Stratford, CT. – March 15, 1943

Stratford, Connecticut – March 15, 1943

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On March 15, 1943, Chance-Vought civilian test pilot Boone T. Guyton, was piloting an F4U-1 Corsair, (Bu. No. 02157), over the Stratford area.  The aircraft had been brought to Chance-Vought and converted to a XF4U-3, with experimental equipment added.  Mr. Guyton was testing the performance of the aircraft when the engine suddenly failed forcing him to make an emergency landing at Bridgeport Airport, (Today known as Sikorsky Memorial Airport.)  Upon landing the aircraft struck a cement retaining wall.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, and the pilot was seriously injured.      

     Investigation determined that one of the rods in the engine had seized causing the engine failure.   

     Boone Guyton, (1913 – 1996), was a well known test pilot and navy veteran.  He wrote a book of his experiences called “Whistling Death: The Test Pilot’s Story Of The F4U Corsair, published in 1991 and 1997. 

     Source:

     U.S. Navy accident report #43-6245, dated March 15, 1943

Bridgeport’s Aerodrome – 1911

BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT, AERODROME – 1911   

    Bridgeport’s Aerodrome, as it was called, began as a trotting park for horses in 1887.   The following newspaper article appeared in The Sun, (N.Y.),  on October 21, 1887.

BRIDGEPORT TO HAVE A TROTTING PARK    

     Bridgeport, Oct. 20. – The Bridgeport Driving Club are holding their first annual meeting at the trotting park in this city, and the attendance is sufficient to warrant the successful carrying out of a project which has for some time been in contemplation by the club.  The refusal of the title to 100 acres of ground in West Stratford, close to the tracks of the New York and New Haven Railroad has been secured, and the plan is to establish a first-class park for trotting and for fair purposes.  The Bridgeport Driving Club is composed mostly of members of the Seaside Club, an organization of 500 of the wealthy and representative men of the city, and if negotiations are closed the scheme will be carried out in a way that is creditable to the club and the city.     

_______

 

Vintage postcard view of a
Curtiss Airplane

     According to newspaper sources of the day, the trotting park came to be known as Nutmeg Park.  In early 1911 it was purchased by Christopher J. Lake who wanted to turn it into an air field with the intention of promoting technological advances in aviation.  It was his hope that inventors would use the field to experiment with their newly designed aircraft and thus make Bridgeport an important center for aviation development.      

     On March 4, 1911, the Norwich Bulletin announced that the Bridgeport Aerodrome would open in May of that year.  Under the heading of “Condensed Telegrams” the announcement read: “Announcement was made that the Bridgeport Aerodrome will be formally opened in May with a three days’ aviation meeting under the direction of Glenn H. Curtiss.”  

     Plans for converting and improving the former trotting park advanced rapidly.   Mr. Lake planned for a grand opening celebration in the form of an airshow which was originally scheduled for May 18, 19, and 20.  (The dates were later changed to May 11, 12, and 13.)  Such aerial exhibitions were a rarity for the time.  The Boston-Harvard Aero Meet, the first of its kind in America, had been held only a year earlier, and had proven quite successful, and drew large crowds.

     The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on March 23, 1911.  

     GLEN CURTIS AND FAMOUS AVIATORS TO COME TO THIS CITY THREE DAYS IN MAY

 

Bridgeport Aerodrome Ad – 1911

     Thomas T. Tuttle, of New York, personal representative of Glenn H. Curtis, the aviator announced this morning that the first aviation meet to be held in Connecticut will be held here on May 18, 19, and 20 under the personal direction of Mr. Curtiss.  Mr. Tuttle was accompanied by Mr. Christopher J. Lake who announced that he had arranged to have the meets held at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, formerly Nutmeg Driving Park.  Mr. Lake, who is perfecting a flying machine of his own, is the owner of the field.

     Mr. Curtiss will be accompanied by James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachey, the celebrated airmen, and the event will be open to all who desire to enter.

     A number of organizations including the Aero Club of Connecticut, the Automobile Club of Bridgeport, the Board of Trade, the Businessmen’s Association, the Manufacturers’ Association, will be asked to co-operate in making the event a success.  The members of the Aero Club will be invited to take charge of the field and the recording of all events.

     Mr. Tuttle said: “The Bridgeport meet will be the first that  Mr. Curtiss will appear at in the east this Spring.  he will bring his new type of machine, recently developed at San Diego, Cal., and we also hope to have the “Hudson Flyer”.  the latter is the machine in which Mr. Curtiss flew from Albany to New York last June.

     “Mr. McCurdy is the man who was the fourth to fly in the United States.  For a long time he was associated with Mr. Curtiss, Lieut. Selfridge, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, and F. W. Baldwin in aeronautic experiments with stations at Hammonsport, N.Y., and Baddek, N.S.  He has been a flyer since 1898 and is the holder of the endurance and long distance records of Canada as well as being president of the Aero Club of Canada.  McCurdy is the first man who ever sent a wireless telegram from a flying machine.

     “Beachy recently made his debut on the Pacific Coast as a flying machine man.  For years he was interested in aeronautics and was known as a balloonist.  Last week he established a record by remaining in the air for 18 hours, an average of 2 1/2 hours a day.

     “The Bridgeport Aerodrome is a far better field for an aeroplane course than Belmont Park and excels any spot in the North and East for aeroplane purposes.

     “The international course, 31-10 miles to the lap can be had here without going over trees or buildings.  Thi8s cannot be said even of the celebrated course at Rheims, France.    

     “The field is on the road from new York to Boston and there is ample parking space near the field.  There is seating capacity for about 6,000 at the field and this will be increased to take care of the crowds.  There will be special train arrangements made to bring people from other cities in the state and New York.  Wind checks will be issued on all days there are no flights.”

     Mr. C. J. Lake did not care to say whether he will have any surprise for the public when asked if he may enter one of his machines in the flying contests.  

_______

     In May of 1911, The Mr. Thomas T. Tuttle mentioned in the above article, was hired by Mr. Lake to be the first general manager of the new aerodrome.    

     In April of 1911 it was announced that two more aviation celebrities would be attending the air show at the grand opening of the aerodrome.  They were, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, the navy’s first, and at that time, only, aviator, and U.S. Army Lieutenant James E. Fickel, the first man to fire a rife at targets from a moving airplane.  The dates of the event were also moved forward to May 11, 12, and 13.     

    The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on May 9, 1911.  

BRIDGEPORT THE CENTER OF AVIATION IN AMERICA

Carnival if Flying by Curtiss Aviators This Week Will Mark Opening of First Permanent Aerodrome in Country

     Today, Bridgeport began to come into its own as the center of aviation in America during the current week.    

Click on image to enlarge.

     Things are humming over at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, (formerly Nutmeg Park), where a big force of workmen are busy putting on the finishing touches preparatory to the great aviation carnival of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when Glenn Curtiss, James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachy, three of America’s foremost flyers will be the attraction, with Lt. Ellyson, the navy’s aeronautic expert, and Lieut. Fickel, the army’s aviator.

     Oscar Roesen, and electrical engineer and wireless expert, will arrive in Bridgeport tomorrow with the wireless equipment with which he expects to break the world’s record for sending messages from an aeroplane.  It is also likely that the first of the aeroplanes will arrive tomorrow.

     Today an aviator of national repute entered into negotiations with C. J. Lake, owner of the Aerodrome, for a five year lease of a hangar or aeroplane shed upon the field, intending to make the Bridgeport Aerodrome the base of all his experimental work and machine repairing and construction.

     Other aviators are likely to follow suit and Bridgewater bids fair to become the center of experimental aviation in America.

     Two hundred trees have been taken off the field in clearing it for use as an Aerodrome.  Yesterday an immense bonfire that almost approached the magnitude of a conflagration was made of the debris cleared off the field.

     To safeguard the people who come on foot, a special road has been constructed leading to the field , and traveling its entire circumference, for automobiles.  There is another road for pedestrians and thus the danger of accidents in the throngs which are sure to flock to the field has been averted.

     New seats accommodating 1,400 have been added to the already been added to the already capacious grandstand so that its total seating capacity now is several thousand.  In addition there is parking space for thousands of automobiles and standing room for a multitude.   

     Word is being received from a number of cities of the intending automobile runs and excursion crowds on the trains, and it is believed that the multitudes on the field,  the hundreds of automobiles and exciting features attendant upon such big gatherings will be a great attraction of the meet.    

     Experts declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome, built through the enterprise of Christopher J. Lake, is the finest in the country, surpassing the aviation fields at Belmont Park and Mineola.

     The Belmont park field is handicapped by the fact that the nearest machine shop is two miles distant, a big trundle for a disabled aeroplane.  At the Bridgeport Aerodrome, the machine shop is right on the field; furthermore it is equipped to handle and repair all makes of aeroplanes, a feature true of no other shop of its kind.

     Aviators who have flown abroad declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome is superior even to the famous field at Rheims, France, the scene of the great international flights.  The Rheims field is heavily encumbered with trees, “the graveyards of aviators.”  The Bridgeport field is notably free from these encumbrances and will be still further cleared, the work going forward steadily.

     By making separate roads for automobiles and pedestrians, Mr. lake has effectively solved the problem of handling immense crowds without the danger of frequent accidents.  Furthermore, ample parking space for automobiles has been provided the entire circumference of the grounds, and the machines will afford ideal vantage points from which to watch the flights.

     Pedestrians will be able to make use of the grand stand to great advantage, or of the standing room, all of which commands views of the start and finish, the most exciting and spectacular periods of the flights.

     As there will be from six to twelve flights daily, inter-spread with wireless telegraph experiments, target shooting with rifles, bomb-throwing from aeroplanes and other feats and spectacles, the crowds will be kept on edge from start to finish.  The aerial show each day will occupy about two hours and a half.

     The principal hangars of aeroplane sheds are located at the eastern end of the field.  As the prevailing winds in fair weather are west, it is most likely that the aeroplanes will start at the eastern end of the field from directly in front of the hangars and will fly directly across, furnishing beautiful views to the side lines on ascent and descent.

     After the exhibitions, the gates to the aeroplane fields will be opened, and the crowds will be allowed to inspect the machines at close range.            

________

 

Bridgeport Airport Dedication – 1929

  On July 5-6, 1929, the Bridgeport Aerodrome was re-dedicated as Bridgeport Airport, even though it is in the neighboring town of Stratford.  By 1934, it was also being referred to as Mollison Field in honor of famous aviator Jim Mollison who made an emergency crash-landing there on July 23, 1933.  On that date, Mr. Mollison and his wife were on their way from Wales to New York when their de Havilland Seafarer ran low on fuel.  After several aborted attempts to land at the airport, the plane was set down in a marshlands area where the Housatonic River empties into Long Island Sound.  Mr. and Mrs. Mollison were not seriously injured.        

     According to a 1934 U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Air Commerce publication, Bridgeport Airport had grown to include two gravel runways, one (N/S) being 2,800 feet long, and the other, (E/W), being 2,600 feet long.  The airport also has 24-hour facilities, and a rotating 24-inch beacon light.   

     In 1972 the Bridgeport Airport was re-dedicated the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport.   

 

 

Stratford, CT. – September 15, 1974

Stratford, Connecticut – September 15, 1974

Sikorsky Airport

     On the evening of September 15, 1974, an experimental helicopter containing four men and one woman was taxing onto the airfield at Sikorsky Airport when it suddenly exploded.  The helicopter, a YCH-53E (Sea Stallion) prototype, was about to begin a demonstration test flight in the hopes of gaining a contract with the U.S. Navy or Marines.

     All five persons aboard suffered severe injuries and burns.

     By the time the fire was extinguished only the nose and tail section remained.

     Sources:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Copter Blast”, September 16, 1974, page A-6   

     Providence Journal, “4 In Copter Blast Reported Fair”, September 17, 1974, page B-2 

 

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