George E. Blicker. In his official statement he wrote, “Captain Smith immediately contacted me and together with a corporal and six men went down to investigate the accident. There was a dense fog that was beginning to lift about this time. Visibility was poor, but noticeable about 500 yards off shore was a slick approximately 50 yards in diameter with vapor fumes rising. The slick spread quickly and then disintegrated, giving off a strong gas odor in the air.”

     The following day, February 12th, The Newport Daily News reported that the body of Lieutenant Raymond Burke had been recovered from the bay between Jamestown and Newport by a navy picket boat and taken to Newport Hospital.

     On February 13th, a small news item appeared in The Woonsocket Call concerning the other plane that had crashed off Fort Getty. It reported that the unidentified P-47 had been located in 58 feet of water, but that the pilot was still unaccounted for.  

      The unidentified plane was marked with a buoy and a salvage boat was sent to attempt a recovery, however, bad weather and floating ice prevented this from happening. Unfortunately, the aircraft and its pilot were never identified in either newspaper accounts, or the official investigation report, nor does it appear that the pilot or the aircraft were ever recovered. Therefore, it has never been determined if this aircraft was the one flown by Lt. Pavlovic, or Lt. Burke.

   The fate of the fourth P-47 of this flight has never been determined, for the pilot and his aircraft were never seen or head from again. Presumably, the pilot continued on a southeasterly course and flew out to sea.

     1st Lieutenant Gene Frederick Drake, (Ser. # O-430925), was from Wilmette, Illinois,  born August 3, 1920.  He enlisted in the Air Corps in March 17, 1941, (Some sources state February, 1941), about ten months before the United States entered World War II. 

     From January to November of 1942, he served in Australia flying combat missions against the Japanese.  On his 22nd birthday, (Aug. 3, 1942), he was  flying a patrol mission when he and his fellow fighter pilots spotted 27 enemy bombers flying in formation approximately 2,00o feet below.  

      One newspaper described what took place in Lt. Drakes own words. “We flew into them and I shot up the first bomber.  I saw him stagger, burst into flames, and then go down.  I headed for another bomber but heard bullets going through my own crate.  Suddenly a solid sheet of oil came over my windshield and the cockpit was full of fumes.  I saw two little zeroes (Japanese fighting planes) sitting on my tail and it looked like time for me to leave.”   

     Lt. Drake was forced to bail but he landed safely. 

     Lt. drake was credited with shooting down the enemy bomber, as well as two more Japanese aircraft later that same month.  For his outstanding service he was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry in action under heavy fire, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star.

     In late 1942 he returned to the states and became a flight instructor, training new pilots for overseas duty.  

     He was survived by his wife Shirley, and his son, Gene Jr..   

     He was officially declared dead on January 31, 1944.  

     Lt. Drake also had a brother serving in the Marine Corps, 1st Lt. Stafford W. Drake Jr.    

    2nd Lieutenant Robert Frederick Meyer was born January 29, 1920, in Shepherd, Michigan, making him just barely 23 at the time of his death. He was survived by his parents, and is buried in Deepdale Memorial Park, Lansing, Michigan.

     2nd Lieutenant Raymond D. Burke was just 15 days shy of his 22nd birthday when he died. He was born in Wilton, New Hampshire, February 26, 1921, the son of James R. and Margaret E. Burke. He’s buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Wilton.

    2nd Lieutenant John Pavlovic, (Ser. # O-732341), was from the town of River Forrest, Illinois, and was 23-years-old at the time of his death.   He entered the Air Corps in March, 1942, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in October of 1942 at Luke Field in Arizona.  He was officially declared dead one year after his disappearance.    

     Sources

    United States Army Air Force crash investigation reports for all four aircraft, Report numbers:

     43-2-11-3, dated March 29, 1943

     43-2-11-4, dated March 29, 1943

     43-2-11-5, dated March 25, 1943

     43-2-11-6, dated March 25, 1943

     Death Certificates obtained from the Rhode Island State Archives for Lt. Robert F. Meyer & Lt. Raymond D. Burke

     The Providence Journal, “Two Army Pilots Lose Lives In Crashes In R.I., Two Other Planes In Unit Believed Lost”, February 12, 1943, page 1

     The Newport Daily News, “Body of Army Pilot Recovered From Bay”,February 12, 1943

     The Woonsocket Call, “Searchers Locate Airplane In Bay”, February 13, 1943, page 1

     University of Illinois Veterans Memorial Project

     Chicago Sunday Tribune, “Wilmette Flyer Gets 2nd Award In Pacific Fight”, November 15, 1942, part 1, page 13 

     www.cieldegloire.com – 49th Fighter group – USAAF – Ciel de Gloire

     Wilmette Life, (Wilmette, Il.),”Flier Celebrates Birthday”, August 13, 1942

     Wilmette Life, (Wilmette, Il.),”Lieut. Gene Drake Reported Missing On Airplane Flight”, February 18, 1943

     Falling Leaves, (Oak Park, Il. newspaper), “River Forest Teacher Leaves For Navy,; Service Men’s News”, September 24, 1942  

     Falling Leaves, (Oak Park, Il. newspaper), “Lost Flyer Is Assumed Dead”, February 22, 1944 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

    

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker
Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

     In 1955 the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Leyte was stationed at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  In early December of that year, she put to sea for a three day cruise off New England to participate in anti-submarine training maneuvers.  Navy pilot, Lieutenant (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker, 23, of Akron, Ohio, volunteered to go. 

     On December 7, Lieutenant Walker, piloting an AD Skyraider, participated in a gunnery training flight over the water.  As he was returning to the Leyte, the arresting cable snapped when it caught the Skyraider’s tail hook.  The aircraft careened into the carrier’s superstructure and then cartwheeled into the sea.     

     The Skyraider quickly sank  to the bottom taking Lt. Walker with it, but his back-seat crewman, Aviation Ordinance Man 2nd Class William E. Deering of Atlantic City, New Jersey, managed to escape. 

     One of those who witnessed the accident was Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class David Cata of the Bronx, New York, who was stationed aboard the nearby destroyer, U.S.S. Wadleigh.   Upon seeing Deering bobbing helplessly in the water, Cata jumped overboard and swam to his aid and held Deering afloat until they were plucked form the water by a helicopter.  Both men survived their ordeal.

     Lieutenant (J.g.) Walker was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on December 3, 1953.  His body was never recovered.

     Some sources describing this event state that it took place in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, however, the Ohio Informer, a newspaper from Akron, Ohio, where Lt. Walker was from, gave the location as 90 miles out to sea off the coast of New Jersey. 

     Sources:  

     New York Times, “Sailor Rescued Airman”, December 9, 1955     

     Bridgeport Telegram, “Sailor Rescues Airman In Water”, December 9, 1955  

     Ohio Informer, “Lt. Alfred G. Walker Dies In Plane Crash”, December 17, 1955, Vol. X, No. 16    

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 24, 1966

Quonset Point Naval Air Station  – May 24, 1966

     On the night of May 24, 1966, Lieut. Cmdr. Bruce R. Richmond, 31, and Lieut. Stephen Losey, 37, were practicing landings and take offs at Quonset Point Naval Air Station when their twin-engine aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay.  Both men were killed. The type of aircraft was not stated.

     Lieut. Cmdr. Richmond is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.  To see a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com memorial #3427105.

     Lieut. Losey is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com memorial #49249517.   He was from New Jersey.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Two Navy Fliers Die In Crash”, May 25, 1966

     www.findagrave.com

Smithfield, R.I. – November 17, 2008

Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 17, 2008

     On the evening of November 17, 2008, a Piper PA-38, (N2316P) was approaching runway 33 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, when it crashed in a wooded area about 2/3 of a mile short of the runway.  The plane exploded on impact killing both the pilot and his passenger.

     The dead were identified as (Pilot) Robert A. Zoglio Jr., 43, of Richmond, R.I., and Ronald Tetreault, 64, of Glocester, R.I.   

     The plane had left Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I. bound for North Central to practice landings and take-offs.    

     Sources:

     NSTB Report #ERA09FA060

     Providence Journal, “Two Killed In Plane Crash In Smithfield”, November 18, 2008, Section B, Pg. B1

     Providence Journal, “Experienced pilots died doing what they loved”, November 19, 2008, Pg. 1

    

 

South Kingstown, R.I. – November 26, 1945

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – November 26, 1945

Worden’s Pond

   

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 26, 1945, Ensign Nelson Earl Carter, 22, was killed when the SB2C Helldiver (Bu. No. 65286) that he was piloting, crashed in Worden’s Pond during dive bombing practice.

     Ensign Carter’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Holland, Michigan for burial.  He’s buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Plot PH3-C-74-4.  For a photo of the grave, go to findagrave.com, Memorial # 49817091.    

     Ensign Carter had been a recipient of the Air Medal. 

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Archaeologist & Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com

North Central State Airport – April 21, 1986

North Central State Airport – April 21, 1986

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     At 12:30 p.m. on April 21, 1986, a Cessna 310 (N128K), left Willow Run Airport in Michigan bound for North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I., to make a delivery for a company located in North Smithfield.  

     At 3:28 p.m. the pilot took off for his return flight, and according to witnesses, circled the airport area twice before suddenly diving nose-first onto a rocky outcrop about 600 feet from the north-south runway.  The plane exploded on impact killing the 23-year-old pilot. 

     One witness from a business located on Albion Road told a Woonsocket Call reporter, “It made a low pass over our shop the first time it came by.  The engines sounded okay.  I just thought the pilot was disoriented.  When it came by low again the second time, it was flipped over on it side, and when it went over the fence (separating Albion Road from the airport) it was completely flipped over and no where near where it should have been approaching from.”

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Michigan Pilot Killed In Fiery No. Central Crash”, April 22, 1986 

     NTSB report NYC86FA112, microfiche # 32967    

Quonset Point NAS – April 6, 1945

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – April 6, 1945

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

    

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers  National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On April 6, 1945, two TBM Avengers assigned to Night Torpedo Squadron 55 at Quonset Point, were taking off at the same time for a night training mission when they collided at the intersection of runways 19 and 28. 

     Lt. Jg. John Frederick Kalb, 25, of West Helena, Arkansas, in aircraft #46123, was killed.

     Lt. Jg. W. F. Leeker in aircraft #16885, was seriously injured, but survived.  

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 was commissioned at Quonset Point NAS on March 1, 1945.  The squadron’s first fatal accident occurred not long afterwards on March 9, 1945, when Lt. Jg. Harold Boren was killed when his plane crashed in Westerly, Rhode Island, during an instrument training flight. 

     For more information about Night Torpedo Squadron 55 see the website;  vtn55.org 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-30 

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 history        

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 

 

 

Westerly, R. I. – September 2, 1929

Westerly, R.I. – September 2, 1929

     On September 2, 1929, two women were burned to death when the bi-plane they were passengers in crashed on Misquamicut Beach shortly after take off from Misquamicut Filed.  (Today known as Westerly State Airport.)

     The pilot, identified as Lieutenant Arthur Manning, told investigators that the plane developed engine trouble just after take off. 

     The dead were identified as Mrs. Fred Hunter of 3 Avery Street, Westfield, Massachusetts, and Miss Marie Day, of 20 Cotton Avenue, West Springfield, Massachusetts. No autopsies were performed. 

     There was no mention as to a specific aircraft- military or civilian – in the news article.   

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Fatal Airplane Crash Probed”, September 4, 1929, Pg. 3.      

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

 

DFP50096     Nels J. Nelson was sixteen when the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  Eight years later he was building his own airplanes in New Britain, Connecticut.  His first airplane made its maiden flight over Plainfield, Connecticut, May 1st, 1911. 

      Nelson took to giving flying exhibitions which were well received by a public eager to see what those “new fangled flying machines” could do.  By 1913 he’d developed what he called a “Hydroplane” capable of taking off and landing in water.  On July 1, 1913, Nelson flew his Hydroplane over Providence, Rhode Island, where he circled the area of Exchange Place and City Hall twice before making a turn around the dome of the state capitol.  From there he flew south where he landed in the water just off shore from the famous Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick.  The purpose of the flight was to generate interest in several flying exhibitions he was to give at Rocky Point as part of the 4th of July celebration festivities.  Advertisements of his arrival had been posted in local papers for several days. 

     Mr. Nelson was scheduled to give three exhibitions on July 4th; at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.  An article that appeared in The Woonsocket Call on July 5th described the first flight; “Shortly before 10 o’clock Nels Nelson sailed his 70 horse-power flying boat out into the bay in front of the Mansion House, watched by thousands of interested spectators.  The motor began to buzz and immediately the huge hydroplane commenced to skim at a rapid rate over the water.  As soon as the maximum speed was attained, the planes were slanted and the boat rose into the air, dripping like a sea gull which had captured its prey.  For a few moments Nelson drove the machine on the level – about 12 feet from the surface of the bay.  Soon, however, he rose higher until it became necessary to tip back one’s head to watch the flight.  Higher and higher went the boat, finally becoming but a speck in the sky sailing towards Prudence Island.”    

      On the second flight of the day Nelson took 21-year-old Irving Tukey aboard as a passenger.  The take-off went smoothly and the flight was uneventful until the aircraft was returning to land.  As Nelson was making his final approach, he cut power to the engine in anticipation of gliding down to the water, but at that instant, a strong gust of wind caught the plane and sent it into a sharp down-turn into the Narragansett Bay from an altitude of 60 feet.  

     Tukey suffered a broken wrist, a laceration to his forehead and numerous bumps and bruises.  Nelson was battered and dazed, but otherwise alright.  Both men were rescued by a private boat that was anchored nearby watching the festivities. 

     What became of Nelson’s hydroplane isn’t recorded, but the accident didn’t deter him from further flying.  The following September he flew another plane that he had built from New Britain, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois.

      Mr. Nelson died in 1964 at the age of 77.  Many of his fellow aviators never reached middle age. His interest in aviation continued throughout his life.  Between 1903 and 1964, (the span of 61 years), he had witnessed the birth of the airplane, the jet, the rocket, and manned space flight.     

 Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, “Birdman Flies At Rocky Point”, July 3, 1913, Page 10

The Woonsocket Call, “Fourth Big Day At Rocky Point”, July 5, 1913, Page. 2

The Woonsocket Call, “Drop Into Bay”, July 7, 1913, Page 1

Internet website  www.earlyaviators.com Nels J. Nelson, 1887-1964

 

 

 

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

70 miles south-east of Block island

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of November 20, 1952, a two navy P2V Neptunes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station were taking part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise off Block Island with the submarine USS Piper, (SS-409), and the navy tug, USS Hopi, (AFT-71). 

     Shortly after 4:00 a.m. the two planes rendezvoused over the Jamestown Bridge in Narragansett Bay, and headed for the operational area about 70 miles off Block Island.  One planes was piloted by Lieut. Alvin S. Hibbs, and the other by Lt. Cmdr. Noble R. Kean. (Bu. No. 124242) 

     Hibbs later told investigators, “Commander Kean was behind me a mile or so, and we carried on radio chit-chat.  He said all the other men were in very high spirits over the radio.  We arrived at the operating area a half hour later and circled for awhile, and then endeavored to make radar contact with out target.  There were two targets visible by radar, and I investigated on while Commander Kean investigated the other.” 

     Hibbs found his “target” and after making two “runs” on it he tried to contact Kean by radio, but couldn’t.  Then the submarine and tug tried to make contact and were unsuccessful.

     Hibbs flew over Kean’s last known position and found two smoke lights and debris on the water’s surface. The smoke lights had apparently broken free of the wreck and were automatically activated.   The tug arrived in the area and collected some of the debris, but found no sign of the crew.  

     One of the last to see the missing aircraft was Lieut. Herbert C. Taft, who was aboard the submarine Piper when Kean’s Neptune passed over.  “I observed the aircraft going across our bow on his run. I observed no malfunctioning of the aircraft and received no notification by radio that anything was wrong.  I followed his flight out for approximately four or five miles.” 

     At that point the lights on the Neptune,  “indicated it was making a right banking turn.”     

     “Shortly thereafter”, Taft went on, “we heard a dull thud.  Because there was no indication of an explosion and no flash, this particular noise worried me, so I went below and tried to contact the aircraft to no avail.”

     The cause of the crash could not be determined.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Comdr. Noble R. Kean, 34, a native of Evanston, Ill. He was survived by his wife Sarah.

     Lt. Thomas J. Tiernan, 28, of Wickford, R.I.

     Aviation Mechanic 2c John R. Quirk, 27, of Lavelle, Penn. He was married just twelve days earlier on November 8, to Miss Constance Lussier of West Warwick, R.I.

     Aviation Ordnance Man 2c George A. Buehler, 22, of Nekoosa, Wis. He too was recently married on October 4 to Miss Irene Carvalho of West Warwick.

     Lt. Seymour A. Moyl, 26, of Bronx, N.Y.

     Aviation Electronics Man 1c Roland O. Eades, 29, of Indiana.

     Seaman Salvatore A. Coia, 21, of Rome, N.Y.

     Seaman Joseph A. gray, 20, Bronx, N.Y.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Bomber Plunges Into Atlantic Off Block Island”, November 21, 1952, Pg. 1

     Providence Journal, “Quonset pilot Described Crash As Observed From Submarine”, November 21, 1952 

       

        

         

 

         

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