Westover Air Force Base – February 12, 1976

Westover Air Force Base – February 12, 1976

     On February 12, 1976, a rented Piper Aztec was attempting to make an emergency landing at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, after both engines had failed.  As the plane came in, a wing was sheared off when it struck a tree and the plane crashed.  Both the pilot and co-pilot, the only two people aboard, were seriously injured and transported to medical facilities.

     Source:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “FAA Probes Inspectors’ Crash”, February 13, 1976, page A-2 

Westover Field – February 21, 1942

Westover Army Air Field, Chicopee, Massachusetts 

     At about 8:30 a.m. on the morning of February 21, 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Gordon C. McAthur, 24, of Paris, Texas, was piloting what was described as a “pursuit-type” aircraft that crashed while taking off on runway 33. 

     As the aircraft was leaving the ground the pilot raised the landing gear.  A strong crosswind was blowing at the time, and when the aircraft was at an altitude of about 20 feet it suddenly dropped back to the ground in a flat attitude.  Lt. McArthur was transported in critical condition to the airfield hospital where he succumbed to his injuries later in the day.

     Lt. McArthur is buried in Evergreen cemetery in Paris, Texas.  To see a photo of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #55039852 

     Sources:

     Springfield Republican, “Dies After Crash Of Warplane At Westover”, February 22, 1942, page 1

     www.findagrave.com

 

 

 

 

Ludlow, MA. – May 4, 1944

Ludlow, Massachusetts – May 4, 1944

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On May 4, 1944, a B-24 Liberator with three crewmen aboard took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a training flight.  Shortly after take off, the aircraft experienced complete engine failure in all four engines.  According to two civilian witnesses living on Burnett Road in the neighboring town of Ludlow, all four engines were silent as the aircraft passed over their home, and someone aboard fired a red distress flair from the aircraft.   Moments later the B-24 crashed and exploded in a thickly wooded area, about 3/4 of a mile from Westover Field. The plane came down on land owned by the Chicopee Water Department in Ludlow just before the Chicopee town line.    

     All three crewmen perished in the accident. They were identified by the press as:

     Pilot: Captain Harold H. Melken, 26, of Watertown, Massachusetts.

     Co-pilot: 2nd Lieutenant William F. Davis, 21, of Baxter, West Virginia.

     Tec-Sgt. Harry Schultz, of Kansas City, Mo.

     Source: Springfield Union, “Three Westover Men Die In Ludlow Plane Crash”, May 5, 1944

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    

 

Westover Air Force Base – October 11, 1977

Westover Air Force Base – October 11, 1977

 

C-123K Cargo Plane
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On October 11, 1977, a Fairchild C-123 cargo aircraft was passing over central Massachusetts when the left engine caught fire.  There were three crewmen aboard: the pilot, Major Gale French, the co-pilot, Captain Richard Gavin, and crewman Staff Sergeant Gary Miller.     

    While Miller attempted to fight the fire, the aircraft was cleared for an emergency landing at Westover Air Force Base.  As the plane was rapidly descending, Miller lost contact with the cockpit, and bailed out.  He landed safely on a farm in Granby, Massachusetts, where he was picked up by a passing motorist and driven to Westover.     

     Meanwhile, the aircraft crash-landed nose down on the runway at Westover, and skidded for 3,000 feet before coming to rest.  All three men were transported to medical facilities for observation. 

     A firefighter was also hospitalized for smoke inhalation.  

     The crew were members of the 731st Tactical Airlift Squadron.

     Source: Springfield Union, “Four Injured In Flaming Westover Plane”, October 1977.

Westover AFB – August 12, 1953

Westover Air Force Base – August 12, 1953

Chicopee, Massachusetts

     On August 12,1953, a U.S. Navy R6D-1 (#131586) crashed on take-off from Westover Air Force Base, for what was to be a routine train1ng flight.  According to witnesses, the plane had just lifted off, and while at an altitude of about 200 feet, it suddenly banked sharply to the right, and dropped low enough for the right wing to strike the ground.  The plane then cart-wheeled, broke apart, and burst into flames.   All four navy men aboard were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

Lt. Frank A. McGinnis

Lt. Frank A. McGinnis

     (Pilot) Lieutenant Frank A. McGinnis, 34, of Haledon, New Jersey.  He served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII.  He was survived by his wife and three children.  

Lt. Cmdr. Chester E. Perkins

Lt. Cmdr. Chester E. Perkins

     (Co-pilot) Lieut. Commander Chester Earl Perkins, 35, of Corpus Christi, Texas.  He was a veteran of WWII, having served as a ferry service pilot.  He’s buried in Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston, and was survived by his wife, Catherine.  To see other photographs of Lt. Cmdr. Perkins, and learn more info, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #128688567  

J. T. Carew

J. T. Carew

     (Flight Mechanic) Aviation Machinist’s Mate, J. T. Carew, 24, of Maynard, Massachusetts.  (Carew was only identified by his first initials, and attempts to learn his first name were unsuccessful.)

William A. Holmes

William A. Holmes

     Aviation Machinist’s Mate William A. Holmes, 23, of Merrian, Kansas.  He joined the navy in 1948, and had been stationed at Westover since 1949.  In 1950 he married a girl from Holyoke, Massachusetts, and they had two sons.  He’s buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas, Block #20.  (See www.findagrave.com, Memorial #147995382)

     The Douglas R6D-1 was a four-engine cargo-transport aircraft that was also known as a DC-6. 

     Source:

     Unknown Newspaper, “Probe Crash OF Navy Plane That Killed 4 At Westover”, August, 13 or 14, 1953.   

     

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