T. F. Green Airport – September 27, 1975

T.F. Green Airport, Warwick, R.I. – September 27, 1975

     At about 1:00 a.m., on the morning of September 27, 1975, a Falcon cargo jet belonging to an express company landed at T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, after being diverted from its original destination of Boston’s Logan Airport due to low visibility conditions over Boston.    

     Aboard the Falcon was a pilot and co-pilot, and one passenger.  Among its cargo were some low-grade radioactive materials, minor explosives, and flammable liquids.     

     About an hour later the Falcon was given clearance to resume its journey.  The tower gave instructions to use Runway 23 left for take off.   At the time clearance was given, a fog and drizzle condition existed at Green, and the pilot inadvertently turned onto Runway 23 right, instead of 23 left.  Unbeknownst to the Falcon pilot, Runway 23 right had been closed since 5:25 p.m. the previous evening, and two large passenger jets, an Allegheny Airlines DC-9, and an American Airlines 727, were parked about halfway down the 5,000 foot runway and were not visible to the flight crew. 

     The airliners were not occupied at the time, except for one maintenance man working aboard the DC-9.

     Although the runway was closed, the runways lights were still on, which investigators later determined contributed to the accident. 

     The Falcon began its take-off run and reached a speed of 100 mph before its left wind struck the nose wheel of the DC-9 causing damage to the wing and nose wheel.  The initial impact did little to slow the Falcon, which continued on and slammed into a maintenance truck which had also been parked on the runway, sending the truck tumbling under the left wing of the 727.  The truck erupted in flames and burned furiously beneath the fuel laden wing of the 727. 

     After colliding with the truck the Falcon’s main landing gear collapsed and the jet skidded to a stop about 150 yards later.  The plane did not catch fire and the crew and passenger scrambled out through a cockpit escape hatch – unhurt.

     Due to a quick response by the airport fire department the burning truck was extinguished and the fuel in the wing of the 727 did not ignite, although the aircraft did suffer serious damage from the burning truck.

     The lone maintenance man aboard the DC-9 was transported to a medical facility to be treated for shock.

     None of the materials aboard the Falcon jet were found to be leaking or in any way compromised.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Radioactive-Cargo Plane Crashes At State Airport”, September 28, 1975.    

     South Middlesex News, “Wrong-Way Takeoff At RI Airport”, September 28, 1975, page 9A 

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Law Not Violated In Warwick Crash”, September 30, 1975, page 6

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Airport Crash Cost $1 Million”, October 2, 1975, page A-1

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Runway Lights May Have Led To Collision”, October 3, 1975, page B-2

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Faulty Lights Crash Factor”, October 5, 1975, page 9.

     Additional reading for researchers: 

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Cargo Aboard Crashed Jet ‘Sounded Worse That It Was'”, February 3, 1976, page A-7

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “State Seeking Dismissal Of Runway Crash Suit”, December 4, 1976, page 8.  

T.F. Green Airport – November 23, 1974

T.F. Green Airport – November 23, 1974

     On the morning of November 23, 1974, a single-engine aircraft with a family of four aboard left Teterboro, New Jersey bound for Lawrence, Massachusetts.  While en-route, the aircraft developed engine trouble when the pilot was switching fuel tanks. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on the northeast runway at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Upon touching down the aircraft skidded for about 500 feet before it nosed over and came to rest.  The nose and propeller suffered heavy damage, and the right wheel had broken away.   There was no fire, and the family was uninjured, and left the aircraft on their own.   The wreckage was removed from the runway within twenty-five minutes, and the runway reopened.

     Source:

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Family Of 4 Unhurt In Plane Crash”, November 24, 1974, page C-16   

 

Warwick, R.I. – November 17, 1970

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 17, 1970 

     Shortly after 1 p.m. on November 17, 1970, a twin-engine Cessna 310 aircraft with a husband and wife aboard took off from T.F. Green Airport.  Just after takeoff the plane lost power in its left engine and the pilot made a left turn in an attempt to get back to the runway.  As he was doing so, the airplane came down in a neighborhood adjacent to the airport, where it skimmed the top of a tree located in front of 57-59 Kilvert Street.  It then glanced off a three-story house before slamming into another three-story home at 51 Kilvert Street and exploded into flame. 

     Inside 51 Kilvert Street, a 37-year-old mother lay sleeping with her 1-year-old son.  The crash set the room ablaze.  Her husband, who was out in front of the house at the time, ran in and rescued his wife and son, but the woman later died of her injuries.

     The occupants of the aircraft were pulled from the wreckage by firefighters, both were suffering from severe burns. 

     The flames spread to an adjacent house, and four firefighters were injured battling the blaze.  The burned homes were later torn down. 

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, and Providence Evening Bulletin, (unknown  dates – not recorded on clippings.)

     “Plane Crashes After takeoff At Green”

     “Spectators Come To View Floodlighted Plane Wreck”

     “Mother, Infant Pulled Out After Plane Hits R.I. Home”, November 18, 1970.

     “A Neighborhood Learns Horror”

     “One Of The Hazards…Now It’s Happened Here”

     “Experts Probing Plane Crash”

     “Burns Claim Woman; Home Hit By Plane”

     “Pilot’s Wife Quizzed, Condition Still Poor” 

     “Hurt Woman Questioned On Warwick Plane Crash”

 

 

 

 

 

Conimicut Light, Warwick, R.I. – July 30, 1964

Conimicut Light, Warwick, Rhode Island – July 30, 1964

    

U-10 Helio Courier U.S. Air Force Photo

U-10 Helio Courier
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of July 30, 1964, a flight of six Rhode Island National Guard Aircraft left Hillsgrove Airport, (Today known as T.F. Green Airport) for a two-and-a-half hour training flight.  The aircraft belonged to the 143rd Air Commando Group. 

     One of the aircraft, a U-10 Helio Courier with two men aboard developed engine trouble and attempted an emergency landing.  As the plane neared the Conimicut Lighthouse at Conimicut Point in Warwick, one witness said he could hear the engine “spitting and sputtering” as it crashed into the shallow water of Narragansett Bay between the lighthouse and the mainland.

     Both the pilot and navigator were killed.  The dead were identified as (Pilot) Captain Donald E. Leach, 31, of Cranston, R.I., and (Navigator) Major Alan Hall Jr., 39, of East Greenwich, R.I.      

     The aircraft was recovered the following day with the bodies of both men still inside.

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “2 RI Airmen Killed In Bay Plane Crash”, July 31, 1964, Pg. 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Recover Bodies Of 2 Guardsmen”, August 1, 1964 

Warwick, R.I. – November 1, 1962

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 1, 1962

     On November 1, 1962, a plane carrying a pilot and one passenger crashed in heavy fog as it approached Hillsgrove Airport. (T.F. Green Airport.)  The pilot survived the crash, but his passenger did not.  

Source: New York Times, “Pilot Found Alive In Crash; Passenger Is dead In Cabin”, November 2, 1962

Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

     Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On the afternoon of May 14, 1947, a helicopter being flown by a student pilot and an instructor crashed just after takeoff at Hillsgrove State Airport in Warwick.  According to witnesses, the aircraft was about 200 feet in the air when one of the rotor blades suddenly broke away. 

     Both men aboard were killed in the accident.  The dead were identified as: Robert F. Chott, 29, of Providence, the instructor, and Gardiner Watts, 27, of Boston, the student.    

Source: New York Times, “2 In Helicopter Killed” May 15, 1947 

    

Warwick, R. I. – April 6, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 6, 1943

     On April 6, 1943, a U.S. Army P-47C (41-6321) was coming in to land at Hillsgrove Army Air Field when the pilot overshot the runway and crashed into a private home at 252 Strawberry Field Road.  The plane tore into the structure seriously injuring a 70-year-old woman sitting in the living room.  Her two grandchildren had just left the room and gone into the kitchen moments before the crash occurred.  They were not injured. 

     The pilot had shut off the engine just before striking the house thereby averting a fire.  He crawled from the cockpit with only a scratch to the back of his neck.   He was assigned to the 340th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group.  

     The house suffered extensive damage and was knocked off its foundation. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Woman Hurt As Plane Rips Into Dwelling”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Army Plane Smashes House In Warwick; Woman Injured”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Warwick, R. I. – April 12, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 12, 1943

 

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

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

     On the morning of April 12, 1943, four army P-47C  Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick for a formation training flight.  The flight leader was 2nd Lt. Eldred G. Howard, with 2nd Lt. Gordon M. Kimpel in the number two position, followed by 2nd Lt. John H. Schrik, and 2nd Lt. Clifton D. Wheeler Jr.

     While flying an extended string formation at 8,000 feet, Lt. Howard pulled upwards expecting the other three planes to follow.  Lt. Kimpel followed, but the sun temporarily blinded him causing him to loose sight of Howard.  Kimpels’ aircraft (41-6634) then crashed into the rear of Howard’s (41-6174). 

     Howard’s plane went straight down into Narragansett Bay killing him.  Kimpel’s P-47 crashed in a swampy area off Cowesett Avenue in the Cowesett section of Warwick.  Kimpel managed to bail out, but was struck by the rear stabilizer of his plane and killed.  His body came down in a small pond near Meunier’s Shell Fish Company at Arnold’s Neck.    

      In his witness statement given later to army investigators, Lt. Schrik stated: “On April 12th, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Wheeler, Kimpel, and myself.  The time was approximately 0845. I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide and Lt. Howard’s plane went almost straight down.  I saw the plane hit the water and disappear.  As I was watching the plane during its entire descent, I know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or jump from the plane.”    

     Lt. Wheeler related the following in his statement.  “On April 12th, at approximately 0845, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Kimpel, Schrik and myself.  I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide.  Lt. Howard’s plane went straight down at an angle of about 35 degrees in a south easterly direction.  I saw the plane hit the water and know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or get out of the plane, as I watched it during the entire descent.  The plane disappeared immediately upon hitting the water.” 

     As a footnote to this incident, Lt. John H. Schrik did not survive the war.  He was killed in action in New Guinea on August 15, 1943, and is buried in Mount Emblem Cemetery, Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Pilot Is Killed In Plane Crash”, April 12, 1943, Pg. 1 

U.S.  Army Crash Investigation Report # 43-4-12-7

Website: Find-A-Grave – John H. Schrik 

 

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 

 

 

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