Airplane Followed Paul Revere’s Route – 1925

     The following article appeared in The Evening Star of Washington, D.C., on April 20, 1925. 

     Lt. James H. Doolittle later went on to make history in World War II.

Click on article to enlarge. 

Hartford Aero Club

     The Hartford Aero Club was established in October of 1908 and was still active into the 1930s.  Hiram Maxim was the club’s first President.

     Click on images to enlarge.

Springfield Weekly Republican
October 15, 1908, pg.9

     According to The Norwich Bulletin, February 22, 1910, the club purchased a “new biplane glider airship”, called The Hartford No.1.  

The Caledonian Record
(St. Johnsbury, VT.)
February 3, 1921


Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol Patch

Wilkins Airport, North Attleboro, Mass.

Click on images to enlarge.

See links at bottom of page for more info. 

April, 1947

July, 1947

October, 1947

May, 1951

Wilkins Airport Crash – June, 1941

Wilkins Airport Crash – June, 1948    

 Wilkins Airport Fire – 1949

Wilkins Airport Crash – June, 1955

Lippitt Aviation Corp. – 1949

Click on image to enlarge.

The Pawtucket Times
May 18, 1949

Mantup Airfield, Putnam, Connecticut

Mantup Airfield, Putnam, Connecticut

     Mantup Airfield evolved at the Mantup Farm located in the Gary section of Putnam. Connecticut.  The make-shift airport appears to have been established in the late 1920s as a venue for airshows, “barnstormers”, parachute drops, and plane rides.  By the summer of 1930, the airfield had to compete with the newly established Israel Putnam Airport located at the Putnam/Pomfret town line.    Mantup Field was eventually eclipsed by the newer airport, and ceased operations by the mid-1930s.     

Crash at Mantup Airport – April 23, 1929     

Crash at Mantup Airport – November 18, 1929

     Click on images to enlarge.

Putnam Patriot
May 9, 1929

Windham County Observer
November 5, 1930

Windham County Observer
September 14, 1932

Putnam Patriot
August 23, 1934


Putnam, Connecticut, Air Meet – 1929

Click here for info on Mantup Field. 

Click on images to enlarge.

Putnam Patriot
May 9, 1929

Windham County Observer
November 5, 1930

Windham County Observer
September 14, 1932

Putnam Patriot
August 23, 1934

Israel Putnam Airport, Pomfret, Connecticut

Israel Putnam Airport     

Putnam Patriot
June 2, 1932

     On June 26, 1930, it was announced in the Putnam Patriot that  Whitman Danielson, and Subbo Nikoloff, both of Putnam, and Mrs. F. W. Goodridge of Pomfret, had formed an association to establish the Putnam Airport Inc.  The airport would be located on the farm of John Larned, and would be known as the Israel Putnam Airport.  The area was ideal for an airport due to its high location.  This airport would exist separate and apart from an existing airfield known as Mantup Field, located in the Gary Section of Putnam.      

     The incorporation for the Putnam Airport began with a capital of $50,000, with $5,000 paid in. 

     In October of 1930, a Colonial Airlines plane had made an emergency landing at the field due to heavy fog conditions.   Not long afterwards, workers began clearing more of the land to expand the field to include a total of 85 to 90 acres.   

     By May of 1932 improvements had been made, but the field still lacked a hangar.  It was also in 1932 that the U. S. Postal Service took an interest in the airport as part of its developing air mail service.  

     In 1933 it was announced that the U. S. Government would take over the airport as part of a ten year lease, and make improvements that would turn it into a “first class airport”.  Construction began in late August/early September of that year.  Improvements included the erection of a large beacon tower. 

     By February of 1935 a radio station for aircraft communications had been established at the airport.   

     It is unknown when the Putnam Airport closed, but newspaper reports indicate that it remained in operation at least until the end of World War II.   

Putnam Patriot
July 13, 1933

Windham County Observer
September 25, 1935


     Putnam Patriot, “Putnam Airport Will Have 85 to 90 Acres”, October 23, 1930. 

     Putnam Patriot, “Government May Take Over Local Airport”, May 9, 1932.  

     Putnam Patriot, “Government To Supervise Airport”, September 21, 1933. 

     Windham County Observer, “Start Erection Of Beacon For Air-Line At Putnam”, November 1, 1933. 

     Windham County Observer, “Putnam Airport Radios Reports To Airplanes”, February 2, 1935.


Seekonk, MA.- October 27, 1925

Seekonk, Massachusetts – October 27, 1925

     On the afterno0n of October 27, 1925, what was reportedly “the largest cargo airplane in the world” took off from Hartford, Connecticut, bound for Boston.  The aircraft was a Remington – Burnelli, with an 86 foot wing-span, named the “Miss Essex”.   It carried a crew of three, four passengers, and an Essex automobile.  

     The pilot was an experienced airman with 4,000 flight hours to his credit.

     As the plane was passing near the outskirts of Providence, Rhode Island, at about 3,000 feet, both of its engines suddenly stopped – possibly due to a broken fuel line.  While battling a strong cross wind, the pilot looked for a place to make an emergency landing and aimed for an open area in the town of Seekonk, which borders Providence.  Unfortunately the field wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the large wing-span and the aircraft was wrecked.

     Although the plane had suffered severe damage, the only injury that required medical attention was a laceration to the chin of one of the passengers.  Furthermore, it was reported that the Essex automobile was virtually undamaged from the crash.  


     The Pawtucket Times, “Largest Cargo Airplane In World Wrecked By Forced Landing In Seekonk Field”, October 28, 1925

Pawtucket, R. I. , Air Meet – 1928

Click on image to enlarge. 

Pawtucket Times
October 11, 1928

Colonial Air Transport Inc. – 1925

     Colonial Air transport Inc. was organized on December 12, 1925 in New Haven Connecticut.  

Click on article to enlarge.

New Britain Herald
December 14, 1925, pg. 10

1946 Willimantic, Connecticut, Air Show Ad.

Click on image to enlarge,

Connecticut WWII Civil Air Patrol Articles

Click on images of articles to enlarge. 

Waterbury Democrat
April 29, 1941

Waterbury Democrat
June 10, 1941, p.9

Waterbury Democrat
November 28, 1941, p.13

Waterbury Democrat
January 21, 1942

Waterbury Democrat
January 30, 1942, p.10

Waterbury Democrat
January 30, 1942, p.13

Waterbury Democrat
April 20, 1942, p.3

Waterbury Democrat
July 23, 1942, p.18

Waterbury Democrat
August 4, 1942, p.2

Waterbury Democrat
August 13, 1942, p.8

Waterbury Democrat
August 14, 1942, p.10

Waterbury Democrat
October 21, 1942, p.8

Waterbury Democrat
December 2, 1942, p. 3

Waterbury Democrat
June 19, 1943, p.3

Waterbury Democrat
September 24, 1943, p.2

Waterbury Democrat
October 22, 1943, p.18

Waterbury Democrat
January 7, 1944, p.7

Waterbury Democrat
January 8, 1944, p.3

Waterbury Democrat
April 20, 1944

Waterbury Democrat
September 19, 1944, p.3

Waterbury Democrat
May 2, 1946


An Air Traffic Signal in Waterbury, Connecticut – 1932

     By the 1930s the age of mechanical flight was barely 30 years old, and aircraft of that era didn’t contain the modern navigational equipment taken for granted on today’s aircraft.  Therefore, aerial traffic signals directing lost flyers came in many forms such as the one erected on Bunker Hill in the town of Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1932.  

     In April of 1932 it was announced that the newly formed Boy Scout Aeronautic Club of Waterbury planned to aid lost aviators by building a “traffic signal” of sorts atop of Bunker Hill in their town.  The plan was to utilize an open field off Bunker Hill Avenue to create a sign made of stones laid out on the ground stating the name “Waterbury”, above which would be a stone arrow 30 to 40 feet long pointing towards the city.  The stones were to be painted bright chrome yellow to cause them to stand out against the landscape. 

     In addition, beneath the Waterbury sign would be another 30 foot arrow, 8 feet wide, pointing towards Bethany, Connecticut, with “Bethany” spelled out in abbreviated letters.  (Bethany was the nearest airport.)  

     It was further reported that similar signs were planned for the towns of Hopeville and Prospect, which would be created by other Boy Scout troops.  

     Prior to the creation of the Bunker Hill signage, there had been a similar sign painted on the roof of the state armory in Watertown.  The Boy Scout sign, it was thought, would be an vast improvement over the old one. 


     The Waterbury Democrat, “Boy Scouts Plan Erection Of Site At Bunker Hill”, April 7, 1932, pg. 9

Atlantic Ocean – September 4, 1944

Atlantic Ocean – September 4, 1944   

F6F Hellcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 4, 1944, Ensign Charles R. Davis was lost on a night training mission over the Atlantic Ocean while piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70671).  He was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 106, aka,  VF(n) – 106. 


     Information supplied by Larry Webster, aviation historian, Charlestown, R. I. 

How Otis Air Force Base Was Named

     Otis Air Field was named for 2nd Lieutenant Frank Jessie Otis, Jr. who was a flight surgeon with the 101st Observation Squadron of the Massachusetts National Guard.  To see a photo of him click on the link below.

     On January 11, 1937, Lt. Otis and an observer, Sgt. John Gibbons, were flying in a National Guard, Douglas O-46 observation plane, from Boston to Moline, Illinois, when the plane crashed Hennepin, Illinois.  Both men were killed.   The cause of the crash is unknown. 

    Although Lt. Otis perished in 1937, Otis Air Field wasn’t officially named for him until December 14, 1940.   It later became known as Otis Air Force Base.

Falmouth Enterprise, (Ma.)
December 20, 1940

     The forgotten man in this situation is the observer who was flying with Lt. Otis on his cross-country flight.  His name is Sergeant John F. Gibbons, (26), of Natick, Massachusetts.  To see a photo of him click on the link below.

     The article below appeared in The Waterbury Democrat, (Ct.) on January 12, 1937.  

The article below appeared in The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), on January 12, 1937.  

Waterbury, Connecticut, Airport Ad – 1947

Click on image to enlarge.

Waterbury, Connecticut, Airport Ad – 1946

Bristol, Connecticut, Airport Ad – 1946

Mount Tobe Airport, Plymouth, Connecticut

     Mount Tobe Airport is located in the Greystone section of the town of Plymouth, Connecticut, and is also known as Waterbury Airport.  The concept for building the airport began in 1930, but plans were scrapped shortly thereafter due to lack of funding.  Work was resumed in 1933. 

   Click on images to enlarge. 

Waterbury Democrat
December 14, 1933

Waterbury Democrat
December 14, 1933

Waterbury Democrat
September 13, 1934

Waterbury Democrat
May 19, 1938

Waterbury Democrat
December 27, 1943

Click here for 1940 crash at Mt. Tobe Airport     

Click here for 1944 crash at Mt. Tobe Airport

Click here for April 1946 crash at Mt. Tobe Airport

Click here for May 1946 crash at Mt. Tobe Airport

Click here for June 1946 crash at Mount Tobe Airport

First Airmail Flight In Maine – 1919

Article from the Daily Kennebec Journal, (Maine), October 22, 1919.

Click on images to enlarge. 

Old Orchard Beach School Of Flying – 1919

From the Daily Kennebec Journal, November 4, 1919

Click on image to enlarge.

Newport, ME. – November 13, 1925

Newport, Maine – November 13, 1925

     On November 13, 1925, a severe gale-storm swept through the area of Newport, Maine.  At the Newport Aviation Field, well known aviator George W. Maxim kept his airplane, “The Standard”.  The aircraft was securely tied down, but heavy rains loosened the soil in which the stakes holding the plane down were driven.  Furthermore, winds reportedly reached speeds of 80 mph.  Workers at the airfield noticed that the plane seemed to be straining at the ropes, and attempted to add more ropes, and as they were doing so the aircraft suddenly broke free and was raised up into the air (reportedly) “about as high as a house”. When it came crashing down the damage to the plane was estimated to be $1,500.  There were no injuries to the workers.  


      Daily Kennebec Journal, (ME.), “Maxim Airplane Wrecked Friday Storm”, November 14, 1925, page 14. 

Bangor, Maine, Balloon Ascension – 1863

From the Loyal Sunrise, of Fort Fairfield, Maine, October 21, 1863.


Presque Isle Balloon Ascension – 1903

From the Fort Fairfield Review, August 26, 1903.


Northern Maine Fair Balloon Ascension – 1908


From the Fort Fairfield Review, August 26, 1908

Vermont’s First Airport – 1919

Vermont’s First Airport – 1919

     The following article is from The Orleans County Monitor, of Vermont, dated July 16, 1919.


Fairfield, CT. – August 18, 1902

Fairfield, Connecticut – August 18, 1902   


     On the evening of August 18, 1902, well known aeronaut and performer Clarence C. Bonnette  was performing a balloon ascension and parachute drop at a carnival in the Southport  section of Fairfield.  The performance was going well until he dropped from the balloon.  Just as he was about to land, the parachute became entangled in live electrical wires and his clothing caught fire.  Bonnette was able to disentangle himself, but not before he was severely burned on his left leg and side.     

     Source: The Waterbury (CT.) Democrat, August 19, 1902

     To learn more about Mr. Bonnette, click here.

Louis A. Lauriat Balloon Ascensions – 1830s

Click on images to enlarge. 

Herald Of The Times
(Newport, R. I.)
August 6, 1835

Herald of the Times
(Newport, R. I.)
July 30, 1835

Herald of the Times
(Newport, R. I.)
July 13, 1837

Vermont Phoenix
June 28, 1839

Staunton Spectator & General Advisor
(Staunton, Va.)
July 4, 1839

Click here to learn more about Louis Lauriat

Click here for Lauriant’s Providence balloon ascension

Providence Balloon Ascension – 1835

Click on image to enlarge.

Herald Of The Times
(Newport, R. I.)
August 6, 1835

Portland, ME., Balloon Ascension – 1873

Click on images to enlarge.

Portland (ME.) Daily Press
June 27, 1873

Portland (ME.) Daily Press
June 30, 1873

Worcester MA., Balloon Ascension – 1860

Click on images to enlarge.

Worcester Daily Spy
July 2, 1860

Worcester Daily Spy
July 6, 1860

Cape Cottage Park Balloon Ascension – 1898

Click on image to enlarge.

The Portland Daily Herald
August 20, 1898

Click here to see: Joseph La Roux Willimantic, Conn. 1896

Rocky Point, R. I. Balloon Ascension – 1907

Click on image to enlarge.

From The News Democrat, (Prov., R.I.)
August 14, 1907

Willimantic, CT. – September 30, 1896

Willimantic, Connecticut – September 30, 1896

    On September 30, 1896, Professor Joseph La Roux and his wife were giving a balloon ascension/parachute drop exhibition in Willimantic.  Just after the balloon took off with Mrs. La Roux sitting on a trapeze bar suspended under the gondola,  she lost her grip and fell from an altitude of about forty feet.  As she fell she became entangled in the rope connecting the parachute breaking which softened her fall, but she was till rendered unconscious when she hit the ground.  Still entangled in the rope, she was dragged a “considerable distance”.  Fortunately she didn’t break any bones, and regained consciousness two hours later.

     Later in the day, Professor La Roux was going to attempt another ascension, but the balloon caught fire while being inflated and was destroyed.  

     Source: The Portland Daily Press, (ME.), “Hard Luck Of Prof. And Mrs. La Roux”, October 3, 1896

     Click here for Joseph La Roux Balloon Ascension Ad from 1896

Presque Isle, ME. – November 21, 1956

Presque Isle, Maine – November 21, 1956   

T-33 Trainer Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 21, 1956, Air Force Captain Billy Ray Ward, (33), was piloting a T-33 jet aircraft, (Ser. No. 53-6033), from Rome, New York, to Presque Isle, Maine, when the plane crashed in a wooded area about two miles north of the town center.   The cause of the accident is unknown.    

     Captain Ward was the Assistant Operations Officer for the 76th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, and a veteran of World War II.  He is survived by his wife and two children.  He’s buried in Maplewood Park Cemetery in Paducah, Kentucky.    

     To see a photo of Captain Ward, click on the link below.


     Paducah Sun Democrat, “Paducah Jet Pilot Dies In Crash”, November 22, 1956.

     Aviation Safety Network 

Peaks Island, Maine, Balloon – Parachute Drops – 1890s

     Peaks Island is located in Casco Bay, and is part of the City of Portland, Maine.  Click on images to enlarge. 

Portland Daily Press
August 24, 1891

Portland Daily Press
August 26, 1891

Portland Daily Press
August 31, 1892

Portland Daily Press
July 6, 1893

Portland Daily Press

Portland Daily Press
July 22, 1896

Portland Daily Press
July 22, 1896

Portland Daily Press
July 3, 1900


Mineral Spring Airport, R. I.

     Mineral Spring Airport is one of Rhode Island’s lost/forgotten airfields.  It opened in the summer of 1945 and was in business until 1955.  It was named for Mineral Spring Avenue which is the main thoroughfare through the town of North Providence.  Despite being named Mineral Spring Airport, it was actually located on Angell Road in the town of Lincoln, just over the North Providence town line.    

     The airport appears to have been operated by American Aircraft Inc., and was known for renting small planes such as Piper Cubs, Taylorcraft, and Aeroncas, and giving flight lessons. 

     In 1951 the State of Rhode Island opened North Central Airport on the Lincoln – Smithfield town line.  At the same time the former Smithfield Airport was still in operation.   

Click on map to enlarge. 

Hull, MA. – March 4, 1930

Hull, Massachusetts – March 4, 1930

     On March 4, 1930, a 19-year-old pilot took off from Rockland, Maine, in a Moth airplane bound for Boston to take a course to qualify for his transport pilot’s license.  The pilot became disoriented, and landed at Brockton Airport.  After receiving directions to Boston, he took off again, but then ran low on fuel and made an emergency crash landing in a field off Nantasket Avenue in Hull. The plane was wrecked but the pilot was not seriously injured.      


     New Britain Herald, (CT.), “Student Pilot Wrecks Plane In Forced Landing”, March 5, 1930, pg. 8. 

Webster, MA. – April 30, 1929

Webster, Massachusetts – April 30, 1929

     On the night of April 30, 1929, a U. S. Mail plane belonging to Colonial Air Transport, Inc. was attempting to take off from the Webster – Dudley Air Field when the aircraft failed to gain sufficient speed on the muddy field and crashed into a stone wall.  The plane was bound for Hartford, Connecticut, when the crash occurred.  The pilot, and his passenger, the night supervisor of the New York – Newark, N.J. line, were not injured. 

     Source: New Britain Herald, (Conn.), “Plane Wrecked In Webster”, May 1, 1929.         

Dow Air Force Base, ME. – August 23, 1952


F-80C Shooting Star
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of August 23, 1952, a Maine Air National Guard F-80C Shooting Star, (Ser. No. 48-865), was taking off from Dow Air Force Base when it lost power and crashed and burned.   Although the aircraft was destroyed, the pilot escaped with only minor injuries. 


     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Jet Crashes, Pilot Escapes”, August 23, 1952

     Maine Wreck Chasers website 

Livermore, ME. – April 18, 1932

Livermore, Maine – April 18, 1932

     On April 18, 1932, two men were flying in a small airplane when it inexplicably dove into the rocky bank of the Androscoggin River near Livermore Falls. The plane exploded on impact and both men perished. 

     The men were identified as James Malloy, 30, of Berlin, New Hampshire, and Fred J. Maxwell, 22, of Livermore Falls. 

     The type of aircraft is unknown.


     Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Two Maine Flyers Die”, April 18, 1932, Pg. A-2.  

     Unknown newspaper, “James Malloy, Fred Maxwell Burn To Death”, unknown date.  Found on

Montgomery Airport – North Smithfield, R. I.


Montgomery Airport Ad
Woonsocket Call
October 3, 1931

     Montgomery Airport was located on Mendon Road in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, where the St. Antoine Skilled Nursing Residence is located today.   The nursing home is located on the North Smithfield – Woonsocket, city line. 

     The airport can trace its origins to circa 1927, when the area was known as “Ballou’s Field” because the land belonged to R. W. Ballou of North Smithfield.  Airplanes had been using the field for landings and takeoffs but it lacked formal runways, structures, or services.  At this point in time Woonsocket didn’t have an airport, and the field made for a convenient place to have an airfield.  

     A case in point occurred on August 15, 1928 when a large ten-motor Waco bi-plane with two men aboard made a forced landing due to fading sunlight.  Upon landing the plane came into contact with a wire fence but there was no real damage done, and neither occupant was injured.  The plane was then roped off to keep the curious crowds from getting too close to it.  

     In 1928 or ’29 the land was purchased by prominent Woonsocket resident John Montgomery with the intention of developing the area into a recognized airport.  It was renamed Montgomery Field and eventually grew to have two runways, one 1,700 feet long, and the other 1,400 feet long, as well as a 50 by 60 foot hangar which offered aviation fuel, oil, and aircraft repairs.  The airport also offered flying lessons and an occasional airshow during which pilots would perform stunts and parachute drops. 

     Mr. Montgomery had been born in Stornoway, Scotland, March 10, 1881, and came to America at an early age, settling in upstate New York.  He came to Woonsocket in 1914 and worked as manager of the Machine & Press Co. on Second Ave.  In 1924 he established the Montgomery Tool Machinery Company and had many patents to his credit. Mr. Montgomery passed away at his home at 121 Highland Street, in August of 1937 after a five week illness.

      On June 30, 1934, three large army planes came to Montgomery Field one of which was wrecked.  For more info click on link below.

     By 1934, Woonsocket had an airport of its own. 

     The Montgomery Airport closed circa 1937 when the land was sold to the Catholic Diocese for construction of the St. Antoine Nursing Home.  

July 26, 1930

September, 1930

September 27, 1930

July 11, 1931


Savin Rock Balloon Ad – 1908

1908 Advertisement

Professor Samuel Archer King – Aeronaut

     Professor Samuel Archer King, (April 9, 1828 –  November 3, 1914), was one of America’s earliest and well known aeronauts who performed balloon ascensions all over the north east. 

     He made his first balloon ascension at Philadelphia on September 25, 1851 in a balloon he’d designed and constructed himself.  The take off was less than grand, for their hadn’t been enough gas to fill the balloon, but King took off anyway not wanting to disappoint the crown.  As the balloon began to rise, it struck an enclosure, then a bridge, and then some telegraph wires.  The balloon then came down in the Schuylkill River.  It then proceeded to bounce across the river  giving King a good dunking until it finally came to rest on the opposite shore. 

     On another ascension from Wilkesbarre, Pa., in 1855, King found himself over some thickly forested mountains looking for a place to land when the balloon became snagged in the top branches of a hemlock tree and was then driven into the branches of another tree.  The sharp branched caused the gas bag to burst and King fell 40 feet to the ground.     

     In August of 1857, King ascended from New Haven, Connecticut, with two passengers aboard.  Air currents blew the balloon out over Long Island sound and then eastward towards the Atlantic Ocean.  King managed to set the balloon down in the water and allowed it to be “dragged” by winds to a tiny unnamed island.  The men were rescued a short time later by a boat that had been following their progress. 

     On October 13, 1860, Professor King and photographer J. W. Black ascended over Boston in a tethered balloon.  It was during this flight that the world’s first aerial photograph was taken.  

     At the 1861 Fourth of July celebration held on the Boston Common, King ascended with four passengers.  Once the balloon rose, winds began carrying it towards Boston Harbor.  Not wanting to be blown out to sea, King made preparations to land on a small strip of sand at the shoreline.  After dropping ballast and releasing gas, the balloon began to settle towards the intended landing place, but as it neared the ground one of the passengers suddenly jumped out, which significantly lightened the load, and the balloon suddenly shot up again again and resumed its course over the water.  King knew that their only chance of survival was to all leave the balloon at the same time, and after dropping low enough, they all jumped and splashed down in the harbor.  The balloon continued on and was later recovered a few miles off shore by a passing boat.     

     The following year King made another July 4th ascension from the Boston Common with four passengers, and once again he was carried out over the harbor.  Fore more information, click here.

     Another adventure occurred while King was giving tethered ascensions at Melrose, Massachusetts, (Date Unknown), where the balloon was tethered to the ground by men holding it with ropes.  There King ascended with five women passengers.  Then someone lost their grip on a rope, which it seemed to set of  a chain reaction, and within seconds all men had let go, and the balloon sailed upwards.  Two women reportedly “clapped with joy”, which the others expressed concern.  King successfully brought the balloon back to earth about four miles away. 

1870 Advertisement

     On July 4, 1872 King was scheduled to take off from the Boston Common in his new balloon, “Colossus”, the largest balloon ever constructed up to that time.

     Professor continued to pilot balloons well into his 80s.  On October 27, 1907, King and four passengers took off from Philadelphia in the balloon “Ben Franklin“, said to be the world’s largest at the time, holding 92,000 cubic feet of gas.   They landed safely in Belchertown, Massachusetts. 

     Professor King passed away on November 3, 1914, at the age of 87.  Throughout his career he’d made 480 flights in a balloon.  

     Professor King had a son, Frank K. King, who was also an aeronaut.  


     The Charleston Daily News, (Charleston, S. C.), “Up In A Balloon – Perilous Adventures of an Aeronaut – A few Flights With Him “,  March 21, 1870

     The Birmingham Age-Herald, (Ala.) “The Oldest Aeronaut”, November 7, 1914, pg. 7

     The Waterbury Democrat, “First Aerial Photo Shown”, October 1, 1943.  

Weston, MA. – October 2, 1949

Weston, Massachusetts – October 3, 1949

     As of this writing, very little information is known about this crash. 

     On October 2, 1949, a small rented airplane with two young men aboard took off  from Sherman Airport in West Mansfield, Massachusetts.  At some point afterward the aircraft crash-landed on an unnamed golf course in Weston and burst into flames.  The pilot successfully rescued his passenger and both survived.   


     Woonsocket Call, “Save Providence Youth From Fiery Plane Death”, October 3, 1949.    

Savin Rock Balloon Ascensions – 1902

Balloon Ascension at Savin Rock, CT.

July, 1902

Smithfield, R. I., Airport Ad – 1944

Click on images to enlarge.

Woonsocket Call November, 1944

The Pawtucket Times
November 9, 1944

Smithfield, R. I. – May 26, 1935

Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 26, 1935 

    On the afternoon of May 26, 1935, a 42-year-0ld East Greenwich man took off from the Smithfield Airport in a Curtiss biplane and began to circle the field.  As he was doing so the aircraft lost flying speed and stalled. It dove nose first into the ground onto the estate of Charles C. Gardiner, and was demolished.  The aircraft was equipped with two tandem cockpits, and the lone pilot had been flying from the rear cockpit.  It was felt that the pilot had survived due to his position in the plane.   The pilot’s injuries consisted of  cuts, bruises, a broken nose, and ribs.   

     Word of the accident spread quickly, and before long dozens of local citizens were flocking to the airport.      

     The accident was investigated by Major Charles R. Blake of the Rhode Island State Police, and an unnamed inspector from the U. S. Department of Commerce. 

     The Smithfield Airport was located where the Bryant University Campus is located today. 


     The Woonsocket Call & Evening Reporter, “Aviator Survives Plane Crash At Smithfield Airport”, May 27, 1935, pg. 1.  


Westfield, MA. – June 29, 1905

Westfield, Massachusetts – June 29, 1005

     On June 29, 1905, an aeronaut identified as B. S. Tirrell was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Hampton Pond in Westfield.  The plan was to rise in the balloon to about 4,000 feet.  and there he was to be shot out of a cannon which was suspended beneath the balloon, then deploy his parachute and land.  However, the firing mechanism of the cannon failed to go off, and Tirrell found himself trapped in the cannon.  Despite the failure of the firing mechanism, an external fire was created which set the balloon on fire.  The balloon then began to loose altitude with Tirrell helpless to do anything.  When the balloon was about thirty feet from the ground, the ropes holding the cannon burned through and the cannon fell striking the ground.

     Tirrell was badly bruised and treated for internal injuries. 

     The reason for the malfunction could not be ascertained.  

     Tirrell was employed by the Boston Balloon Company. 


     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I.), “He Fell From Burning Balloon”, June 30, 1905. 



Concord, N. H. – August 28, 1901

Concord, New Hampshire – August 28, 1901

    On August 28, 1901, well known Aeronaut Leo Stevens made a balloon ascension and parachute drop at the fair grounds in Concord.  He parachuted safely, but when his unmanned balloon came down it fell upon the high voltage main feed wire to the city’s electrical plant, causing a city-wide blackout. 

     One of those who responded to repair the break was 19-year-old Harry Quint, a lineman for the electric company.  While going about his work up on a pole, he was electrocuted and fell to the ground breaking his neck.  He died instantly. 

     On August 29, Stevens made another ascension.  In this instance, the shell which exploded and releases his parachute set fire to his clothing and he was badly burned. 


     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I. ), “Received Fatal Shock – electric light lineman killed at Concord”, August 30, 1901.    

Caledonia, Vt., County Fair – 1890

St. Johnsbury Caledonian
September, 1890
Click on image to enlarge.

Stolen Balloon – 1907

From The Washington Times, November 4, 1907. 

The Washington Times
November 4, 1907

Professor James K. Allen Ad – 1870

Ad from August, 1870

     To learn more about Professor Allen, click here.

Norwalk, CT. – October 17, 1907

Norwalk, Connecticut – October 17, 1907

     On October 17, 1907, well known aeronaut Charles Jewell of Canton, Ohio, was performing balloon ascensions and parachute drops in Norwalk.  In one instance, the balloon rose to the desired altitude and Jewell dropped away.  All was going well until he approached the ground and realized that the breeze was carrying him towards some railroad tracks, and at that moment the Boston Express train was speeding along in his direction.  Realizing that he was going to land directly in front of the oncoming train, he let loose of his parachute and dropped forty feet to the ground.  He’d aimed for some bushes, but missed, and struck a fence instead, and was seriously injured.  Meanwhile the parachute landed directly in front of the train and was ground to pieces.      

     Speaking about past mishaps in his career, Jewell was later quoted as saying, “My parachute has failed to open, my gas bag has caught fire and I have passed through thunderstorms, but give me all of them in preference to an express train.  My only chance was to drop.  I tried to land in some bushes, but I struck a fence.  The parachute could have been used for confetti after the express passed over it.”


     The Waterbury Democrat, “Train Blocks Parachutist – It was jump or be ground to pieces”, October 19, 1907

Savin Rock, CT., Balloon Ascension – 1896

Click on image to enlarge.

1896 Advertisement

Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1894

     This may have been the first balloon ascension from Crescent Park. 

Click on image to enlarge.

The Providence News
August 15, 1894


Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1901

The Providence News

August 3, 1901

Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1906

Advertisement from 1906
Click on image to enlarge.

(Providence, R.I.)
August 3, 1906
Click on image to enlarge.

     To read more about Professor J. La Roux, click here. 


William Van Sleet – Aeronaut, Balloonist

    William Van Sleet, (Born ? – Died ?), of North Adams, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and sometimes reported as living in New York, was a well known New England aeronaut who made balloon ascensions in the early 1900s. 

     The first mention of Mr. Van Sleet in any newspapers that research could find appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner in 1907, and had to do with a car accident which occurred at “Shedd Bridge”, “east of Walloomsac”.  Although both vehicles suffered damage, there were no injuries.   There is some documentation which indicates that Van Sleet, besides being an aeronaut, also worked as a chauffer.      

      Beginning around 1906, balloon ascensions began to be a regular occurrence in the Berkshires section of western Massachusetts, and the towns of Pittsfield and Adams became involved in a rivalry of sorts for the bragging rights and the tourism dollars that each ascension would bring.  It was around this time frame that the Aero Club of Pittsfield was established and Van Sleet became a member.    

     The first reference to Van Sleet’s aeronautical career was found in the Daily Kennebec Journal, July 29, 1908.  The brief snippet stated in part: “The Aero Club of Pittsfield will dedicate their new balloon, the “Heart of the Berkshires” tomorrow at 10 a.m.”  The pilot was Leo Stevens, a prominent aeronaut of the time, with passengers Allan R. Hawley of New York, and William Van Sleet of Pittsfield.  

     In light of the dedication, it was quickly announced that the balloon “Boston” belonging to the Boston Aero Club would ascend at the same time from the town of North Adams, and there would be a “race” between the two to see which could cover the greatest distance.  The “Boston” was to be piloted by Charles Glidden, another prominent aeronaut of the time, with his passenger, Professor H. H. Clayton of the Blue Hills Observatory. 

     Both balloons were of the same size, 38,000 cubic feet.  The “Heart of the Berkshires” took off as scheduled, but only traveled about eight miles before coming down near Wahconah Falls in Dalton, Massachusetts. 

     The “Boston”, on the other hand, didn’t fair much better.  After being caught in a windstorm and carried up to 10,000 feet, the balloon began to fall rapidly and its occupants were forced to discharge all available ballast.  It landed safely on a farm about six miles from its starting point.    

     Exactly who announced that a race would take place is not recorded, but Mr. Glidden later told the press that he was unaware of any scheduled race between the two balloons, and said that each had made independent ascensions.    

     Balloons of this era used hydrogen or coal gas, both of which were poisonous if inhaled.  In mid August of 1908, Van Sleet was scheduled to make a balloon ascension from Pittsfield in the “Heart of the Berkshires”, when he was seriously affected by the release of gas from a malfunctioning valve.  This was to be his fifth ascension to help him qualify as a balloon pilot for the Pittsfield Aero Club.  When the balloon was nearly filled with gas, it was discovered that the valve cord near the top of the balloon had failed to uncoil, so Van Sleet climbed up seventy-five feet of the balloon’s netting to remedy the situation.  When the valve unexpectedly popped open he was hit in the face with a rush of escaping gas.  After closing the valve he made his way back to the ground where he nearly collapsed.  He was attended to by three doctors, all of who warned him not to make the flight in his condition.  Van Sleet ignored the warnings, and made the flight anyway with Dr. Sidney S. Stowell as a passenger.       

     Later that same month Van Sleet made a solo trip in “Heart of the Berkshires”.  He ascended from Pittsfield and traveled ninety miles before landing near Montgomery, New York.  He’d made the trip alone as part of his pilot qualification process.    

     Van Sleet made another flight on September 2, which lasted 32 minutes and landed in South Deerfield, Mass. His two passengers were Frank Smith of Boston, and Oscar Hutchinson of Lennox, Mass.  

     On September 10, 1908, Van Sleet took off from Pittsfield at midnight and sailed eastward across the state covering a distance of more than one-hundred miles before landing safely in the the town of Kingston, Massachusetts, about two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. He had as a passenger Dr. Sidney Stowell. 

     On the same night Van sleet took his overnight flight, Charles Glidden did the same, and took off at midnight from Springfield, Massachusetts.  There was no mention of any competition between the two aeronauts, and neither balloon was in sight of the other throughout the night.  Glidden’s balloon landed safely in the town of Bridgewater, Mass.   

     Most of Van Sleet’s ascensions were without incident, but a flight he made in October of 1908  was anything but routine.  On the afternoon of October 29, he took off from the North Adams Aero Park in the balloon “Greylock”, with M. Monard, or Mennard, as a passenger.  Strong 40 mph winds were blowing at the time and it reportedly took forty men to hold the balloon in place while the two men climbed into it.  Van Sleet was advised to abort the flight but didn’t take heed.    

     The “Greylock” began its ascension at 3 p. m. and was quickly caught in a strong air current which propelled it at 80 mph in a southeast direction.  As the balloon approached Mt. Hoosick the men were forced to jettison ballast in order to clear the top of it. 

     As the balloon approached the town of Whately, Massachusetts, the anchor was dropped.  It caught in the tops of some trees, then a stone wall, and then tore away part of a barn roof.  Realizing that the anchor was useless, Van Sleet pulled the rip cord allowing the gas to escape.  The balloon came down hard from an altitude of seventy-five feet and both men were pitched out, but neither was seriously injured.  The balloon had covered forty miles in thirty minutes.    

     A few days later Van Sleet made another ascension in the “Heart of the Berkshires”, only this time he flew in and above a snowstorm, something that was extremely unusual for the time.   With him on the flight was William C. Hill.     

     On November 17, 1908, Van Sleet made a rough landing in the town of Rockville, Connecticut.  He’d attempted to land in an open lot, but when the anchor rope broke the balloon drifted into the center of town where it tore down some electric and fire alarm wires, and crushed a grape arbor when it landed in a private back yard.  Van Sleet was not injured, but the chief of police arrived on scene and promptly “arrested” the balloon ordering it held until financial damages could be settled.  This incident made national news, for it was believed to be the first case in which a balloon had been “arrested”.   

     On April 19, 1909, Van Sleet and his passenger Oscar Hutchinson came down in a wooded area of Biddeford, Maine, after traveling 160 miles, making it one of the longest balloon flights of the time.

     In June of 1909, Van Sleet flew a honeymoon couple from Pittsfield to the outskirts of Boston.  The balloon took off shortly after midnight on June 21, and drifted eastward throughout the early morning hours.  At about 4:00 in the morning, Van Sleet spotted  the Blue Hills Observatory and prepared to land.  The anchor caught a tree in an orchard and the balloon came down with barely a bump. 

     At the time of the flight a Boston newspaper was offering a trophy to the balloon pilot that could ascend from western Massachusetts and land closest to the Boston Common within a year.  Van Sleet had landed within fourteen miles, thereby breaking the previous record of twenty-six miles.   

     On July 11, 1909, Van Sleet set a new distance record for himself when he landed in Topsham, Maine, a distance of 176 miles.  His previous record set in April had been 160 miles.   

     By May of 1910, Van Sleet had completed fifty balloon voyages. 

     On June 5, 1910, Van Sleet with two newspapermen aboard landed the balloon “Massachusetts” in the center of the town of Bennington, Vermont, about a half-mile from the famous battle monument.  This was the second time that a balloon had landed in that town.      

Bennington Evening Banner
March 26, 1910
Click on image to enlarge.

      An advertisement found in a 1910 newspaper indicates that Mr. Van Sleet was the sales manager for the Tower Motor Company of Adams, Massachusetts, which sold “Overland” automobiles.   

      On October 8, 1911, Van Sleet and a passenger, Jay B. Benton of Boston, traveled 200 miles in the balloon “Boston”, ascending from Pittsfield, Mass. and landing in Lakewood, New Jersey.  This was the longest trip to date made by the “Boston”, and it took three hours.    

     The following year, on October 30, 1912, Van Sleet and Benton completed the longest balloon flight to date in New England when they traveled at night in the balloon “Springfield” from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Pittston, Maine, a straight-line distance of about 250 miles.  

     It is unknown exactly how many balloon ascensions William Van Sleet made during his career. 

     As of this writing, no further information about his career was found.       


     The Bennington Evening Banner, “Van Sleet in Auto Crash”, October 18, 1907 

     The Morning Journal-Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “Air Race Today”, July 29, 1908.

     Daily Kennebec Journal, “Will Dedicate New Balloon At Pittsfield”, July 29, 1908, pg. 4 

     Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Aeronauts Exciting Adventure”, July 30, 1908.

     The Evening World, (N.Y.) “Warned Of Death Peril By Doctors Goes Ballooning”, August 19, 1908.   

     Evening Star, “Qualifying For A License”, August 29, 1908, pg. 2. 

     The Morning Journal-Courier, “Flight of Thirty-Two Minutes”, September 3, 1908, pg. 9. 

     New York Tribune, “Balloons in Moonlight Journey”, September 11, 1908, pg. 5

     New York Tribune, “80 Miles An Hour In Air”, October 31, 1908

     The Bennington Evening Banner, “Aeronauts Go A Mile A Minute” November 2, 1908. 

     The Morning Journal- Courier, “Balloon in Snowstorm”, November 7, 1908.    

     The Marion Daily Mirror, (Ohio) “A Balloon Is Arrested”, November 18, 1908, pg. 2

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Balloon In Tree Top”, April 20, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Van Sleet Best Yet”, June 22, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, “New Record For Van Sleet”, July 12, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, Overland Car Advertisement, March 26, 1910.

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Balloon Lands At Bennington Center”, June 6, 1910. 

     Daily Kennebec Journal, “Makes Quick Trip”, October 9, 1911. 

     The (NY) Sun, “Take Long Trip Above Clouds”, October 31, 1912. 





Rutland, Vermont, Balloon Ascensions

Click on articles to enlarge.

Middlebury Register (VT.)
July 14, 1858

Middlebury Register
July 14, 1858

Vermont Daily Transcript
(St. Albans, VT.)
September 17, 1868

Portland (Me.) Daily Globe
July 10, 1873

Burlington Weekly Free Press
April 16, 1908, p14

Spirit of the Age
(Woodstock, VT.)
April 18, 1908

Orleans County Monitor
(Barton, VT.)
June 23, 1909, p.6

Orleans County Monitor
(Barton, VT.)
June 23, 1909 p.6

Barre Daily Times
July 28, 1909

Orleans County Monitor
August 18, 1909

Bennington Evening Banner
November 18, 1909

Spirit of the Age
(Woodstock, VT.) December 4, 1909

Spirit of the Age
December 4, 1909

Herald & News
(West Randolph, VT.)
January 27, 1910 pg. 3

Burlington Weekly Free Press
February 22, 1912, p.6

Vermont Phoenix
September 8, 1916


Ada I. Mitchell, Aeronaut, Balloonist – 1894

     The following article appeared in the defunct Vermont newspaper, The Herald & News, of West Randolph, Vermont, October 11, 1894.  It relates the experience  of Ada I. Mitchell, (Vandever) (Vandeveer).   


Harlow M. Spencer – Aeronaut, Balloonist

Click on articles to enlarge.

The Daily Exchange
(Baltimore, MD.)
September 22, 1858

Worcester Daily Spy
April 2, 1859

Lamoille Newsdealer
(Hyde Park, VT.)
July 17, 1872

Lamoille Newsdealer
(Hyde Park, VT.)
July 17, 1872

Western Connecticut News
August 2, 1872

Connecticut Western News
September 2, 1897

Boston Harbor, MA. – June 17, 1888

Boston Harbor, Massachusetts – June 17, 1888

    On June 17, 1888, the annual Bunker Hill celebration was taking place in Boston.  Part of the program included a balloon ascension which took place late in the afternoon.  At about 4:30 p.m. the balloon took off with three men aboard.  The pilot was famous aeronaut George A. Rogers, with passengers L. W. Cashman of the Boston Globe newspaper, and Rogers’ assistant, George Seavey.     

     The balloon drifted for about over the city before it was blown out over Boston Harbor and came down in the water near Acorn Island.  Upon impact with the water Rogers and Seavey were pitched into the water, but Cashman managed to cling to the upper rigging and remain aboard.  All three men were rescued by a yacht that had been watching the progress of the balloon. 

     This was not the first balloon accident Professor Rogers was involved in.   One occurred in July of 1881, and another on July 4, 1888, and yet another in which he lost his life, occurred on July 4, 1892.   

     Source: The Portland Daily Press, (Portland, Me.) “Balloonists Get A Ducking”, June 19, 1888.

Daily Evening Bulletin
Maysville, KY.)
September 22, 1884
The initial J should have been a G.


Two Providence, R. I. Balloon Ascensions – 1835

     Louis Anselm Lauriat, (1786 – 1857), was a Boston aeronaut who reportedly made 48 balloon ascensions during his lifetime.  He was born in Marseilles, France, and came to America in the early 1800s, where he settled in Boston and established a business at the corner of Washington and Springfield Streets in Boston producing gold leaf.  He also developed an interest in science and balloons, and began making ascensions of his own. 

     On July 25, 1835, Lauriat made a balloon ascension from Providence and later wrote of his journey which was published in The Northern Star & Constitutionalist (A defunct newspaper of Warren, Rhode Island) on August 1, 1835. 

     Lauriat made another ascension from Providence on August 8, 1835. (See advertisement below.)   

Click on images to enlarge. 

Herald of the Times
(Newport, R. I.)
August 6, 1835

Click here for more articles

Maine Naval Militia Aviation Corps – 1914

Daily Kennebec Journal
March 6, 1914, p.14

Daily Kennebec Journal
March 14, 1914

The Clawson-Hamilton Aviation Company – 1912

Click on articles to enlarge.

The Barre Daily Times
April 27, 1912

Vermont Pheonix
July 19, 1912

Vermont Phoenix
May 10, 1912 p.7


Bowles Agawam Airport – 1930

     The Bowles Agawam Airport was located in Agawam, Massachusetts.  It was dedicated May, 29, 30, & 31st, 1930. 

Click on articles to enlarge. 

New Britain Herald
June 17, 1929

New Britain Herald
May 31, 1930

Waterbury Democrat
May 29, 1935, p4

Evening Star
(Washington D.C.)
July 1, 1935

Waterbury Democrat
May 28, 1943

Bowels Airport, Agawam, Mass. – June 6, 1930


Governor Trumbull’s Gift From The Sky – 1928

New Britain Herald
March 5, 1928

The Springfield Aircraft Corporation

Brattleboro (VT.) Daily Reformer

September 22, 1917 p.8

Grand Forks Herald

October 21, 1918

Bridgeport Times & Evening Farmer

January 10, 1919

Evening Public Ledger


November 28, 1919

Brainard Airport, CT. – August 29, 1928

Brainard Airport, Connecticut – August 29, 1928 

     On the morning of August 29, 1928, pilot Frederick J. Boots, (29) took off from Brainard Airport in a Monocoupe airplane.  Once airborne he circled the field and appeared to be attempting to land when the plane suddenly fell from an altitude of about 100 feet and crashed nose first into the ground at the rear of the municipal hangar.  Boots was taken to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. 

     State aeronautical inspectors who investigated the accident concluded that due to this accident, and another which had occurred in Rhode Island a short time earlier, that Monocoupe airplanes “constitute a menace to the safety and aviation in this state” and therefor banned their use for the time being in Connecticut.   

     Mr. Boots had formerly been the chief pilot for Massachusetts Airways Inc. of Springfield, Mass., and had recently come to work for L & H Aircraft Company at Brainard Field.


     The New Britain Herald, “Hartford Aviator Suffers Fatal Injuries When Plane Crashes At Brainard Field”, August 29, 1928, pg. 1  


Brainard Airport, CT. – September, 1928

Brainard Airport, Connecticut – September, 1928

     In early September of 1928, (exact date unknown), a 21-year-old mechanic for Interstate Airways at Brainard Airport was working on a plane, which he started by himself with the throttle set on “open”.  Once started, the unmanned aircraft pulled away from him and it was reported that “it was only prevented from taking off without a pilot by striking a fence.” 

     The accident was investigated by Sergeant George Pranaitis, state aviation inspector, who found negligence with the mechanic, who was fined $25 and costs in court for “starting an airplane with an open throttle”. 

     It was stated that this was believed to be the first case of its kind.

     The type of aircraft was not stated.  

     Source: New Britain Herald, “Starts Plane With Open Throttle; Fined”, September 11, 1928, page 7. 

Interstate Airways, Hartford, Connecticut

Click on images to enlarge.

New Britain Herald
August 10, 1929

New Britain Herald
November 11, 1929

New Britain Herald
February 24, 1930

Evening Star
(Washington DC)
May 10, 1930 pg A-2

New Britain Herald
June 4, 1930 p3

Waterbury Democrat
March 7, 1933, p7.

Boston, MA. – December 7, 1929

Boston, Massachusetts – December 7, 1929

     On the afternoon of December 7, 1929, a 24-year-old pilot was taking off from the East Boston Airport in a Stearman bi-plane (NC-6260), when the aircraft struck a bump in the runway and suffered a broken strut to the undercarriage which subsequently caused damage to the propeller and right undercarriage.  The pilot was not injured. 

     Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts Aircraft Accident Report, dated December 7, 1929.  (Massachusetts Air and Space Museum) 


Boston, MA. – October 11, 1929

Boston, Massachusetts – October 11, 1929

      On the morning of October 11, 1929, an 18-year-old student pilot from Brookline, Massachusetts, was taking off from the East Boston Airport in a DeHavilland Gipsy Moth aircraft, (Reg. no. NC-9733).  When the aircraft reached an altitude of 60 feet exhaust valve seat suddenly failed causing a thumping of the engine to occur.  The pilot turned to make an emergency landing and flew level, keeping the nose up while cutting the fuel switch.  The aircraft made a hard landing damaging the lower wings, landing gear and fuselage beyond repair.  The pilot was not injured. 

     Source:  Commonwealth of Massachusetts Aircraft Accident Report dated October 11, 1929, (Massachusetts Air And Space Museum)



Wethersfield, CT. – April 25, 1937

Wethersfield, Connecticut – April 25, 1937 

     On April 25, 1937, an airplane containing a pilot and two passengers was flying over Wethersfield when the engine began to sputter.  The pilot attempted to make an emergency landing at the Wethersfield Country Club Golf Course but crash-landed instead.  All three occupants were thrown from the plane in the crash, but none of them was seriously injured.  All were transported to a hospital for treatment. The aircraft was badly damaged. 

    The type of aircraft was not mentioned. 


     The Waterbury Democrat, “Three Hurt As Plane Crashed”, April 26, 1937, page 4.    

Charles Colby – 19th Century Aeronaut and Balloonist

Click on articles to enlarge.

Charles E. Colby – Very little is known.

Portland Daily Press
Sept. 2, 1889

From the Aroostook Republican
September 18, 1889

Staunton Vindicator
April 26, 1889

The Indianapolis Journal
May 11, 1889, p2

The Portland Daily Press
August 27, 1891

Los Angeles Herald
May 17, 1909, p12

Los Angeles Herald
May 24, 1909


First Balloon Constructed In Maine – 1889

First Balloon Constructed in Maine

Click on articles to enlarge. 

From the Aroostook Republican

September 18, 1889

Portland Daily Press

Sept. 2, 1889

Staunton Vindicator

April 26, 1889

Douglas H. Harris Airplane – 1930

     The following article appeared in several newspapers in May of 1930.   It’s unknown if any more of Mr. Harris’s aircraft were produced.   What Cheer Airport was in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  


Worcester, MA. – October 3, 1943

Worcester, Massachusetts – October 3, 1943 


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

     On October 3, 1943, 2nd Lt. Edward Miller of Rock Springs, Texas, was piloting a P-47B fighter aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-5982), over the Worcester area when he was forced to bail out of his aircraft.  The airplane crashed in a wooded area and Lt. Miller was slightly injured upon landing. He was taken to a hospital by a passing motorist. 

     Lt. Miller was assigned to the 322nd Fighter Squadron at Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts. 


     The Waterbury Democrat, “British Flyers Killed In N. E. “, October 4, 1943, page 9.  (The article included three separate accidents, Lt. Miller’s being one of them.) 

Otis Field, MA. – September 19, 1946

Otis Field, Massachusetts – September 19, 1946


SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

On September 19, 1946, an navy SBW-5 Helldiver, (Bu. No. 60238), ground looped upon landing at Otis Field, causing severe damage to the aircraft, but the lone pilot was not injured. 

Quonset Point, R. I. – March 25, 1946

Quonset Point, Rhode Island – March 25, 1946 


SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

    On March 25, 1946, an SBW-4e Helldiver, (Bu. No. 60113), was practicing take offs and landings at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  On one of the takeoffs the aircraft suddenly lost power and crash landed.  The pilot was uninjured, but the aircraft suffered heavy damage. 


     U. S. Navy accident report, dated March 25, 1946  

Branford, CT. – July 4, 1944

Branford, Connecticut – July 4, 1944


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

     On July 4, 1944, 2nd Lt. John B. Hass took off in a P-47C fighter aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-6556), from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, for a lone navigational training flight.   about forty-five minutes later, while passing over the town of Bradford, his aircraft dove into the ground and exploded, killing him instantly.  It was raining at the time of the crash, but the cause was undetermined. 

     To see a photo and obituary, click here:


     Book, “Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States, 1941-1945”, by Anthony J. Mireles, C. 2006.

Buxton, ME. – October 4, 1943

Buxton, Maine – October 4, 1943

     On October 4, 1943, a British aircraft on a training flight from the Brunswick Naval Air Station was passing over the town of Buxton, Maine, when the pilot was forced to bail out.  The pilot landed safely, and the plane went down in a field in the western portion of town in an area known as Bar Hills.  No further info at this time.  


     The Lewiston Evening Journal, “British Pilot Bails Out As His Plane Crashes At West Buxton”, October 5, 1943.

Charlestown, R. I. – October 11, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – October 11, 1944


F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On October 11, 1944, an F6F-3N, (Bu. No. 42370), nosed over while landing at the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field causing damage to the front of the aircraft.  The pilot was not injured. 


     U. S. Navy Accident Report dated October 11, 1944

Bethany Airport Advertisement – 1945

Bethany, Connecticut      

Click on image to enlarge.

     In December of 1934, The Waterbury Democrat announced that Bethany Airways Inc. had filed for a certificate of incorporation with the Connecticut Secretary of State office.  The owners were William and Winifred Russell of East Haven.  The corporation would have an authorized capitol of $50,000, and would commence business with $1,500.  Shares of stock in the company would be five dollars each. 

     It is unclear what took place with Bethany Airways between 1934 and 1946.     

     In February of 1946, The Waterbury Democrat announced that the Bethany Airport and Bethany Airways Inc. were under new ownership.  The new owners were Robert Halpin and  Ben Shiffrin. who had purchased the corporation from Walter Reynolds of the Reynolds Flying Service on February 1st.  

     Robert Halpin first flew as a naval reserve pilot in 1936.  Prior of the United States entering WWII in 1941, he helped establish the Connecticut Flying Club at Bethany Airport.  In September of 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a private, but was later promoted to sergeant-pilot, and served in England with the RAF.  In 1943 he transferred to the U. S. Army Air Force and served with the 8th Air Force in England.  He then flew 33 missions on a B-17 Flying Fortress attached to the 303rd Bomb Group.      

     Ben Shiffrin enlisted as a flying cadet in December of 1940, and after earned his wings in August of 1941.  After the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, he was assigned to anti-submarine patrol off the New England coast.  He later served in Greenland before returning to the United States in June of 1944.    

     It was reported that the company planned to purchase three new Aeronca “Champion” aircraft, with hope to purchasing more planes in the future. 

     The men immediately opened a flying school which was to cater to ex-servicemen.  

     For more historical information about the the Bethany Airport, click on links below. 

     Bethany Airport March 2, 1932

     Bethany Airport June 17, 1939 

     Bethany Airport January 24, 1942


     Waterbury Democrat, “Bethany Airways Files Certificate”, December, 4, 1934, pg. 4. 

     Waterbury Democrat, “Bethany Airways Inc. Takes Over Airport”, February 7, 1946, pg. 3.


Gallaudet D-4 Light Bomber Seaplane Ad – 1919

Advertisement from March of 1919. 

The Moth Aircraft Corporation

     The Moth Aircraft Corporation 

     In December of 1928, The Moth Aircraft Corporation of New York announced it would be opening a 90,000 square foot aircraft manufacturing factory in Lowell, Massachusetts, next to the Lowell Airport.  The company held the exclusive license of the de Havilland and “Moth” aircraft used by the British military. 

     The company expected to initially employ 200 workers.

     A man named M. M. Warren was company president. 

     In July of 1929 it was announced that the company would be added to the Curits-Wright Corporation’s holdings. 

     In August of 1929 the Moth Corporation announced that the company had reached it’s normal production goal of producing one airplane per day.  Sales for that month were reported to be $100,000.  It was anticipated that sales would continue to increase, and plans were being considered for doubling the capacity of the factory to meet the demand. 


     The Indianapolis Journal, “Moth Factory In East”, December 29, 1928 

     New Britain Herald (Ct.), “Wall Street Briefs”, July 2, 1929 

     The Indianapolis Times, (No headline), September 20, 1929  

The Aircraft Corporation of America – 1927

     The cornerstone for the factory of the Aircraft Corporation of America was laid on September 17, 1927.  Governor John H. Trumbull assisted at the ceremony after having flown in from Hartford for the occasion. 

     The plant was build on the Housatonic River in the town of Milford, at a location that offered a three mile straightaway on the river.  The company’s initial plans were to produce 50 amphibian eight-passenger aircraft per year.  At the time of the cornerstone ceremony the company had already received 30 orders. 

     It was announced that a flying school owned by Bert Acosta was to be established near the aircraft factory.  Mr. Acosta had been the pilot of the transatlantic plane “America”.    


     The New Britain Herald, “Trumbull To Assist – Governor Will Aid In Laying Cornerstone of New Aircraft Factory at Milford.”, August 12, 1927.  

Mysterious Airship Over Waterbury, Ct. – 1916

From The Norwich Bulletin, March 10, 1916.

The Norwich Bulletin
March 10, 1916

Off Plymouth, MA. – November 3, 1991

Off Plymouth, Massachusetts – November 3, 1991 

     At 11:00 a.m. on the morning of November 3, 1991, a single engine Piper L-3 aircraft (Reg. No. N6AN) took off from Norwood, Massachusetts, with two men aboard.  While off the coast of Cape Cod, the aircraft encountered thick fog conditions. The crew of a fishing boat saw the aircraft pass nearby at a low altitude over the water, and then disappear into a fog bank in an area known as “Brown’s Bank” off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. They didn’t witness the crash, but at 2:20 p.m. another fishing boat came upon the wrecked plane floating upside-down in the water with one person still inside.


     Providence Journal, “1 Killed, Pilot Missing In Plane Crash”, November 4, 1991, page B-3 

     Aviation Safety Network

Lake Champlain, VT. – June 23, 1957

Lake Champlain, Vermont – June 23, 1957   

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 23, 1957, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune was on a reserve training flight from Grosse Isle Naval Air Station, to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in Plattsburgh, New York.  It landed at Plattsburgh, at 2:30 p.m. and departed for Virginia thirty minutes later. 

     At 3:30 p.m., the pilot, Lt. (Jg.) Richard Schwaller, radioed Plattsburgh tower that he was having engine trouble and was returning to the base.  

     At 3: 37 p.m., one engine lost all power, and Lt. Schwaller was forced to make an emergency landing in Lake Champlain.  The aircraft hit the water about a half mile off shore from Shoreham, Vermont, where it struck a submerged sandbar and flipped onto its back snapping off the tail section.     

     The water on the lake was rough due to storm activity in the area, but fortunately all nine men aboard were able to escape the wreckage without injury before the fuselage sank in 12 to  18 feet of water.  

     The men were soon rescued by a passing yacht belonging to John L. Cooney, who owned a car dealership in Rutland, Vt.  Once ashore at Chipman Point, Vermont, the crew was brought by helicopter to Ethan Allen Air Force base in Burlington, Vermont.  


     Unknown Newspaper, “Pilot Ditches Big Plane In Lake; Nine Are Saved”, June 24, 1957

     Unknown Newspaper, “Navy Probing Bomber Crash”, Unknown Date.

     Unknown Newspaper, “Navy Will Try To Raise Bomber From Champlain” Unknown Date.


Dorchester, N.H. – December 24, 1996

Dorchester, New Hampshire – December 24, 1996

     On the morning of December 24, 1996, a Learjet 35-A  (N388LS) was in-route from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Lebanon Municipal Airport in New Hampshire with two men in their 30s aboard.  As the aircraft was making its approach to the airport the pilot aborted the landing and circled around for a second try.  Shortly afterward all contact was lost and the plane vanished.  There had been no distress call.

     What came next was the longest search for a missing aircraft in the state’s history, lasting nearly three years.  It was assumed the plane had crashed, and thousands of volunteers turned out to search, but nothing was found.  (The aircraft did not have an emergency locator transmitter aboard.)  Dedicated volunteers continued to scour the wilderness long after the search had officially been called off. 

     The Learjet’s wreckage was finally located near Smarts Mountain on November 13, 1999, roughly 20 miles from the airport.  The plane had disintegrated on impact spreading debris over a large area which was one reason it was so hard to locate.  


     Baltimore Sun, “Mystery Of Learjet Finally Reveals Itself”, December 12, 1999, By Ernest Imhoff.

Scituate, R. I. – October 30, 1942

Scituate, Rhode Island – October 30, 1942 


Curtiss P-40
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of October 30, 1942, two U. S. Army P-40E Warhawks took off from Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, for what was to be a routine training flight.  Both aircraft were assigned to the 317th Fighter Squadron at Hillsgrove.

     Both aircraft headed northeast towards the rural town of Scituate, where they began to engage in a mock “dog fight”.  At one point during the exercise, aircraft #41-36495 was trailing aircraft #40-498 in a left turn climb, when the first aircraft stalled.  When the second tried to break away to the right its wing struck the other planes fuselage.  The pilot of the second aircraft was forced to bail out.  As his plane crashed in a wooded area off Huntinghouse Road, the pilot landed safely. 

     Meanwhile, the other P-40, (41-36495) made it safely back to Hillsgrove.

     The accident was witnessed by a plane spotter in a fire tower in Scituate, who immediately called in the alarm.


     U. S. Army crash investigation report #43-10-30-6

     Woonsocket Call, “Mystery Shrouds Plane Crash Fire”, October 31, 1942   

     Pawtucket Times, “Two Army Planes Collide Over R. I.”, October 31, 1942, page 8. 

Airships And Flying Machines – Real And Imagined

Airships And Flying Machines

Real And Imagined


Click on images to enlarge.    

     “An airship inventor is a man who begins by giving interviews on why it will fly, and ends by giving interviews on why it didn’t fly.” – A quote from The Minneapolis Journal, November 5, 1905, author unknown.

      To our early ancestors the solution to achieving manned flight must have seemed obvious; all one needed to do was construct a set of feathered wings.  Greek mythology tells of a boy named Icarus who did just that, but fell to his death when the wax holding the feathers together melted when he flew too close to the sun.  The plight of the mythical Icarus aside, there were those in real-life who attempted to fly via homemade wings with predictable results.  

     And not all homemade wings involved the use of feathers.  On September 23, 1854, an entertaining news item appeared in the New Orleans Daily Crescent that told of a psychic medium living in New York who was getting advice from the spirit world about how to construct a set of wings for flying purposes. His project involved the use of gutta percha, (A latex derived from Malaysian trees.), India rubber, and whalebone.   “The aforesaid medium,” the article stated in part, “when his outfit is completed, will fly off some tower across the Hudson River to Hoboken and other places.  Of course we await the result of his aerial flight with breathless interest.”     

     By the 1700’s, most would-be aviators had come to believe that the secret to aerial navigation rested with balloons, and they were partially right.   Although the idea of a balloon can be traced to ancient times beginning with the use of aerial lanterns, it wasn’t until 1783 that the first successful manned balloon flight took place.  However, balloons lacked maneuverability and were at the mercy of prevailing winds and extreme weather conditions.  Yet after centuries of trying, man had finally found a way to leave terra firma and stay there.  Then he set about to discover a way to navigate the air at will.       

Francisco Lana’s Airship – 1670

     The terms “flying machine” and “airship” actually pre-date manned balloon ascensions.  Leonardo de Vinci (1452-1519) drew sketches of  winged flying machines around the year 1500, and Francisco de Lana (1631-1687) created plans for an “airship” in 1670.  An illustration of his idea depicts a boat supported by four balloons with a sail to provide forward motion.  

     From the late 1700’s until the Wright brothers flew in 1903, the terms “airship” and “flying machine” were seemingly interchangeable until inventors began designing machine driven flying contraptions known as airplanes that didn’t require a gas bag for lift.   

     Beginning in the early 1800’s and continuing for more than a century later, there were many hopeful inventors who publicly claimed to have “perfected” an airship or flying machine, but that didn’t necessarily mean they’d actually built and flew one.    

      For example, an editorial which appeared in the Yorkville Enquirer in 1884 said in part:, “Read the newspapers of to-day, and in one of every ten you can see an article about somebody’s flying machine going to fly somewhere, at some time.  It is always in the future, and none of them ever report any actual flying.”  

     The following year  a reporter from the Evening Star, a Washington, D.C. newspaper, interviewed an examiner from the U.S. Patent Office who said in part, “We no longer issue patents for devices to enable men to fly through the air because the thing is impossible, and the office some years ago made a rule not to issue patents for impractical inventions.”  

     The same patent examiner also told the Star that “on average” the patent office received about two applications per month for patents or improvements on patents already granted for existing patents of airships and flying machines. 

     It’s unknown how many airship and flying machine patents were applied for during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and of course not all applicants received a patent, and of those that did, often times their ideas never left the drawing board.   


     Some inventors created working scale-models of their proposed aerial machines hoping to attract potential investors, but most ultimately failed to raise the necessary funds to make their concepts a reality.  And of the airships and flying machines that were actually constructed, only a small portion achieved any level of success.      

     There were no flight manuals or reference books for aspiring inventors to draw from, so each was left to his own imagination as to how mechanical flight might be achieved.  Some envisioned machines with bird-like wings, while others incorporated gas bags, sails, or mechanically driven propellers.  The propeller designs differed in size and shape, with some resembling the blades of a windmill, others the paddle wheel of a steam ship, and even contoured propellers as we know them today.  Depending on the inventor’s imagination, the power to turn the props could come from human labor, steam power, compressed air, electric batteries, or any combination of the above.       

     Many early airship design proposals incorporated a cigar-shaped gas bag with some sort of carriage mounted or suspended underneath.  Gas bag materials varied from silk, rubberized canvas, oiled cloth, and even hollow steel or aluminum.   In most cases the bags were designed to hold hot air or Hydrogen gas, but there was one inventor from Mount Carmel, Ill., who in 1891 reportedly came up with the novel idea of using the decomposition gasses given off by dead birds which he called “Buzzard Gas”.  One might surmise that he did this as a joke.         

Captain Charles A. Smith’s Airship -1896

    When it came to inventing new airship designs, to coin a phrase, “the sky was the limit”.  An article which appeared in the Alexandria Gazette & Daily Advertiser, (Alexandria, VA.), on August 25, 1819, mentioned a New Jersey man who’d built an airship and was hoping to fly it in the near future.  The article related in part: “Upon inquiry, we learn that the airship spoken of is a skeleton of wood in the form of a ship, encompassed with silk, which is to be inflated with inflammable air.  To the ship is to be attached a boat with a rudder, oars, etc. etc.  The ingenious inventor is so confident that he will be able to steer the ship, that he has gone to considerable expense in his arrangements.” 

     Another interesting example of an airship was described in an article that appeared in The (New York) Sun on April 30, 1903, under the headline, “Latest News From Europe”, which stated in part:

     “A modern Darius Green has made a flying machine that will really fly.  It was tested on Thursday by experts at Harrow with quite remarkable results.  The machinery consists of a steam engine in a boat-like carriage on small wheels , an areal screw propeller, and what looks like a great wooden sail of slats like a Venetian blind.  The machine weighs 330 pounds, and dead weights of sixteen and seventy-two pounds additional were attached during the experiments.  The inventor, Horatio Phillips, said it would take a pressure equal to a wind blowing thirty miles an hour against the 136 square feet of sail surface to lift the machine, and he produced a current by means of a 400 revolutions per minute propeller, equal to thirty-five miles per hour.  The artificial gale blown against the slats produced a vacuum and plenum on the upper and lower surfaces respectively, thus giving the greatest possible lifting power.  The experiments took place on a circular track.  On the first trial, with seventy-two pounds added weight, the machine when started ran a little way on the wheels and them mounted three or four feet into the air, and continued unsupported more than a half circuit when the extra weight was reduced to sixteen pounds.  It made a clear flight of more than three-fourths of the circuit of 600 feet.  It dropped to earth and ran on the wheels only, when its course was directly parallel with the rather strong natural breeze which was blowing.  Its speed was at the rate of twenty-eight miles an hour.  The machine is in the experimental stage, the design thus far being principally to test the new kind of aeroplane.  In that respect those results are regarded as most encouraging.”    

     While the Phillips flying machine actually made it into the air, the tests described in the article were unmanned.  

     One early airship inventor was John H. Pennington, of Baltimore, Maryland. (Not to be confused with another inventor of the same last name, Edward Joel Pennington.)  In early 1838 John went to Washington, D.C., hoping to present two airship designs to Congress and ask for federal funding to build them.      

     His first proposed airship was to be powered by steam, with lift provided by Hydrogen gas.  When completed it would measure 234 feet long, 87 feet wide, and 40 feet high, with a car mounted underneath for passengers and a pilot.

     The second airship was to be smaller and powered manually by the pilot, which could be operated silently during war time to spy on enemy positions.   

     Referring to Mr. Pennington’s invention, a notice which appeared in The Native American, (A Washington, D.C. newspaper.) on March 3, 1838, stated in part: “In order to defray the expenses of constructing a Steam or Gas Flying Machine, to carry “Express Mails;” and another, on the same principle, to move without either steam or gas – only by manual power – to reconnoiter the enemy’s camp or situation.  The latter can be constructed in a few months, and at the cheap rate of a few hundred dollars; in which the inventor hopes that the Government of the United States will duly appreciate his designs, and appropriate the sum required to construct one or both those Machines, and thereby put an immediate termination to the Indian War.” 

     John Pennington’s ideas were brought before members of Congress more than once, but after careful consideration his funding was denied.   Other inventors also sought government funding, for the idea of using an airship for military purposes had been around for decades, and every developed nation hoped to be the first to achieve “air superiority”.  

      One unnamed New York inventor, realizing the potential monetary rewards involved, tried to hedge his bets against any competition by petitioning Congress for a new law.  The following brief appeared in The Columbia Democrat, (Bloomsburg, Pa.), on March 6, 1841.

     “The Science of BallooningA scientific gentleman of New York insists upon it that he has discovered a means of propelling balloons through the air at almost any required speed and in any direction.  He wants Congress to pass a law guaranteeing all the advantages of such an invention for 50 years to any person who will propel and steer a balloon in the air at the rate of not less than ten miles per hour.  He says that in 1841 if such an act be passed a revolution will be commenced in modes of traveling such as the world has never yet beheld.  No doubt; we fear the revolution will cost some lives.” 

Rufus Porter's Dirigible Airship of 1850 Note the word "Aeroport" on the side of the ship. Illustration from The New York Sun November 23, 1913

Rufus Porter’s Aeroport

     Another early inventor of note was Rufus Porter, a New Englander  who built a twenty-two foot long working model of an airship he named “The Aeroport” that actually flew.  Porter’s model was demonstrated on several occasions inside large buildings.  Porter began his experiments in the 1830s, and envisioned a steam powered airship capable of high-speed transcontinental flight.  Unfortunately, he was never able to raise sufficient funds to bring his concept(s) to reality.      

      Yet not all flying machine ideas involved using gas bags and steam.  Some inventors opted to experiment with kites. One early description of a kite -flying machine can be found in the November 5, 1842 issue of the New York Daily Tribune.  The aircraft was the concept of a Mr. McDermott of Louisiana, who stated as follows;  “I have a Kite one hundred and ten feet in length, twenty feet broad, and tapering to each end like the wings of the fish-hawk.  Under the center of the kite I have a frame eighteen feet high in which I stand.  Under the kite are four wings which operate horizontally, like the oars of a boat.  the blades of the oars are each twenty square feet in surface.  They are moved by the muscles of the legs.  The blades of the oars are made of a series of valves resembling Venetian blinds, so that they open when they move forward, and close when the stroke is made.  The wood part is of canes, the braces wire – the kite of cotton cloth, the tail of the same material.  The kite has an angle of ten degrees to the horizon.” 

     There was no mention as to the total weight of the kite-machine, and it would seem that a man would need to be physically fit to fly it.

     There were others who experimented with man-carrying kites, and although some referred to their inventions as “flying machines”, they were still just kites, (without mechanical motors), and incapable of navigating the air at will.     

William Hanson’s Aerial Carriage
Despite the illustration, it never flew.

     On September 29, 1842, William S. Henson of England patented his design for the Henson Aerial Steam Carriage.  The steam powered aircraft was to weigh 3,000 pounds, and would reportedly be able to travel from London to India in only four days – at a rate of 75 to 100 mph.  Unfortunately it was never constructed.  

      Here in America, a Boston inventor claimed in 1890 that his airship, when completed, would be able to travel 500 miles per hour, and cross from New York to San Francisco in only six hours.        

     Airship and flying machine designs ranged from the “possible”, to the utterly ridiculous, with most falling somewhere in between.  Some envisioned airships that were akin to a flying hotel, with all the amenities of an ocean liner.  Others saw the potential use of airships in wartime, and designed military machines capable of aerial combat or for dropping bombs, as well as naval airships that could land and operate in water as a sort of flying battleship.  And still others envisioned the day when the horse and buggy would be replaced by one’s own personal flying machine.  By the early 20th century some foresaw gigantic blimps with airplane runways on top that would serve as aerial aircraft carriers.       


Airship Nearing Completion – 1892

     Inventing an airship or flying machine was the easy part. However actually building one required money, and lots of it.  One not only needed the right materials, which in some cases had to be custom manufactured, but they also needed a secure location to  construct their invention away from prying eyes of competitors and potential saboteurs.  Capitol was generally raised through private investors, or in some cases, for those with the right political connections, through the government.  

      Meanwhile skeptics maintained that air travel was impossible, or at the very least, unsafe, and pointed to previous failed attempts.  Part of this doubt may have been brought on by certain inventors who’d made astounding claims about the capabilities of their yet-to-be-built airships in terms of speed, altitude, and payload capabilities.     

     One could also surmise that there were those who didn’t want airship inventors to succeed, for if an airship capable of speeds of 100 miles-per-hour or more were to be successfully built, it could then compete in the travel and freight market against other established modes of transportation such as steamships, trains, and stagecoaches.             

     Some inventors who failed in their attempts to fly were sometimes publicly ridiculed in the press as with the case of a Mr. Davidson in the following news snippet that appeared in the Sunbury American And Shamokin Journal, a now defunct Pennsylvania newspaper, on March 23, 1844, under the heading,  “Miscellany”.   

     “The song of “O’ Fly Not Yet” has been arranged as a “bird waltz”, and dedicated to Mr. Davidson, the Flying Machine Man.”    

    Another case involved a New York man named Cook, who in 1897 invented a new type of parachute to be worn when he would take his nearly completed flying machine on a test flight in the near future.  Alas, poor Mr. Cook was found by a policeman entangled in his own invention dangling from a bridge eighty feet over the water – much embarrassed, but none the worse for wear.           

    And then there were the hoaxters and practical jokers who made claims of airships that didn’t exist – and never would.  A case in point was the 1844 story of “Monk Mason’s Flying Machine” which according to a New York newspaper reportedly crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England to the United States in only seventy-five hours.  This was a remarkable claim for the day, but unfortunately, pure fiction. 

     Another early example involved a Pittsburgh man who in September of 1846 advertised that on the 14th he would ascend with his “flying machine” from the top of the Hand Street Bridge.  Thousands turned out to see the event, but at the appointed hour all that flew from the bridge was a white goose the man had released from a sack.     

     The city took the joke in stride, with the Pittsburgh Gazette reporting, “Such a sloping off with mortified looks, it was laughable to see, and the hoax afforded matter for many a good joke during the evening.”      

      Airship hoaxes continued into the 20th century.  Perhaps the most infamous airship hoax occurred in the late autumn of 1909 when a Worcester, Massachusetts, businessman named  Wallace Tillinghast claimed to have invented an airship that could fly over 100 miles per hour at an altitude of 3,000 feet, and travel hundreds of miles without stopping.  Even for 1909 his claims were amazing, for the Wright brothers had flown only seven years earlier and aviation technology was still in its infancy.  What gave this hoax a life of its own was that over the next three months reputable people from all across southern New England reported “seeing” Tillinghast and his invention soar through the air while conducting his nightly flights.   However, in the end, it was revealed that Tillinghast never had an airship of any sort.     

     While the previously mentioned hoaxes were perpetrated for the fun of it, there were other cases where investors were defrauded of their money due to nonexistent airships which the “inventors” never had any intention of building. 

     Incidents involving scientific skepticism, hoaxes, public failures, and fraud, no doubt made it harder for legitimate inventors to gain credibility.

This illustration of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s flying machine appeared in The National Tribune, (Washington, D.C.), on March 1, 1906.  (His name is misspelled as “Dupont”)

    While most inventors worked on ideas involving gas bags to supply the lifting power for their aircraft, there were a few who concentrated on using rotating propellers to gain the necessary lift to overcome gravity.  The idea of helicopters dates to ancient times, and science fiction writers and illustrators of the 19th century envisioned ships equipped with numerous rotating propeller blades instead of sails.       

         By the 1890’s more and more people began to accept the idea that mechanical flight would one day be possible.  Futurists and authors of science fiction predicted a time when trans-Atlantic flights would become routine, and that the personal airship would replace the family horse and buggy, and later, the automobile. 

     One prediction of what the future would hold appeared in The Londonderry Sifter, (A South Londonderry, Vermont, newspaper. ), on August 30, 1888, which stated in part: “A recent writer suggests the we shall, in the next century, have very little use for horses.  He supposes airships to be not only an achievement, but to be as common as wagons are now.  The farmer has then only to hitch a load to his airboat, and lift it clear of trees, and move straight to market.  The effect of navigating the air will, however, be most marked on urban life.  Cities will no longer be needed to any such extent as now.  The airship, avoiding streets, can make a location in the country as desirable for a great store as one in a city.  Will not also a vast amount of land now needed for highways be given over to tillage?  Go ahead, and give us the airship – Globe-Democrat”    

     Predictions aside, aviation technology still hadn’t reached the point where practical aerial navigation could become a reality.   

     In the June, 1893 issue of McClure’s Magazine, famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell had this to say about how man would one day master air travel.  “Of course the airship of the future will be constructed without any balloon attachment.  The discovery of the balloon undoubtedly retarded the solution of the flying problem for over a hundred years.  Even since the Montgolfers taught the world how to rise in the air by means of inflated gasbags, the inventors working at the problem of aerial navigation have been thrown on the wrong track.  Scientific men have been wasting their time trying to steer balloons, a thing which in the nature of the case is impossible to any extent , inasmuch as balloons, being lighter than the resisting air, can never make any headway against it.  the fundamental principle of aerial navigation is that the ship must be heavier that the air.  It is only in recent years that men capable of studying the problem seriously have accepted this as an axiom”     


Arthur De Baussett’s Proposed Airship
The Herald-Advance
Milbank, South Dakota
August 4, 1899

     One of the more ambitious airship projects of the 19th century was the one proposed by Arthur De Bausset in 1899.  His idea was to construct an airship 774 feet long and 144 feet wide that could travel from New York to London in 30 hours.  His airship, when completed, would be the world’s largest, and bigger than any ocean liner of the day. 

     The lift power would come from pumping all of the air out of the huge metal envelope thus creating a vacuum.  Propulsion was to come from 32 propellers powered by turbine engines.

     It was reported that many of New York’s well known businessmen were interested in the project, however, the ship was never built.

     In 1908 inventor J. A. Morrell constructed an airship that was 450 feet long, and at the time, was said to be the world’s largest.  Unfortunately it crashed on May 23, 1908 during its maiden voyage, injuring sixteen people.  

    The flight of the Wright Brothers airplane n 1903 opened the door to manned mechanical flight.   Meanwhile, others continued their work on perfecting the airship.  Technology in both areas grew rapidly leading many to believe that high-speed air travel over great distances was just around the corner.    

     Today we take air travel for granted, but none of it would have been possible had it not been for the hundreds, or perhaps thousands of would-be airship and flying machine inventors who struggled through trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t.  They did so at their own expense, often ridiculed, and at risk of being injured or killed.  In most cases their names have been lost to history. 

     Other sources:

     Alexandria Gazette & Daily Advertiser, (Alexandria, VA.), “Camden, N.J., August 17”, August 25, 1819

     The Native American, (Washington, D.C.), Notice, March 3, 1838.

     The Native American, (Washington, D.C.), “A Step Further In The Sciences”, March 3, 1838

     Iowa Territorial Gazette & Advertiser, “Traveling In The Air”, January 7, 1843

     The New York Herald, “Henson’s New Aerial Steam Carriage”, April 21, 1843

     The Cecil Whig, (Elkton, Md.) “The Steam Mechanic”, April 29, 1843

     The Post Gibson Herald, (no headline), May 22, 1845 

     Yorkville Enquirer, (Yorkville, S.C.), “The Flying Machine Mania”, July 31, 1884

     Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Flying Through The Air – A problem Which Has Puzzled The Inventors Of All Times”, September 26, 1885 

     The Morning Call, (San Francisco, CA.), “With An Eagle’s Swiftness”, October 19, 1890

     The Waco Evening News, (Waco, Texas), “A New Gas”, February 24, 1892.

     The Charlotte Democrat, (Charlotte, N.C.), “Hung By His Heels”, July 1, 1897







Framingham, MA. – December 25, 1936

Framingham, Massachusetts – December 25, 1936

     On December 25, 1936, a 21-year-old pilot was killed while taking off from the Framingham Airport.   According to a witness, the aircraft’s motor began to sputter as it left the ground, and at an altitude of less than 100 feet the plane turned and fell.  There was no fire, and it was later determined that the gas tank was empty. The youth was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. 

     Source: The Nashua Telegraph, “Begin Probe On Airplane Crash”, December 26, 1936.  

Northeast Flying Service – 1930

Northeast Flying Service – 1930


Nashua Telegraph
July 25, 1930

      The Northeast Flying Service established its headquarters at Ferryall Field in Hudson, New Hampshire, on July 24, 1930.  The service offered pilot training and sightseeing airplane rides.  The company owned a dual control Waco airplane for teaching student pilots, and a Stinson cabin plane for rides.   The company also maintained an office at Manchester Airport. 

     In February of 1931 the company announced plans to open another office in Nashua.   


Nashua Telegraph
August 27, 1930

     Other Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Open Flying School At Hudson Field”, July 24, 1930, page 16

    Nashua Telegraph, “Plan Aviation School In City”, February 26, 1931

Wethersfield, CT. – March 28, 1948

Wethersfield, Connecticut – March 28, 1948


P-51 Mustang
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 27, 1948, Army Lieutenant Joseph F. McMillan, (28), of Derry, New Hampshire, took off in a P-51 Mustang aircraft from Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire, bound for Mitchell Field, on Long Island, N. Y.   He arrived safely at Mitchell Field, and later took off for a return trip to Manchester.  At 1:05 a.m. on March 8, while in route back to Manchester, he was killed when his plane crashed in a swampy wooded area near the sixth hole at the Wethersfield Country Club Golf Course. 

     The cause of the accident is unknown. 

     Source: The Nashua Telegraph, “Derry Flier Dies In Conn. Plane Crash”, March 29, 1948, page 1.


American Airlines Advertisement – 1943

Click on image to enlarge.

March, 1943

Northeast Airlines Advertisements

Click on images to enlarge.

November, 1956

March, 1957

June, 1957

September, 1957

October, 1957

October, 1957

March, 1958

May, 1958

February, 1959

The Connecticut Aircraft Company

The Connecticut Aircraft Company – Established 1914 

Click on images to enlarge. 

The Sun, (N.Y.) March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, March 28, 1914, page 18

The Sun, May 2, 1914

The Sun, May 2, 1914

     Click her to see article about the first U. S. Navy Airship built by the Connecticut Aircraft Company

The Daily Star-Mirror, December 12, 1916

     Click here for article about 1916 Navy Dirigible

Bridgeport Times, September 1, 1921, page 1


Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company

Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company


Curtiss Jenny Airplane

 The Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company was established sometime around 1920 by Lieutenant Paul Robinson of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, formerly of Brookline, Mass.  His airplane was a Curtis Jenny which had a logo painted on the sides. 

     In the autumn of 1920, Lt. Robinson donated his services to the Caledonian – Record newspaper of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to assist with announcing the results of the 1920 Presidential election.  It was reported that on November 3rd he would fly his airplane at a low altitude over the towns located in the counties of Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans, with a colored circle painted on the bottom wings.  Citizens would know by the color which candidate had been elected President.   A black circle would mean that Democratic candidate Governor James M. Cox, won, and a red circle would mean that Republican Senator Warren G. Harding won.  The St. Johnsbury Caledonian reported in part, “The color scheme is best suited to the eye and carries no political significance”.  

     This was a time before the instant-up-to-the-minute media coverage that we’re used to today, and a time before people had radios in their homes.    


     On Saturday, October 30, 1920, Lt. Robinson gave a stunt flying exhibition over St. Johnsbury in celebration of “Merchant’s Day” in view of 10,000 spectators.   A friend identified as “Al” Martin accompanied him on the flight.

     In reference to the performance, the Caledonian – Record reported in part, “Pilot Robinson came up over the valley shortly after three o’clock and circled over the town for a few moments before he commenced his exhibition.  The first thing on the program was a spiral dive, followed by three loops in succession.  His catalogue of stunts is a large one and he executed them all much to the enjoyment of the huge throng below.  At times he flew so low that both men could be seen plainly with the naked eye while at other times he soared so high that his plane was almost lost from view.”   


     St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “Airplane To Give Winner Of Election”, October 27, 1920. 

     Caledonian – Record, “Aviator Thrills 10,000 People With Stunts”, November 1, 1920 




Mystery Balloon – 1928

Article from the New Britain Herald, July 30, 1928.

Click on image to enlarge. 

Two Connecticut Men Invent A Glider – 1909

Two Connecticut Men Invent A Glider – 1909

By Jim Ignasher

     “Darius was clearly of the opinion, that the sky was also man’s dominion.”  A line from the poem, Darius Green and His flying Machine, by John Trobridge, 1869.

     Darius Green was a mythical boy who built his own flying machine, yet he may have been the inspiration for two young inventors from Hartford, Connecticut, to do the same.  Ruben Bassett, and Arvid Carlson, both 18, had been friends since childhood, and as Ruben told a reporter of the Hartford Courant, “We have always been making something or other, but we never finished anything.  We started to make an automobile once, and we built some boats, trying to see how small we could make a boat and still have it carry anyone.”  It therefore seemed logical that after trying their hand at auto and boat building, that an aircraft of some sort would come next.

     They began building their aircraft in early April of 1909 in the basement of Ruben’s home at 1273 Main Street.  The design consisted of two wings, each twenty feet long and four feet wide, framed with ribs of spruce wood and covered with white cambric cloth.  The wings were set about four feet apart, one atop the other, with wires and struts to support them.  A spruce and cambric-cloth rudder was attached to the rear of the craft.  Despite its size, the entire machine reportedly weighed only 40 pounds.   

     The aircraft didn’t have a motor, and was actually what one might refer to as a “hang-glider” today.  There was no place for a pilot to sit.  The aviator would simply hold on from underneath for the duration of the flight.

     The glider had been built in sections which were then brought to the Hartford Electric Light Company where both men were employed.  The management had agreed to allow them use of a work area where the glider could be fully assembled.  By mid-May it was ready for its inaugural flight.  

     In the early morning hours of May 16, the men maneuvered their glider through the sleeping streets of Hartford and up to Prospect Hill.  On their way they encountered a policeman who inquired as to what they were up to, but not being one to stand in the way of aeronautical progress, the officer allowed them to continue on their way.  Once atop the hill they waited for a good breeze, but only the faintest movement of air could be detected.  Undaunted, Ruben decided to test their invention anyway, and after a running start he leaped into the air.  A gentle wind caught the wings, and lifted him to about fifteen feet as he sailed for a distance of approximately seventy feet before landing back on terra firma. Unfortunately one of the wings struck the ground and the glider flipped over thereby breaking one of the spruce ribs and putting a halt to any further experiments.  

     This was reported to be the first glider flight to ever take place in Hartford, but unfortunately the entire event was only witnessed by a handful of people, two of which included milkmen who’s stopped their horse-drawn wagons and delayed their deliveries to watch.   

     On May 23, after making repairs to their glider, the men once again brought it to Prospect Hill for another test-flight.  This time members of the press were present.  Unfortunately that flight ended like the first.  Despite the setback, the inventors vowed to continue their experiments after repairs were made.

     Meanwhile, both Bassett and Carlson were granted a few days off by their employer, the Hartford Electric Light Company, to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Wright brothers. 

     What ultimately became of the glider is unknown, but two years later Ruben Bassett made the news with another invention that he called the “water cycle”, which was in effect a human powered craft designed to be ridden upon the water.  On May 23, 1911, he demonstrated his invention on the Connecticut River  about 150 feet upriver from the dock of the Hartford & New York Transportation Company.  At first the “water-cycle” appeared to be a success, until it suddenly flipped over.  After being towed to shore Bassett made a second attempt with the same results.  It was reported that the cause of the mishaps was due to the center of gravity being offset by the operator’s positioning on the craft.        


     Hartford Courant, “An Aeroplane In Hartford”, May 17, 1909, page 6.

     Hartford Courant, “Young Aeronauts Try A Glider”, May 24, 1909, page 7.      

     Hartford Courant, “Water Cycle Has Lots To Learn”, May 22, 1911, page 10.          

Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol Sign

Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol Sign 

Photographed May 10, 2018, at the Brimfield Flea Market, Brimfield, Massachusetts.  Sign is approximately 2.5 to 3 ft. wide.  

Westport, MA. – August 10, 1927

Westport, Massachusetts – August 10, 1927

     On the morning of August 10, 1927, two army reserve officers, Lieutenant Paul Green of South Bedford, Mass., and Lieutenant Raymond Taplin of Quincy, Mass., left East Boston Airport in an army biplane for a training flight.  They flew south towards New Bedford, where they circled the new landing field on the estate of Colonel Edward Greene.  After doing so, they turned back for Boston, and shortly afterwards their fuel supply ran out.  The pilot attempted to switch to the reserve tanks but they were empty.  The aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in the northern portion of the town of Westport.  In doing so, the plane struck a stone wall and burst into flames.  Both men escaped with minor injuries, but the airplane was destroyed.    

     Source: New Britain Herald, (Connecticut), “Reserve Fliers In Escape From Death”, August 10, 1927 

Rock Dam Aerodrome, Greenfield, Mass.

  Rock Dam Aerodrome – Greenfield, Mass. 

Click on images to enlarge.

Brattleboro Reformer
(Brattleboro, VT.)
August 26, 1910

Vermont Phoenix
August 26, 1910
Page 5

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Click on images to enlarge.


Vintage Postcard View of Old Orchard Beach, Me.

Old Orchard Beach

Harry M. Jones’ Airplane


Earle Ovington Fair Advertisement – 1911

Earle Ovington Fair Advertisement – 1911

     Earle Ovington, (1879 – 1936), was a pioneer aviator from new England.  The advertisement below is for an event that took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut, May 5, 6, 7, 1911.    

Click on image to enlarge.

Advertisement from the
Bridgeport Evening Farmer
May 4, 1911

Harry N. Atwood Cross Country Flight Records – 1911

Harry N. Atwood Cross Country Flight Record – 1911

     Harry N. Atwood, (1883 – 1967)

     The following article appeared in The Washington Times, June 30, 1911, page 10.  


Aviator Harry Atwood

     NEW LONDON, June 30. – Harry N. Atwood, the boy aviator, with a passenger, made a flight of 107 miles in order to witness the Harvard-Yale rowing regatta today.

     Leaving the Harvard aviation field at Squantum Mass., at 7:05, he crossed the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut and arrived at his destination at 9:10 o’clock.

     With weather conditions ideal all the way, he covered the 107 miles in 125 minutes, an average of a fraction over 51:56 miles an hour.

     Atwood broke the American record for a single flight across country, and established a world’s mark for passenger carrying flight across country.     

     One hundred thousand visitors who jammed into New London and were ready to leave for the race course, forgot all about college rooting and cheered themselves hoarse when Atwood circled twice around the Groton monument, directly across the Thames River from the New Haven Railroad station,  passed over the big drawbridge, and flew over the two-mile course at a speed which the waiting oarsmen at Red Top and Gales ferry envied.

     The Yale and Harvard crews for the moment turned loose all their enthusiasm and cheered the daring aviator.

     Secretary of the Navy Meyer and party aboard the Untied States dispatch boat Dolphin applauded Atwood wildly and the great fleet of yachts on both sides of the race course tied down their whistles and fired salute after salute from their cannon.

     After passing the Dolphin, Atwood picked out the west bank of the river for a landing place.  He volplaned from a height of 1,000 feet in two magnificent sweeps and landed lightly on the ground in Riverside park to the south of the drawbridge.


     Atwood would break his own record thirty days later when he flew from Boston to New York, a distance of 139 miles.  This trip received much more attention by the press than the one to New London.   

Click on image to enlarge.

A vintage postcard view of Harry N. Atwood and his airplane.


Lincoln Beachey – Pioneer Aviator

Lincoln Beachey – Pioneer Aviator

     Much has already been written about Lincoln Beachey, (1887 – 1915), one of America’s best known pilots of his time, and this information can be found in books and other websites.   Information presented here pertains to Beachey’s activities in New England. 

     Its been noted that Beachey’s last name was sometimes misspelled in the press and appeared as “Beachy”. 

     The following article appeared in the Waterbury Evening Democrat (Waterbury, Connecticut), on June 7, 1907.


Lincoln Beachey’s Airship Almost Death Of Him

On Return Journey to Revere Beach Motor Became Disabled and the Balloon Was Carried Out Over the Atlantic. 

     Boston, June 7.- The breaking down of his motor, which allowed the airship he was navigating to be blown seaward, almost resulted in the death of Lincoln Beachey off Revere Beach. 

     Boston Got the surprise of its life when it looked up and saw sailing over the buildings in the center of the city its first visiting airship.

     Beachey passed over the capitol building and dropped a message for Governor Guild.

     The governor and most of the legislators crowded the balconies and sidewalks about the statehouse as the airship sailed over them and when the message came down waved their hands and cheered the aeronaut.

     Beachey had made a seven mile journey from Revere Beach to Boston, sailing high over the city’s tallest structures, and passing over the steeple of the Park Street Church and the statehouse dome, and finally landed on Boston Common, where thousands of persons were attracted by the airship. 

     On the return journey to Revere Beach the motor became disabled when the aeronaut was a mile off shore over Boston Harbor, and the airship was carried some distance seaward.  Beachey managed to partially repair his engine so as to get back to the vicinity of Revere Beach. 

     When several hundred feet off shore the airship settled rapidly, and it looked as if Beachey would be thrown into the water and entangled beneath his airship.  Men in rowboats and launches, who hastened to Beachey’s assistance, seized the drag rope and were able to tow him and his apparatus ashore before he struck the water.  The airship was not damaged.         


     The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer (Connecticut.), May 15, 1911, page 8.  


Starts at Aerodrome and drops in at Yale Commons to Have Supper


Early postcard image of Lincoln Beachey.

     Having heard that Yale Commons affords good eating, Lincoln Beachey stepped into his Curtis aeroplane at the Bridgeport Aerodrome yesterday afternoon, and sauntered over to New Haven .  Most of the saunter was made at a height of about 2,000 feet.  It took him just 14 minutes and 57 seconds from the time the propeller first turned over at the aerodrome to the time it stopped turning in the center of Yale Field.

     In about fifteen minutes more Mr. Beachey was seated at the table in Yale dining hall.  He tried to ignore the enthusiastic crowd of Yale students and declared that he had done nothing out of the ordinary, but his hosts refused to be left out of the program, and gave him a Yale yell.

     Beachey slipped away from the enthusiastic crowd in New Haven as soon as he could, and took a train for Bridgeport.  At the Stratfield here he was disgusted to find another big crowd awaiting him.  he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. 

     Beachey’s flight to New Haven, the first cross-country flight made in Connecticut, and about the smoothest ever made in this country, was a fitting ending to an aviation exhibition of four days, which experienced aviators declared to be one of the finest ever given.

     Yesterday was ideal for flying.  The wind was light nd steady and blew from the southeast, so that the bird men in starting could life over the lowest portion of the aerodrome fence. It was this shift in the wind which enabled Beachey to make two passenger flights yesterday.

     Miss Margaret Shea and frank Arnold were Beachey’s guests.  Mr. Arnold was the first to be taken up.  He was seated on the lower plane in back and to the left of Beachey’s chair.   The aeroplane rose nicely and soared into the air without apparent effort, despite the double burden it was carrying.  Beachey made a nice trip, circling around the field at a height of about 350 feet and came down easily.

     Miss Margaret Shea was the next to go up, and for her entertainment Mr. Beachey gave an even longer trip, circling around in the air several times at a height of about 500 feet, and making a steep swoop in landing.

     Another “stunt” which was a record breaker took place at the Bridgeport Aerodrome when McCurdy from his machine got into touch with New York by wireless.  This is believed to be the longest distance that a message was ever sent by wireless from an aeroplane.     

     McCurdy sent the initials “M. D. T.”  These were caught by the wireless operator in the tower of the Pulitzer Building.  They were also caught at a private station in New Haven and were taken as a signal that Beachey had started on his flight to that city.

     Before shaking the air of Bridgeport off his wings, Beachey went through a number of the thrilling aerial evolution for which he is noted.  Bo less that seven times he made deep swoops over the field, coming within a few feet of the ground and then shooting up into the air again.  Several times he just grazed the fence.  Once or twice he swooped down among the crowd outside the aerodrome and gave them a bad scare. On the return he passed over a barn so close that he shook the shingles on the roof.  he dived and dipped around the field  looking like an immense bird playing a game of tag with itself.

     The nice smooth wind yesterday made these stunts possible.  Beachey was tickled with the day and declared it ideal.  The wind blowing just opposite to the prevailing direction of the other three days of the meet.  Otherwise, passengers could not have been carried.

     On Saturday the wind was blowing from the west so that the aviators had to start toward the west and head directly for the trees.

     McCurdy, in making his first trip with the wireless apparatus on Saturday, came near getting into serious trouble.  Either his engne wasn’t working, or the wireless was unexpectedly heavy; at any rate it looked as though he would smash into the trees.

     Beachey, who was watching him, was dropping cold sweat.  Hamilton was another onlooker.  Both heaved a sigh of relief when the machine sagged through the trees without mishap.

     “If you’d been in that tree and yelled, ‘will you make it?’, he’d have yelled back ‘ I don’t know!,” said Hamilton.


Click on image to enlarge.

Orleans County Monitor
(Barton, Vermont)
June 26, 1912

Click on images to enlarge.

Advertisement for the 23rd Annual Orleans County Fair held in Barton Vermont, August 20, 21, & 22, 1912.

Lincoln Beachey advertising Red Crown Gasoline.
Daily Capitol Journal, Salem, Ore.
May 14, 1914

     For more information about Lincoln Beachey in New England click on the following links elsewhere on this website.

     Bridgeport’s Aerodrome

     Lincoln Beachey’s Airship

     Manchester Ct. – June 14, 1914 – Lincoln Beachey survives plane crash.

     First Woman To Fly An Airplane In R. I.



Airport Dedication Requests – 1928

Airport Dedication Requests – 1928

Click on image to enlarge.

New Britain Herald

November 30, 1928

Wallingford Airport Dedication – 1927

Wallingford Airport Dedication Article – 1927

Click on image to enlarge.

New Britain Herald
November 11, 1927


Pequabuck Balloon Ascension- 1886

Pequabuck Agricultural Fair Balloon Ascension Advertisement – 1886 

click on image to enlarge.

Morning Journal and Courier

New Haven, Ct.

September 29, 1886

Early Burlington Vermont Airport Articles

Early Burlington Vermont Airport Articles 

     The Burlington (Vermont) International Airport had is beginnings in 1919 with the U. S. Government seeking a suitable place for an airfield.   The airport was officially dedicated on September 22, 1921.

     Click on images to enlarge.

The Bare (Vermont) Daily Times
April 28, 1919

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bare (Vermont) Daily Times on May 18, 1920.

Airplanes Went From Boston To Burlington In One Hour, 49 Minutes

     Burlington, May 18. – Two airplanes arrived at Fort Ethan Allen yesterday afternoon in record breaking time from Boston.  One plane was piloted by Col. Grennan, chief of the air service of the New England division, and the other by Colonel G. C. Brant of new York City.  Both planes left Boston at 3:30 yesterday afternoon.  Colonel Grennan, who arrived five minutes ahead of Colonel Brant, made the trip in one hour and 49 minutes, which is believed to be a record for this flight.  His average speed was 110 miles per hour.

      Colonel Brant made a detour on the way to fly over the town of Groton, where he is acquainted.  The machines used were Dehaviland planes equipped with Liberty motors.  The trip is one of several which the officers are making in New England for the purpose of promoting airplane landing fields for the coming season.  Burlington has been considered as a very important location for a landing field and various locations here will be inspected during the officer’s visit.



Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia)
August 11, 1920

The Bare Daily Times
(Bare, Vermont)
August 12, 1920

The Caledonian Record
(St. Johnsbury, Vt.)
September 20, 1921

     Also see Early Postcard Views of Burlington Airport

Charles Durant’s Boston Balloon Ascensions – 1834

Charles Durant’s Boston Balloon Ascensions – 1834

     Charles Ferson Durant, (Born Sept. 19, 1805 – died, Mar. 2, 1873) has been referred to by the press as “America’s First Aeronaut”.  During the course of his career he made three balloon ascensions from Boston.  

     Mr. Durant’s first balloon ascension from Boston took place on or about August 1, 1834.

     According to a newspaper article that appeared in the Alexandria Gazette on August 5, 1834, Durant took off from an Amphitheater near Charles Street that was erected for the occasion.   Thousands had gathered to watch, being an exceptionally unusual event for the era.  The ascension was successful, and the balloon was carried off by prevailing breezes which pushed it out over the open water.  There it was observed by the Captain of the steamboat Hancock to drop low several times and touch the water.  The Hancock turned to pursue the wayward balloon, but had trouble in doing so.

     The balloon finally landed in the ocean about five miles off the coast  of Marblehead, Massachusetts, but fortunately Mr. Durant had equipped himself with a life vest which kept him afloat until he was recued.

     The following article appeared in the Alexandria Gazette on August 30, 1834.   



     Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 26. – Mr. Durant’s Eleventh Ascension –  Yesterday afternoon, agreeably to previous notice, Mr. Durant made his eleventh grand ascension (it being his second from Boston,) from his amphitheater on the city land west of Charles Street.  The day was pleasant, and the wind was blowing with a pretty strong breeze from the north east. 

     At 4 o’clock, 30 minutes, Mr. Durant took his place in his wicker-basket car, the cords which detained him were severed, and he rose majestically from the amphitheater amid the firing of cannon and the benedictions of the multitude.  He moved toward the north-west.  Before leaving the ground, he had thrust out several bags of sand, and on rising 700 or 800 feet from the ground, he arrived at an elevation where there was no wind at all, and he remained apparently stationary for some minutes.  He was then observed to let out the sand from one of the bags, which was seen to descend like rain, and the rays of sun upon it gave it the appearance of vapor descending in a vertical direction, and affording a beautiful appearance.  he then cast out what appeared to be the empty bag, which descended slowly, and was mistaken by many of the spectators for the rabbit falling with the parachute.  he now discharged the sand from several bags, which was seen to rain down in like manner, and the balloon was observed to rise.  In the meantime the gas was distinctly seen escaping from the top of the balloon like vapor.  After being up about 15 minutes the balloon descended to a lower stratum of atmosphere, which set towards the north-west, and it then moved pretty fast towards Cambridgeport.  At this time the rabbit was discharged with the parachute , which was observed to fall gradually in, or near, Cambridgeport.  The balloon then rose again , and appeared nearly stationary for several minutes, when it again moved towards the west.  Every few minutes the sand was distinctly seen showering down, and finally the balloon was observed to descend apparently beyond Mount Auburn.

     Six o’clock.   We have this moment the satisfaction of hearing of Mr. Durant’s safe arrival with the balloon at the Tremont House, where he was welcomed by the shouts and congratulations of a large collection of people.  We learn that at 5 h. 6 m. he landed safely in a field west of Mount Auburn, and about six miles from the Amphitheater.  He was, therefore, 36 minutes in the air, and one hour and a half from his starting to his arrival at the Tremont House.  He brought the rabbit with him, and it was exhibited in front of the Tremont.  the parachute is in the shape of a large umbrella.

     It happened that everything was in readiness for the ascension at an earlier hour than was anticipated and consequently the balloon started at half past 4 instead of 5 o’clock, as had been announced.  In consequence to this, we regret to say that many people were too late to see the balloon at starting.  To enable such people to witness the operation, and to afford everybody another opportunity to see the magnificent spectacle, it is hoped that Mr. Durant will undertake a third ascension from Boston.  As the balloon is uninjured, an early day would probably be convenient for the intrepid aeronaut as it would be desirable to our citizens generally.      


     Mr. Durant’s third balloon ascension from Boston occurred on September 13, 1834.  The ascension had been scheduled for two days earlier but had to be postponed due to high winds.

     After taking off just before 5 p.m.,  the balloon drifted westward towards Brighton until reaching an air current that was blowing to the east.  It then passed over the Boston Common and the State House, and eventually settled safely in Watertown.

     Source: Alexandria Gazette, “Balloon Ascension” September 18, 1834.


Litchfield Enquirer (Ct.)
August 7, 1834

Barnes Airport – Westfield, MA.

Barnes Airport – Westfield, Massachusetts

Click on image to enlarge.

Vintage postcard view of Barnes Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts

Vintage Postcard View of Barnes Airport.

Some Perilous Early Balloon Ascensions

Some Perilous Early Balloon Ascensions

          The following newspaper article appeared in the New York Tribune on February 23, 1908.


Stevens and Forbes in Peril – Food and Sand Freeze.

     Springfield, Mass., Feb. 22 – Benumbed with cold, which was so severe as to freeze their food, their bags of wet sand, and render their registering instruments useless, A. Holland Forbes and Leo Stevens, of New York, who ascended in a balloon at North Adams early this afternoon, came to earth at Wales, a village three miles from the Connecticut line, southeast of this city, after a trip of about ninety miles.  When the aeronauts left North Adams that hoped that they might reach Boston, but although they found air currents which swept them in a general easterly direction the extreme cold forced them to descend.  Soon after passing Springfield it was found that the cold had so contracted the gas in the bag that the balloon was descending rapidly.  The aeronauts decided to break an unwritten law of balloonists and to throw over some hard substances  in order to lighten the balloon.  At this time they were rapidly approaching Wilbraham Mountain, and it was evident that they could not clear the top of that eminence unless the balloon were lightened.

     One of the anchors attached to the car was drawn up, and, used like a pick, served to break the frozen sandbags so that lumps of the sand could be thrown over.  Considering it inadvisable in their half frozen condition to attempt to make a longer trip, the balloonists decided to descend.  They made a landing in a road in the woods near the village of Wales two and a half hours from the starting time.


     On the afternoon of June 19, 1908, well known aeronauts Charles J. Glidden and Leo Stevens were passing over West Brattleboro, Vermont, in a balloon when they heard two gunshots, the bullets from which struck the balloon. Both men were positive the shots had come from a large white barn on a farm below.  

     Investigation by authorities led to the arrest of two men.  One claimed the other had fired the shots from a rifle thinking the balloon was a toy, after which he took the gun away from his companion.  Both men were held for trial, and one was ultimately convicted.


     The Brattleboro Reformer, “For Shooting At Glidden’s Balloon”, June 26, 1908

     The Brattleboro Reformer, “Aerial Assault Case Up For Today”, July 3, 1908     


     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, VT.), September 13, 1911. 


Williams College Aeronaut Suffers Severely From Exposure.

     H. P. Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society who made a balloon ascension from Aero Park, Pittsfield, yesterday morning at 2 o’clock, landed in Auburn, Maine, 200 miles distant by air line, yesterday morning about 6 o’clock.  He was in an exhausted condition as the result of exposure, and was taken to a hospital in Auburn for treatment.  He was in an unconscious condition when found on the farm of H. B. Estes, but no bones were broken, nor was there any indication that he was otherwise injured.  The flight is the longest ever made from Pittsfield.  The nearest to this record was made by William Van Sleet and Oscar Hutchinson when they landed in Biddeford, Maine, 165 miles air line from Pittsfield.


     The following newspaper article also relates to H. P. Shearman’s balloon flight.  It appeared in the Arizona Republican, September 13, 1911.


College Professor Has trying Experience in Long Flight Across the Old Bay State.

     Auburn, Maine, Sept. 12. – Half benumbed from his flight through the rain and cold, and unable to make the outlet valve or rip cord of his balloon work, President H. P. Shearman of the Williams College Aeronautical Society, climbed through the ropes and with a knife slashed the silken bag, then fell back into the basket unconscious.  The balloon dropped swiftly to the earth and tonight Shearman, resting comfortably in a local hospital, is able to tell of his experience.  He ascended at Pittsfield, Mass., early this morning, and flew to this city (Auburn, ME.), 200 miles, the longest flight ever made by a single aeronaut.  Soon after ascending he ran into heavy rain, which, turning to hail, caused bitter cold.  Feeling the effects of the weather, Shearman several times tried to land, but was unable to deflate the huge bag.  His strength was nearly gone when he resorted to his knife. 


     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner on November 14, 1911. 


Balloon Landed Near Clairmont, N. H. – Rescued By Farmers

     The balloon containing three Williams College students which ascended from Pittsfield Saturday made a landing near Clairmont, N. H., ;ate Saturday afternoon.  The balloon bumped the tops of forest trees where the anchor had caught for some time before the three students were discovered by some farmers of Unity, a small town near Claremont, and rescued from a perilous position.  After some of the smaller trees had been cut away the aeronauts were able to slide down their anchor rope.  The sky voyagers were H. Percy Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society and pilot of the balloon, the Stevens 21, H. R. Corner of Cleveland, O., and J. A. Jones of New York City.  Unity is 77 miles from Pittsfield.




N. Y. To Boston Balloon Airline – 1908

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Sun, (New York, N.Y.), on July 21, 1908.


Company Forming To Carry Freight and Passengers by Dirigibles.

     Boston, July 20. – Whipple, Sears & Ogden, at the request of Charles J. Glidden, are preparing organization papers to incorporate the American Aerial Navigation Company, to be created for the purpose of manufacturing and operating aerial devices and the establishing of aerial routes for the transportation of freight and passengers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

     Mr. Glidden anticipates that within the next eighteen months the new company will be carrying passengers and merchandise by the “air line” between New York and Boston, either by use of the dirigible, balloon, or aeroplane.  He believes that with relay stations near Springfield and New Haven the trip can be made 300 days in the year, the one from Boston to New York during daylight, and from New York to Boston in seven or eight hours.

     The first experiments will be made with small dirigibles with a capacity of one or two passengers in addition to the operator.  Stations will be established close to the street car lines on the outskirts of cities with suitable facilities to house the dirigibles and supply any loss of gas en-route.

     An inexpensive plant to manufacture hydrogen gas will be in operation at each station.  As the dirigibles will travel at an average height of 500 to 800 feet very little loss of gas should take place.

     Pending the establishment of the air lines and to familiarize people with aerial voyages, ascensions will be made from Pittsfield and North Adams in the spherical balloons.

    The people interested I the new company hold options on a large manufacturing plant for aerial apparatus and are in negotiation for the manufacture of dirigibles.  The form of dirigibles to be adopted will depend upon the success of the experiments now being carried on by the Governments of the United States and France.  “Aerial travel,” says Mr. Glidden, “will be, when thoroughly established, the cheapest and safest form of transportation.”


The First Intercollegiate Balloon Race – 1911

The First Intercollegiate Balloon Race – 1911 

     On Saturday, June 3, 1911, a unique balloon race between college aeronautical clubs was held at North Adams, Massachusetts.  Four institutions were represented; Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Williams College.  The race was organized by the Williams College Aeronautical Society and was billed as the “first event of its kind”. 

     Two prizes were to be awarded: one for longest duration in the air, and the other for the longest distance traveled.  

     The University of Pennsylvania team won both prizes with their balloon, Philadelphia II, piloted by A. F. Atherholt, and captained by George A. Richardson.   After a little more than seven hours in the air they landed safely in West Peabody, Massachusetts, a distance of 115 miles from North Adams.   The other teams landed earlier after having travelled lesser distances.  

     According to a small article which appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vermont), on March 15, 1911, (“Students Balloon Race”), the Williams Aeronautical Society challenged the Amherst College Aero Club to a distance contest which was scheduled to take place on May 20, 1911, slightly more than two weeks before the race set for June 3.  It’s unknown of this contest between the two learning institutions took place however, the article ended that Williams College was also planning an intercollegiate race, and that Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Tufts, M.I.T., and Amherst would all be invited to participate, and that the race would “probably” be from North Adams.            

     The following three newspaper accounts contain further information of the intercollegiate race of June 3, 1911.


     The following article appeared in The Topeka State Journal, (Topeka, Kansas), May 20, 1911.


Silver Cups Offered For Distance And Time In Air.

     North Adams, Mass., May 20. – The first intercollegiate balloon race ever held will start from the town on June 3 under the auspices of the Williams Aeronautical Society.  Every eastern college which boasts an aeronautical society has been invited to participate.  Silver cups will be awarded to the balloons covering the longest distance and remaining the longest time in the air.


     The following article appeared in The Calumet News, (Calumet, Michigan), June 2, 1911.


First Event Of Its kind Ever Attempted Starts Tomorrow.

     North Adams, Mass., June 2. – Everything is in readiness for the start from North Adams tomorrow of the first Intercollegiate balloon race in the history of aeronautics.  The race will be under the auspices of the Williams College Aeronautical Society, and every college and university in the east boasting an aeronautical society has been invited to compete.

     Williams, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania have balloons already on the field and it is possible that Harvard may make arrangements to start the race.  All of the balloons are of 35,000 cubic feet capacity.  The balloons will be cut loose within five minutes of each other.  Leo Stevens, the noted New York aeronaut, has accepted an invitation to act as referee and starter.  A silver loving cup will be awarded to the balloon covering the greatest distance, and another cup to the on longest in the air.


     The following National News Association article appeared in The Richmond Palladium And Sun Telegram, (Richmond, VA.), on June 2, 1911.    


Four Institutions Represented In The Event Which Starts Saturday.

     North Adams, Mass., June 2. – Eight intrepid young men, all working with a vim on the aviation field of Williams College were the talk and attraction of North Adams today.  The youths, busy laying out gas-bags and nets of four great aerostats, will start tomorrow in the first intercollegiate balloon race ever held.  Harvard, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, and Williams are the contestants.

     After being dined and made much of by the local college element yesterday and last night, the embryo aeronauts arose at an early hour today and straightaway made their course to the aero field, where they became busy-ness personified.  Although all the young men have made several voyages in the upper regions, they have experienced considerable difficulty in the work laying out the big balloons preparatory to their inflation.  The Williams College Cadets were on guard around the aviation field and assisted the balloonists in their work.      

     Each one of the balloons entered in the race is 35,000 cubic feet capacity.  Dartmouth’s entry, the “Boston” will be piloted by Jay B. Benton.  H. Percy Shearman will guide the destinies of the Williams balloon.  The leader in college aeronautics, George Atwood Richardson, who organized the Intercollegiate Aeronautical Association, will carry the hopes of the University of Pennsylvania.

     None of the balloon crews figure on being aloft more than thirty-six hours, but each balloon has been stocked up with provisions for a three days’ voyage to provide against contingency.

     A massive silver cup has been presented by Clifford Black and Howard Scholle, New York Williams Alumni, for the balloon covering the longest distance.  A second cup will be presented for duration of sustained flight, and another one for the balloon making the next longest distance.

     The college aeronauts are also eligible to the trophies of the New England Aero Club in event that they break any of the New England records of the year.  

     A. Leo Stevens, prominent in aero-planing and ballooning circles will act as referee and as starter of the race.  He will send the balloons off at five minute intervals.

     The president of the Intercollegiate Aeronautical Association, which is giving the race under the auspices of Williams College, is George Atwood Richardson, who will pilot the Pennsylvania balloon.  The association has recently filed papers of incorporation as a membership corporation under the laws of the state of New York.  It represents all the colleges – aero clubs of North America and is officially recognized as the college branch of the national Council of the Aero Club of America. 


     The following year, the Intercollegiate Balloon Race was held in Kansas City, Missouri.  Williams and Dartmouth colleges participated.  

Antonov An-2 at Richmond, R. I. Airport

Antonov An-2 at Richmond, R. I. Airport

Aircraft is awaiting restoration in Rhode Island.

Photos taken on April 18, 2019.

Click on images to enlarge.

Fall River, MA.- September 9, 1943

Fall River, Massachusetts – September 9, 1943

     On the morning of September 9, 1943, a U. S. Navy SNJ-4C Texan trainer aircraft, (Bu. No. 27022), was on a training flight over the Fall River area with a pilot and instructor aboard.  Shortly before 10:00 a.m. the aircraft went into a practice spin from an altitude of 6,000 feet from which it recovered at 5,000 feet.  However, at that time the pilot discovered that the throttle was jammed in the closed position.  Repeated attempts to rectify the problem were unsuccessful, and the pilot selected an open field in which to make an emergency landing.  As the plane descended, the pilot continued to work on the throttle, which suddenly opened, but the engine didn’t respond with increased power.   As the aircraft lowered to 2,000 feet the cockpit suddenly began filling with smoke, and flames appeared from the engine cowling.   The decision was made to bail out, and the pilot rolled the aircraft onto its back.  After the instructor had successfully left the aircraft the plane rolled into a vertical position and the pilot was unsure of he could successfully jump clear of the plane so he remained at the controls and aimed for a small cove at the Fall River shoreline.  There he made a successful emergency landing in shallow water about 30 feet from shore.  The pilot and the instructor were not injured, but the aircraft was a total loss.   

     Source:  U. S. Navy accident report #41-8538, dated September 9, 1943.

New Hampshire State Police Aviation

New Hampshire State Police Aviation Patch


Quonset Point, R. I. – July 12, 1942

Quonset Point, Rhode Island – July 12, 1942


Vought SB2U Vindicator
U.S. Navy Photo

     On July 12, 1942, a Vought SB2U Vindicator, (Bu. No. 0739), was returning to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a practice bombing training flight when it crash-landed due to heavy crosswinds.  The aircraft suffered heavy damage, but the two-man crew was not injured.


     U. S. Navy accident report #43-4422, dated July 12,1942. 

U.S.S. Shenandoah in Rhode Island – 1924

U.S.S. Shenandoah In Rhode Island – 1924


USS Shenandoah moored to the USS Patoka, Narragansett Bay, R.I. – Aug. 8, 1924

     The U.S.S. Shenandoah, (ZR-1), was the first of four giant rigid airships built for the United States Navy to be used for fleet reconnaissance.  The other three airships included the U.S.S. Los Angeles, U.S.S. Akron, and the U.S.S. Macon. 

     When completed in August of 1923, The Shenandoah was 680 feet long, and 78 feet 9 inches wide, and capable of carrying seaplanes.   

     In July of 1924, the U.S.S. Patoka was modified from a fleet oiler to an airship tender with the addition of a 125 foot tall airship-mooring-mast attached to the aft section of the ship.

     On August 8, 1924, the Shenandoah and the Patoka came to Rhode Island to conduct airship-docking-tests in Narragansett Bay.  The Patoka anchored in the bay just off Prudence Island in an area where the effects of the changing tides were the lowest.  The Shenandoah, dubbed the “Queen Of The Air Fleet” by the press, cruised in the vicinity for several hours as thousands lined the shoreline or set out in pleasure boats to watch.

     Finally the Shenandoah glided to the Patoka and three lines were tossed from the nose of the airship to sailors waiting atop the mast.  After the lines were secured, the Shenandoah was slowly drawn nose-first to the mast by a series of winches.   

     The following is an excerpt from the Woonsocket Call (R.I.), newspaper dated August 9, 1924 which describes the docking procedure: “The Shenandoah’s crew, cooperating with the sailors below, nursed the big airship toward its resting place by using the engines in the two forward gondolas intermittently.  At times the Shenandoah’s nose would dip rather sharply.  An even keel would be resumed in a short time as the stern settled.  Water Ballast was discharged on two occasions.

     The giant ship’s nose gradually drew near the morning mast.  A locking devise made it fast.  The Shenandoah, if the protracted calculations of the designers of the rigging do not fail, and the airship withstands the strain, should, when in position at the mast, swing with the ship below.  After the mooring the Patoka steamed with the Shenandoah to a point about midway between the Naval Training Station and the Melville Coaling Station.”       

     The entire operation took about an hour.   

     Once secured to the Patoka, 37 crewmen of the Shenandoah climbed down through the mast to the deck of the Patoka.

     The whole purpose of the test was to see if anchoring an airship at sea was feasible.  The test, the first of its kind ever attempted by the navy, was a success. 

     It was also reported in the Woonsocket Call that the Shenandoah had flown over Rhode Island the previous autumn.   

     The Shenandoah was lost on September 3, 1925 when the ship encountered severe weather while passing over Ohio.  14 of the 43 crewmen aboard were killed.


     Woonsocket Call, “Shenandoah Test At Newport Proves Favorable So Far”, August 9, 1924, page 2


Connecticut Civil Air Patrol

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol – Danielson Airport – April 8, 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Vehicle – Danielson Airport – 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Insignia

Danielson Squadron Insignia – Connecticut Civil Air Patrol – Danielson, CT.

Rhode Island Division Of Aeronautics

Vintage Rhode Island Division of Airports Insignia 


Rocker Patch

Old Rhode Island Div. of Aeronautics metal insignia with leather backing.

Cloth Patch

Rhode Island Airport Police Insignia

Rhode Island Airport Police Insignia

Click on images to enlarge.


Old R.I. Airport Police Badge – 1970s early 1980s

R.I. Airport Police Patch

Worn by R.I. Airport Police officers 1970s early 1980s

R.I. Airport Police 1980s to early 1990s

Worn by the Rhode Island Airport Police in the 1990s. Note "Div. Of Airports". This patch is no longer worn.

Uniform patch worn 1990s

R.I. Airport Corporation Police
First worn early 2000s

First Issued 2023

The Mystery Surrounding Charles Lindbergh’s Letter To Woonsocket, R.I.

The Mystery Surrounding Charles Lindbergh’s

Letter To Woonsocket, Rhode Island


Charles Lindbergh flying over Woonsocket, R.I. – June 1927.
Photo courtesy of The Woonsocket Historical Society.

     The following is a little known story about Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, famous for being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1927.  

     On July 22, 1927, shortly after his historic trans-Atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh landed in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in his Spirit of St. Louis, as part of a nation-wide good-will tour.  From there he traveled to Providence via motorcade escorted by the Rhode Island State Police along a route lined with thousands of adoring fans. 

     In Providence, Lindbergh gave a speech on the steps of City Hall, and was presented with a medal by Mayor Joseph H. Gainer.    

     After Providence, Lindberg’s next stop was Boston, and upon leaving the state, he’d arranged to circle the City of Woonsocket, and drop a personal note of goodwill from his airplane. The specific wording of the message is unknown, but the note was retrieved, placed in a frame, and put on display at Woonsocket’s Harris Institute Library then located in Woonsocket City Hall on Main Street.  There it remained until the night of November 16, 1927, when it was stolen from its frame during a break-in at the library. 

     It was believed that the crime was committed by the same person or persons responsible for other recent burglaries throughout the city.  Chief Inspector Joseph H. Jalbert, Captain John F. Crowley, and Sergeants John T. Whalen and Omer Daigle worked on the case, and in a few days arrested a 17-year-old youth who confessed to the crimes.  The youth led them to the basement of a friends home on Front Street, and showed them a concealed hiding place under the floor of the washroom where he’d hidden the letter and other items from other burglaries that he’d taken. 

     Although the Lindbergh letter was dampened from being in its hiding place, it was in otherwise good condition, and was returned to the Harris Institute Library.  However, in 1974, the library re-located from City Hall to its present location on Clinton Street.  It was during this move, according to one library employee, that the note disappeared, and its present whereabouts is unknown.    

     A possible reason as to why a special message was dropped over Woonsocket, and not any other Rhode Island municipality, might be due to the fact that Governor, Aram J. Pothier, then governor of the state, resided in Woonsocket.


     Woonsocket Call, “Col. Lindbergh Will Fly Over This City”, July 21, 1927, page 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Lindbergh Thanked For Favoring City With Aerial Visit”, July 23, 1927, page 2.  

     Woonsocket Call, “Lindbergh Message Stolen From Frame At Harris Library”, November 17, 1927, page 1.  

     Woonsocket Call, “Youth Is Bound Over To Grand Jury For Series Of Breaks”, November 25, 1927, page 1.




Harvard Boston Aero Meet – 1910

Harvard Boston Aero Meet – 1910

Click on image to enlarge.


Missing Aircraft – July 19, 1984

Missing Aircraft – July 19, 1984

     On July 19, 1984, a single-engine Cessna 172N, (#N4950G), with two men aboard, left Martha’s Vineyard bound for New Jersey and disappeared in-route.  Part of the search and rescue response included six airplanes from the Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol, and three from the Connecticut CAP.   The search was hindered by thunderstorms and low cloud ceilings.  The search was called off after five days, with no trace of the missing aircraft being found.   


     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Search To Resume For Missing Plane”, July 21, 1984, page A-8

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Thunderstorms Halt Search For Missing Plane”, July 22, 1984, page C-6 

     Providence Journal, “CAP Calls OFF Search For N.J. – Bound Plane”, July 26, 1984, page C-3

     Aviation Safety Network, Wikibase #41951

Missing Aircraft – July 12, 1982

Missing Aircraft – July 12, 1982 

     At about 12:30 p.m. on July 12, 1982, a single-engine Grumman American, (N5637L), left Suffolk County Airport on Long Island, New York, bound for Fall River, Massachusetts.  There were two men aboard: the pilot, Stephen A. Weiss, (31), of East Providence, R.I., and a passenger, Raymond Mooney, (30), of Lindenhurst, N.Y.       

     The weather was poor, with low clouds and 400 foot ceilings.  Shortly after take off the pilot made a routine radio call to air traffic controllers, and this was the last transmission received by the aircraft. 

     The aircraft never arrived at Fall River, however, it wasn’t reported as missing until July 14th.  The following day an intensive air-sea search mission was implemented.   At times, foul weather hampered search efforts. 

     The aircraft had enough fuel for four hours of flight.

     An oil slick was spotted off Montauk, Long Island, but there are no reports that it was connected to the missing aircraft.

     One Long Island woman reported hearing a low flying plane on the 12th. 

     The search involved the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, local and state authorities, as well as hundreds of civilian volunteers, but no trace of the missing plane or its occupants was found. 

     The search was called off on July 21st.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Air, Sea Search Fails To Find trace Of Missing R.I. Pilot And Friend”, July 16, 1982, page C-3    

     The Sun, (Westerly, RI), “Light Plane Missing Off Coast, July 16, 1982, page 1

     Providence Journal, “Searchers Scour Sea, Coast For Plane Flown By R.I. Man”, July 17, 1982, page A-5

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “100 Searchers Fail To Find Missing Plane”, July 19, 1982, page A-2

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “FAA Hit For delay In reporting Plane Missing”, July 20, 1982, page A-8

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search For Missing Plane May End Today”, July 21, 1982, page A-8

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search For Missing Plane Ends”, July 22, 1982

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “FAA Workers Face Sanctions For Missing Plane”, August 7, 1982, page A-5



Bridgeport’s 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, 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.  



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.  


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.   



New Airplanes For The U.S. Navy – 1916

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Evening Capital & Maryland Gazette, (Annapolis, Maryland), on January 11, 1916.


     Sky Fleet Will Be More Than Doubled In Next Two Months.

     The United States Navy will receive from Massachusetts in the next two months more aeroplanes than it has in service, nine from the Burgess Company in Marblehead, and six from the Sturtevant Company Works in Hyde park. 

     Three will be big Burgess battle aeroplanes, the fastest and largest contracted for by the Unites States.  These three planes will travel eighty miles an hour and carry two men with seven hours’ fuel supply and an offensive equipment of one machine gun and 150 pounds of ammunition.

     The gross weight of each machine is 3,300 pounds, and it will carry a load of 1,200 pounds.  Six others are Burgess tractor planes, with 100 horse-power motors.  These machines are better climbers that the heavier type and are the standard navy type.  The Burgess Company has just sent forty-eight planes to the British Admiralty.  These machines are turned out at the rate of three a week, which has given the company the opportunity to expand its plant for American business.      

Dr. De Bossuet’s Airship – 1889

Dr. Bossuet’s Airship – 1889

     The following article appeared in The Ohio Democrat, (of Logan, Ohio), November 23, 1889.  It relates to a “Dr. De Bossuet” of Boston who planned to build a steel airship, and was trying to raise $250,000 to build it.  This was a remarkable sum of money for 1889.  No further details about this project or Dr. De Bossuet are known.


A Boston Machine Will Solve The Problem, It Is Claimed

     News comes from Boston that, under the auspices of the Aerial Exhibition Association , a steel air-ship is about to be constructed upon the vacuum principle.  The ship is to be constructed entirely of thin plates of the greatest possible tensile  strength, and thoroughly braced inside by a “new development in science mechanics” to resists the pressure of the atmosphere when a partial vacuum is obtained.  The promoters of the enterprise expect their machine to lift two hundred passengers and fifty tons of mail or other matter, to say nothing of all the machinery and apparatus with electrical power sufficient to give a speed to the ship of at least seventy miles an hour.  During the earlier trips no intermediate or steerage passengers will be taken. The cost is estimated at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and a National subscription is to be opened for the purpose of securing the necessary funds.  Dr. De Bossuet, the inventor, is said to claim that his plans have the approval of “the most eminent scientific and engineering experts in the country.”  There is no doubt that aerial navigation will sooner or later become an accomplished fact, but it is very much open to question whether either the automobile balloon or the vacuum shell will be the successful airship of the future, but rather, so far as we can judge at present, a self-sustaining machine, or a motor driven by electricity, derived from the surface of the earth.  It seems as if inventors never would be convinced of the futility of the dirigible balloon, of which the unfortunate termination of the Campbell venture has just afforded another example.  They are misled by the ease with which the machine can be handled in a dead calm, and will not realize that in a breeze it becomes comparatively powerless – N.Y. Mail and Express   

First Successful Helicopter In America – 1909

First Successful Helicopter In America – 1909    

     The first successful helicopter to be flown in America was invented by New Englander, J. Newton Williams of Derby, Connecticut, and Emile Berliner of Washington, D.C.   The following newspaper article appeared in the Los Angeles Herald on July 1, 1909, page 5.


Heavier-Than-Air Machine Lifts Itself

     Experiments Made In Suburb Of Washington City Prove Air Craft Able To Ascend With Operator 

     Washington, June 30. –  For the first time in America a helicopter, a heavier than air type of flying machine, which depends on aerial screws for its lifting power , has successfully lifted itself with an operator.  A machine built by J. Newton Williams of Derby, Conn., and Emile Berliner of this city, lifted Mr. Williams from the ground on three occasions.  

     The experiment was made a day or two ago at Mr. Berliner’s laboratory near Brentwood, a suburb of this city.  The only other machine that is known to have made a similar performance is that of M. Cornu, a Frenchman.

     Scientists have always had great respect for the helicopter type of flying machine.  The Williams helicopter, with the operator, weighs about 600 pounds and has a lifting surface of only eighty square feet.

     The surface consists of two pairs of propellers revolving horizontally in opposite directions at the end of a vertical shaft. 

     The propellers are eight feet eight inches in diameter.  In the successful experiments the machine was so confined that it could not rise more than ten inches, but it rose to that height.

     In previous experiments the Williams machine had risen without an operator and it moved rapidly along a track in tests.  The forward motion is obtained by the operator shifting his position forward. 

     The revolving motors of thirty-six horse power each are used, but it is intended to use only one motor.

     It is also expected to reduce weight of the complete machine without the operator to 325 pounds.  It now weighs 450 pounds.

     Mr. Berliner has left for Europe, but the work of preparing the new motor will proceed.


First U.S. Navy Airship – 1915

     The following newspaper article appeared in the New York Tribune on April 21, 1915, page 5.



     Lowest is $29,876 and Highest $200,000 for Construction of Dirigibles.

     Washington, April 20. – Four firms to-day competed in the bidding for the construction of the first dirigible airships for the United States navy.  The bids disclosed a wide divergence.  The lowest was $29,876, or $58,552 for two dirigibles, while the highest was $200,000 for a single aircraft.

     The dirigible will be neither impressive or large.  Their principal function will be to furnish training for pilots and to serve as a basis for investigation of the workability of dirigibles in maneuvers.  The Secretary of the Navy’s memorandum issued today said:

     “The Office of Aeronautics considers that the dirigible is to be the kingfisher of the submarine.  The aeroplane, rapidly scouting the seas off our harbors and around our fleet, discovers the enemy’s submarines lying in wait for innocent merchant ships, or attempting to creep up on our fighting ships.”    

     “The dirigible from the shore station or from the dirigible ships of the fleet, thus warned by the aeroplane scouts, proceed to the attack of the submarines, dropping on them heavy bombs fitted with fuses to explode on hitting or after sinking to a certain depth”

     The general specifications required that the dirigibles should be of the non-rigid type, 175 feet long, 50 feet high, and 36 feet wide, with a useful load of about 2,000 pounds.  It is specified that they have a speed of twenty-five miles an hour, and be capable of rising 3,000 feet without disposing of ballast.

     The following bids were received: Stanley Yale Beach, New York – One machine, $29, 876; two machines, $58,552.  American Dirigible Balloon Syndicate, Inc., New York – One machine, $41,000; one machine (larger), $45,000.  The Connecticut Aircraft Company, New Haven – One machine, $45,636.25; two machines, $82,215.12.  The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, – One machine, $200,000.

     The last bid is subject to a reduction which will make the total cost to the government equal to the cost of the machine to the Goodyear Tore and Rubber Company plus 50 per cent.        


    History has shown that the contact was awarded to the Connecticut Aircraft Company.  The first dirigible ordered was designed to carry eight men, four of whom would serve as crew, and the other four as student observers.  The ship would be 175 feet long, 55 feet high, and would have a gas capacity of 110,00 cubic feet.  It could achieve a speed of 25 mph and operate for two hours in the air – longer if fewer men were aboard. 

     Source: New York Tribune, “Airship For Navy Ordered As Trail- Dirigible to Cost $46,000 And Will Be Used To Train Men”, May 15, 1915

Middleborough, MA. – May 27, 1980

Middleborough, Massachusetts – May 27, 1980

     On May 27, 1980, a crop-dusting helicopter with a lone pilot aboard took off from Norwood, Mass. to spray some cranberry bogs.  While in-route, the aircraft developed engine trouble and the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing, but the helicopter came down in some trees in Middleborough and was extensively damaged.  The pilot was not injured, and was able to walk away from the accident.


     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Pilot Walks Away From Copter Crash”, May 28, 1980, page 2 

Atlantic Airport, Charlestown, R.I.

Atlantic Airport, Charlestown, Rhode Island

Click on image to enlarge.

Atlantic Airport, unknown date.
Photo courtesy of Louis McGowan
Johnston, R.I. Historical Society

Stinson Reliant Airplane – 1936

Stinson Reliant Airplane – 1936

Photo taken by Louis C. McGowan at Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick R.I., on February 22, 1936.

Click on image to enlarge.

Stinson Reliant
Hillsgrove Airport
February 22, 1936


Stinson Tri-Motor – 1936

Stinson Tri-Motor Airplane – 1936

     Photo taken by Louis C. McGowan at Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick, R.I., on August 3, 1936.

Click on image to enlarge.

Stinson Tri-Motor
Hillsgrove Airport
August 3, 1936


Fairchild 22 C7F Aircraft – 1936

Fairchild 22 C7F Aircraft – 1936

With Warner 145 engine.

     Photo taken by Louis C. McGowan, August 16, 1936.

Click on image to enlarge.


Fairchild 22 C7F
August 16, 1936


Travel Air 2000 Aircraft – 1937

Travel Air 2000 Aircraft – 1937

Taken by Louis C. McGowan at the former Smithfield, R.I., Airport in 1937.

Travel Air 2000
Smithfield, R.I., Airport


Kittyhawk Airplane – 1935


Kittyhawk Airplane – 1935

Taken by Louis C. McGowan – 1935

Click on Image to enlarge.

Kittyhawk Airplane
Providence Airport
Seekonk, Mass. – 1935
(Providence Airport was in Seekonk.)


Taylor Cub Airplane – 1937

Taylor Cub Airplane – 1937 

Photo credit: Louis C. McGowan

Taken in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1937

Click on image to enlarge.



Fairchild 24C Airplane – 1936

Fairchild 24c Airplane

     Photo taken by Louis C. McGowan, February 22, 1936, at Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

Click on image to enlarge.

Fairchild 24C
Hillsgrove Airport, R.I.
February 22, 1936



Consolidated PT-3A Aircraft

Consolidated PT-3A Aircraft

Photo taken at Hillsgrove Airport, Warwick, R.I.

Click on image to enlarge.

Consolidated PT-3A, Ser. No. 29-121
Damaged at Hillsgrove, R.I.
November 4, 1935

     Student pilot drifted into a ditch upon landing and damaged left wing and tore off left landing gear. Pilot not injured.  

Vought SU-1 Navy Aircraft

Vought SU-1 Navy Aircraft   

Photo taken by Louis C. McGowan at Newport Airport, (Rhode Island), on September 4, 1936.

     According to the lettering on the side of the aircraft, it was based at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Air Station

Click on image to enlarge.

Vought SU-1
Bu. No. 8875

Technical Data:

Manufactured by Chance Vought Corporation, East Hartford, Connecticut. 

Pratt & Whitney R-1690-42 engine, 600 hp. 

36 ft long, wingspan, 27 ft 5.5 inches.

Armed with one fixed forward firing 0-30 in machine gun, two 0-30 guns in rear.



Windham, CT. Airshow Ticket – 1986

Click on image to enlarge.

Quonset Point Crash-Rescue Patch

Quonset Point Crash-Rescue Patch

Mystery Aircraft Pieces Recovered – 1945

Mystery Aircraft Pieces Recovered – 1945

     On July 30, 1945, it was reported in the Cape Cod Standard Times that the fishing boat “Wallace and Roy” had recovered pieces to an unidentified military airplane.  The artifacts included a portion of “what looked like a gun turret”, and an airplane life raft.  The articles were reportedly found about noon the previous day off Martha’s Vineyard, with no specified location given.  

     The raft was in good condition, indicating it hadn’t been in the water for very long, but there was no way to identify the aircraft the items came from.   

     Source: Cape Cod Standard Times, “Boat Brings In Plane Life Raft”, July 30, 1943.

Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Located at Florence Road and Old Wilson Road, Northampton, Mass.  

To learn more about this accident, click here: Northampton, MA. – 1948

Photos taken May 3, 2018.

Click on images to enlarge.

Memorial at the crash site.
Established 1999.

Tortoise And The Air – Aviation Illustration – 1927

Tortoise And The Air.  Illustration from Sept. 10, 1927, depicting the potential fatalities related to future air travel.

Tortoise And The Air. Illustration from Sept. 10, 1927, depicting the potential fatalities related to future air travel.

Aviation Progress – Grim Milestones – 1927

Grim Milestones.  Illustration from Sept. 20, 1927, depicting headstones for those lost on attempted trans-Atlantic flights.

Grim Milestones. Illustration from Sept. 20, 1927, depicting headstones for those lost on attempted trans-Atlantic flights.

Wolf Hill Plane Crash Memorial

Wolf Hill Memorial – Georgiaville, Rhode Island 

     On August 5, 1943, three servicemen were killed when their Lockheed RB-34 aircraft crashed and burned on Wolf Hill in Gerogiaville, R.I.  For more information about this accident, click here: Georgiaville Plane Crash 1943

     Two memorials were constructed to honor the men who lost their lives.  The first was erected in Deerfield Park, in the Greenville section of Smithfield, Rhode Island.  The second was erected at the crash site on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield.   

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash Aug. 5, 1943, Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash Aug. 5, 1943, Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

USS Ranger CV-4 Ashtray

WWII Aircraft Carrier, USS Ranger CV-4, ashtray from the Warrant Officers Mess.  The Ranger visited New England during the war.

WWII Aircraft Carrier, USS Ranger CV-4, ashtray from the Warrant Officers Mess. The Ranger visited New England during the war.

Connecticut Airport Postal Covers

Bridgeport Airport Dedication - 1929

Bridgeport Airport Dedication – 1929

1962 Dedication of Danielson Airport

1962 Dedication of Danielson Airport

Danielson Connecticut Airport

Danielson Connecticut Airport

Trumbull Airport New Terminal Dedication - 1963

Trumbull Airport New Terminal Dedication – 1963

Bernard Field, Hartford Ct. - 1929

Bernard Field, Hartford Ct. – 1929

Wallingford, Connecticut Airport - 1929

Wallingford, Connecticut Airport – 1929

New Haven, Connecticut - 1931

New Haven, Connecticut – 1931

Burlington Vermont Municipal Airport

Click on images to enlarge.

Old Postcard View Of Burlington Airport

Old Postcard View Of Burlington Airport

Vintage Post Card View Of Burlington, Vermont, Municipal Airport

Vintage Post Card View Of Burlington, Vermont, Municipal Airport

Post Card View Of Municipal Airtort, Burlington, Vermont

Post Card View OF Burlington Airport

Post Card View OF Burlington Airport

     Also see Early Burlington Vermont Airport Articles

Professor Hogan And His Lost Airship – 1889

Professor Hogan And His Lost Airship

July 18, 1889      

Updated May 5, 2017

Updated October 21, 2018

Updated January 3, 2022

    Some aeronautical mysteries actually pre-date the airplane.  A case in point involves the disappearance of Professor Edward D. Hogan and the airship, America, in 1889.  

     The America was an 18,000 cubic-foot gas-balloon shaped like a breakfast sausage with a gondola slung underneath.  It was 60 feet long and 42 feet wide, with hinged wings on either side. What made the airship different from traditional balloons of the era was a motor driven eight-foot-long propeller and a read rudder to give the ship steering capabilities.    

     The airship was designed and built by Peter Carmont Campbell, a Jeweler in Brooklyn, New York.  Campbell had contracted with Mr. Hogan to pilot his invention on its inaugural flight, which took place at the Nassau Gas Company yard at Kent Avenue and Clymer Street in Brooklyn.  Hundreds of people had come to witness the event.           

Professor Hogan and his airship – 1889

     On the morning of July 18, 1889, Professor Hogan climbed aboard the airship, and after giving a prearranged signal, the mooring lines were released.  To everyone’s surprise, the balloon shot up one-thousand feet in less than a minute where the wind began to push it in the opposite direction that the professor had intended.  Hogan started the engine hoping to gain control, but as he did, the propeller suddenly broke free and fell to earth, leaving the airship at the mercy of the wind. 

     The America quickly drifted eastward out over Long Island Sound and out of sight.  Being blown out to sea was an aeronaut’s worst nightmare for it almost always meant certain death for airships and balloons didn’t carry lifeboats or provisions.  Why the professor didn’t release some of the gas and make an emergency landing is open to speculation.  Perhaps he was unable to do so. 

    One report which appeared in The Evening Bulletin, (Maysville, Kentucky), on July 19, 1889, indicates a possible explanation.  According to the airship’s inventor, the craft was not built according to his specifications in that the release valve to allow gas to escape from the balloon was placed at the bottom of the passenger car, and not well above the pilot’s head.  The article sated in part, “All experienced aeronauts agree that the neck of the balloon should be at least fifteen feet above the car so that there would be abundant opportunity for the escape of gas without imperiling the life of the man manipulating the air ship.”  Therefore it was theorized that if Hogan had tried to vent gas from the balloon that he may have been overcome and rendered unconscious.  

      At about 5:30 that evening, the America was reportedly sighted by a schooner ten miles off Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  The crew later reported that the balloon was dragging a rope beneath it through the water.  The schooner gave chase, but when it began to get close, the rope suddenly released and the craft abruptly ascended into the air and out distanced the boat.  

     Messages were relayed up and down the northeast coast to be on watch for the disabled airship.  One report sent from Providence, Rhode Island, stated that a balloon believed to the America had passed over the city about 7 p.m., but some in New York discounted this claim. 

     The following day the captain of the pilot boat Caprice reported seeing a balloon dragging its basket along the surface of the ocean at a point about 130 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and gave the coordinates as 39.40 Latitude, 71.40 Longitude.  The captain said his boat gave chase, but lost sight of the craft near sunset when the balloon collapsed.  This report was also viewed with skepticism as the winds had reportedly been blowing in a northeast direction when Hogan was last seen, which should have carried him towards New England.        

     A few months later there was some speculation that Hogan might still be alive and living in seclusion in another country, but neither he nor the America were never seen again.  (See newspaper article below.)

     A footnote to this tragedy involves Professor Hogan’s brother, George, of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  On August 29, 1891, George Hogan was performing on a trapeze suspended beneath a balloon, 1,000 feet in the air over a fairground, when lost his grip and fell to his death.  He was survived by a wife and child.   

Click on newspaper articles to enlarge. 

The Griggs Courier, (N.D.)
July 26, 1889

The Griggs Courier (N.D.)
July 26, 1889

Waterbury Evening Democrat (Ct.)
January 8, 1891

Other Sources:

The Silver State, (UT.), “An Airship Completed, April 19, 1989

The Evening World, (NY), Adrift At Sea, July 18, 1889

New York Times, “Plunged Into The Ocean” July 19, 1889

New York Times, “Aeronaut Hogan’s Fate”, July 20, 1889

(Woonsocket) Evening Reporter, “Aerial Navigation”, July 20, 1889, pg. 4

The Evening Bulletin, (Maysville, KY.) “Hogan’s Lost Airship”, July 19, 1889 

The Evening Bulletin, (Maysville, Kentucky), “George Hogan Loses Hold On A Trapeze Bar And Is dashed To death”, August 31, 1891


Arthur Gould’s Vision Of The Future – 1926


Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine, February – 2013

By Jim Ignasher 

      Airplane illustrationThere was a time when the sound of an airplane motor buzzing overhead automatically caused one to look skyward, and Arthur Gould did just that whenever one passed over his farm on Ridge Road.  Not only would he study the aircraft for signs of needed repairs, but he would listen for indications the engine might be in need of fixing, or perhaps was low on fuel. His hopes rose one afternoon when a small plane circled several times at low altitude as if it might land, but disappointment set in when it veered away.  

     “Well,’ Gould likely thought, ‘Maybe he didn’t need anything today, but now that he knows I’m here, perhaps he’ll be back.”

      Sometimes it takes awhile for an idea to catch on.  At the dawn of the 20th Century, there were some who felt the automobile was nothing more than a passing fad for rich people, but Henry Ford predicted a time when it would become an indispensable means of travel.  When the Wright brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, few saw its practical applications, but the brothers believed a day would come when airplanes would travel sixty-miles per hour!  Where would we be today if not for forward thinkers?   

      Arthur C. Gould of Smithfield was a forward thinker who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit.  Born in 1865, he was a successful farmer, blacksmith, and wood worker; owned a prosperous ice business, and even dabbled in real estate. However, of all his economic ventures, the most innovative was his idea to open a business called “Flyers Haven” in August of 1926.  

     Flyers Haven was an “aircraft repair and service station”; perhaps the first and only business of its kind in New England; or at least in Rhode Island.  Basically, it was a place for passing airplanes to land for fuel or repairs much like a service station for automobiles.  Gould wasn’t trying to establish an airport, just a place for aircraft to make a quick stop if need be. 

     It was a novel idea for the time for the airplane was still relatively new, but Gould envisioned a day when they would dot the skies, and establishments such as his would be a welcome sight for those low on fuel much like a gas station along a highway is for a motorist.

      The 1920s was an exciting decade for aviation development.  Newspapers constantly ran stories of aircraft altitude, speed, and distance records being set and broken. It was also the era of a new breed of pilots known as “Barnstormers”; mostly ex World War I military pilots who found themselves out of work, and missing the action when war ended.  They would travel the countryside giving daring aerial exhibitions and offer rides to those willing to pay.  It was also a time when the first commercial airlines were being developed, and an international race was on to see who would be the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic.   

      Yet just because they flew, didn’t mean that airplanes were any more mechanically reliable than the automobiles of the day.  Although configured differently, both car and aircraft utilized oil-dripping, temperamental engines that required frequent maintenance and adjustments.  Gould knew first-hand about automobiles, for many years earlier he owned what he claimed to be the first car in Smithfield; a one cylinder Knox, produced by the long defunct Knox Automobile Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The Knox engine was dubbed the “porcupine” or “hedgehog” by many mechanics due to the many wires and other projections poking out of it.  While owning the only car in town, Gould discovered that it was difficult for a motorist who found himself stranded to locate things like gasoline and tires.  Recalling his experiences, he considered what it must be like for a modern aviator.   

      Thus an idea was born as Gould realized that airplanes, like cars, needed to re-fuel and be repaired.  An automobile with mechanical trouble could just coast to a stop at the side of the road, but the problem for an aviator in trouble was finding a safe place to land.  In the 1920s, airports, or more accurately, airfields, were few and far between, leaving many pilots to their own devices when it came to emergency landings.  Grassy fields could conceal hidden hazards such as logs, holes, or barbed wire fences, and landing on a tree lined road, or worse, one lined with telephone poles, carried even more risks.  Even if the pilot negotiated a safe landing, there was the formidable task of locating the high octane gas necessary for flight.  What Gould offered the troubled flyer was a full-service safe-haven.   

     Opening such a business required lots of elbow room, and Gould had it on his twenty-seven acre farm located between Douglas Pike and Ridge Road, behind present-day La Perche Elementary School.  The site was relatively flat and open.  It already had had an ice pond that could accommodate seaplane landings, and a barn that contained a blacksmith forge, a machine shop, and a wood-working shop.  All he needed to do was install a tank for aviation fuel.  

     To let passing airplanes know that he was open for business, Gould painted a large sign on the roof of his ice house that read, “Airplanes welcome to my farm, A.C. Gould”.  Although the letters were three feet tall, Gould realized they might be hard to read from high altitudes, so he created even larger signs in his meadow using white lime.  In lettering that was fifteen feet long Gould wrote, “A.C. Gould Farm Landing Field”, and “Aviation Gas”.  He also laid out a four-hundred foot long compass that pointed due north to aid any pilots who were just looking for directions.

    Gould received further advertising when a reporter from the Providence Journal went to his farm to interview him about his new enterprise.  He hadn’t had any customers as of yet, but he remained hopeful as he recalled the small plane which had circled his farm several times at a low altitude before flying off.  It was his hope that the pilot would tell others, who would then mark the location on their Department of Commerce maps.    

     Flyer’s Haven was not an airport, nor was it meant to be.  It was simply a place for a pilot to stop, re-fuel, check the oil, and be on his way.  Gould’s idea was a good one, and unique enough to be written about in the New York Times, but it seems he didn’t make much money from it. Perhaps as a man who looked towards the future, he was just a little too ahead of his time.  He passed away less that three years later on March 12, 1929 at the age of 63.


The Enduring Mystery Of The White Bird


A post card image of the White Bird and it's pilots.

A post card image of the White Bird and it’s pilots.


    mist It’s perhaps New England’s greatest unsolved aviation mystery that investigators and historians have been trying to unravel since 1927.  There are some who believe they may be close to finding the answer, while others maintain the truth will never be known for certain.  Riding on the outcome are the bragging rights of two nations, the Untied States, and France, both of which hope it was their countrymen who were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean – non stop – by air.   

     Briefly stated; on May 8, 1927, Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli attempted to be the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from Paris, France, to New York City.  They left in a plane called the White Bird, and after passing over Ireland they were never heard from again, and the mystery surrounding their disappearance has been a source of debate ever since.  Did they accomplish their mission before Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris on May 20-21?  Some believe they did.  Yet if so, then what happened to the White Bird?     

     The 1920s was a revolutionary decade for aviation, with new speed, altitude, and distance records being set and broken on a regular basis due to ever-developing technology.  Yet despite these milestones, the goal of the most intrepid aviators of the time was to be the first to fly from America to Europe, or vise-versa.  The desire to do so had been in the hearts of many since the first manned balloon flights had taken place in the late 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that aircraft design had reached a point where such a trip was considered theoretically feasible.   

     Besides the chance to make history, potential candidates were lured by the prospect of a standing $25,000 cash prize offered wealthy businessman Raymond B. Orteig to the first person(s) who could fly non-stop from New York to Paris, a distance of about 3,600 miles.  The prize money was a huge sum in those days, but initially, those who set out to collect it died in the process, until Charles Lindbergh accomplished the feat in1927.  

     Each failed attempt brought hope that the next would succeed, and as more candidates announced their plans to fly the Atlantic the competition to be the first grew.  By early May of 1927, Lindbergh was ready to try form New York, and Nungesser and Coli were set to leave from France. Each knew of the others plans, and the race to be first was on.    

     So it was that Nungesser and Coli took off at 4:30 a.m. from Le Bourget Field in Paris despite reports of unsettled weather over New England and Newfoundland which they would pass over on their intended flight route to New York. 

     “You know what this means”, said Nungesser just before take off, “and we both do.  We are taking a risk, I know, but we are taking it willingly and with all our hearts.” 

    Both Nungesser and Coli were experienced airmen, having flown as combat pilots during World War I, with Nungesser shooting down forty-five enemy aircraft.  The airplane they were using was a Levasseur bi-plane which they had painted white and modified with extra fuel tanks for the anticipated journey.  Along the side was painted L’Oiseau Blanc. (The White Bird)

     Evidently some French newsmen were so sure of their countrymen’s success,   that they prematurely reported details of the White Bird’s successful landing in New York Harbor.  Unfortunately it wasn’t true, and within hours the world came to know that the White Bird was missing.

     Ships at sea were notified to keep a lookout for the airmen as one of the largest air-sea search and rescue operations in history was organized.  Military ships and aircraft on both sides of the Atlantic also joined the search. 

     While concern mounted, some hoped that the men had been rescued by a passing ship that didn’t have wireless communication capabilities.  In that scenario, it might be weeks before word of their safety was heard, but history has shown that was not the case.  

      On the afternoon of May 9th a report was received from Sydney, Nova Scotia, that the White Bird had been observed near Cape Race at 10:00 a.m. however this was never corroborated.  

     A later report on the 11th stated the plane had been found in Truro, Nova Scotia, but this turned out to be false.  

    CORB1318The last confirmed sightings of the White Bird came from Ireland as it passed over on its way west.  The plane was reported seen over Dungarvan, in County Waterford, at 10:10 a.m. on the morning of the 8th; over Cappoqin at 10:16 a.m.; Glin, County Limerick, at 10:45; Kilrush, County Clare, at 10:50, and Carrigaholt, County Clair, at 11:00 o’clock.  Carrigaholt is located 630 miles from Paris. The last known person to see the plane was Father M. Madden of Carrigaholt.  

     On the other side of the ocean, three reputable residents of Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, reported hearing what they thought might be the White Bird as it passed through overhead fog.  These reports coincided with the White Bird’s intended flight path.     

     Other citizens of the region also came forward with what they had heard.  William Parsons, living on Ocean Pond, about 25 miles southwest of Harbor Grace, stated he heard an airplane experiencing what sounded like engine trouble pass overhead which may have crashed.  A Newfoundland Constable reported what Parsons had told him, “that it sounded like an explosion of a boiler at first, but it soon became apparent that it was overhead and the repetition of the sound, although not regular as in the case of a well running motor, indicated that it came from an airplane.” 

     Despite those who heard an airplane pass overhead, none could state they had seen it, or verify that it was the White Bird, due to the fog and cloudy weather that had enveloped the region on May 8th and 9th.       

     The White Bird’s anticipated flight plan would have brought the plane over northern Newfoundland near Belle Isle Straits, however, investigators theorized that if the aircraft had drifted southward due to fog it would have passed over Harbor Grace.  Traveling due west it would then cross Trinity Bay , and if it stayed on the same course it would pass over Arnold’s Cove in Placentia Bay, then on to the interior of Newfoundland, which in 1927 was described as “a desolate and rugged region of forests and rocks.” Police officers and woodsmen familiar with the region began a search that was estimated would take weeks for they were looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”.    

     At one point it was proposed to send the U.S. Navy airship Los Angeles to Newfoundland to assist in this search, but the plan was abandoned due to no substantiated reports that the White Bird actually went down in that region.            

     Some theorized that the craft might have made a water landing, and that the crew was safe living off provisions.  On the other hand, Henri Barbadoux, the engineer who designed the White Bird’s engine, offered his opinion that if the plane had made an ocean landing during the first portion of the trip, there would be no way to quickly empty the fuel tanks, and the weight of the gasoline would pull the ship under almost immediately.  If the men managed to escape the sinking plane, they most surely would have succumbed to hypothermia.      

     Hope that the mystery had been solved rose on May 18 when the captain of the steamship Bellepline, en-route from Rotterdam to Boston, reported sighting plane wreckage 100 miles out to sea from Boston.  He said the debris sighted on the 16th consisted of natural colored wood, “20 feet long and five feet wide, with cross and transverse ribs similar to an airplane wing”.  Unfortunately, attempts to bring it aboard were unsuccessful, so the ship moved on.

     The captain of a schooner seemed to support the Bellepline’s claim when he docked at Lynn, Massachusetts, and reported seeing a plane passing overhead in about the same area at an altitude of about 3,000 feet on the Monday the White Bird vanished.            

     Also on May 18th it was reported that a message in a bottle, allegedly written by Captain Nungesser, had been found on the English shore of Port Kerris. The message read in part, “Landed 75 miles lat (sic) off Ireland, engine trouble.  W.H. Nungesser.  Finder please communicate with H. Laurence R.A.F. (Royal Air Force)) secretary, London.”  The note was never authenticated.

     On May 20th another sighting of aircraft wreckage was reported floating in the water of Fort Pond at the end of Montauk Point, Long island, New York.  Coast Guard officials who examined the wing found it to be in very poor condition, and determined it had been in the water for a long time, not just for a week or two.  The canvas covering was shredded, and bore no identifying marks, and it was painted silver, not white.  It was their opinion the wing was not related to the White Bird

     DSC01884On May 26th it was reported that the search was now being conducted “with more vigor” after a report by two men near Placentia Bay, who claimed they had heard the sound of a plane overhead and then a crash on the day the White Bird vanished.  The search continued into June, and the aircraft Jeanne D’Arc, piloted by Major P. Sydney Cotton, was brought to Newfoundland by the Red Cross ship Silvia, to assist.    

     On July 25, 1928, more than a year after the disappearance, a piece of airplane wreckage with silver and bronze colored fabric was found floating in the ocean, with a portion of a wireless receiver attached.  The White Bird didn’t carry a wireless receiver, and the wreckage was determined to be from some other airplane.

     Eventually the world came to accept the fact the White Bird and her crew were gone, but that didn’t deter those intent on solving the mystery.  While some believe the aircraft went down in Newfoundland, others have explored the possibility that it continued as far south as Maine.    

     In 1966, famous New England author and historian Edward Rowe Snow published a book titled “Marine Mysteries and Dramatic Disasters of New England” in which he wrote a chapter about the White Bird.  Snow wrote that in 1947 (exact date unknown) a Maine lobsterman named Robert Mac Vane accidentally snagged a piece of airplane wreckage on one of this trap lines off the southwestern end of Jewel Island.  Snow brought several small pieces of the find to the South Weymouth Naval Air Station for examination where it was determined they were of World War II vintage. 

     Yet the find apparently intrigued Snow, for if it wasn’t the White Bird, then what aircraft was it?   Snow was also a scuba diver, and wrote that he had assisted other divers in recovering additional wreckage off Jewell Island.

     The pieces were put on display somewhere on Cliff Island, Maine, and news of their recovery eventually led a former member of the French resistance forces of WW II to visit the island and offer the opinion that they belonged to the White Bird.  Snow then went to Cliff Island and brought a piece to Quincy, Massachusetts, where it was examined by Major Marc Palabaud of the French air force, and Charles D. Pampelonne, the French consulate of Boston.  Major Palabaud was then allowed to take the piece back to France for further study. 

     Meanwhile, other pieces were sent to the J.H. Taylor Foundry in Quincy for testing.   While the French were extremely optimistic they now had proof that Nungesser and Coli had made it to America, Snow goes into detail relating how the Taylor Foundry spectrographic analysis concluded that the metal was   positively identified as being from an airplane of the World War II period.

     The French government wasn’t convinced, and asked that the area be dragged so that more wreckage could be retrieved, but this was never done.

     Snow’s research uncovered two WW II era aircraft wrecks that might be connected to the recovered wreck pieces. On April 5, 1944, a bi-plane belonging to the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Tuscaloosa, was lost in that area.  The pilot, Ensign K.W. Baker, and his radioman, C.E. Duiguid went to the bottom with their plane.    

Martin B-12A modified for sea duty.  U. S. Air Force Photo

Martin B-12A modified for sea duty. U. S. Air Force Photo

     Snow also heard tales of a plane that went missing from the Brunswick, Maine, Naval Air Station during a snowstorm off Jewell Island.  After diving in the area in water 134 feet deep, he discovered the remains of a B-12 trainer plane from Brunswick, NAS.    

      In 1980, Yankee Magazine published a story by Gunnar Hansen titled, “The Unfinished Flight of the White Bird” in which he described how a man named Anson Berry heard a plane pass overhead and then what he thought was the sound of a crash while fishing on Round Lake, in Maine, (which is not far from the Nova Scotia border) at the time the White Bird disappeared. 

     An interesting piece by Arthur P. Dolan, “Recovery Of White Bird Would Be A Feather In Maine’s Cap”, published in 2008, related how he and a friend discovered aircraft wreckage that might have been the White Bird while on a hunting trip in Maine in 1958.  In it he describes the scene, and the discovery of some bones which at the time they believed to be of an animal.  Years later he tried to locate the spot but was unsuccessful.   

     Others believe the wreck of the White Bird might be farther to the north.  In June of 2013, a New York Times article told of a man named Bernard Decre who had been searching the waters off the island of St. Pierre near Newfoundland for five years utilizing hi-tech sonar equipment to scan the ocean floor.  

     One noteworthy fact mentioned in the article was that Decre had discovered a U.S. Coast Guard telegram at the National Archives in Washington D.C. that is possibly related to the White Bird.  The telegram dated August of 1927, pertained to a bi-plane wing discovered in the water off the coast of Virginia.  A quote from the telegram read: “It is suggested to headquarters that this may be the wreck of the Nungesser Coli airplane.”  Unfortunately, what became of the wing is not known.

     It can be surmised that with the passage of so much time the debate as to whether Nungesser and Coli completed their flight or not will go on and on unless someone comes up with indisputable proof in the form of human remains, or an identifiable part of the White Bird.  Even today there are millions of unexplored square miles of wilderness in Maine and Newfoundland. Perhaps the remains of the White Bird will one day be discovered in one of these remote areas, or perhaps not.  As for now, the search continues, and the mystery endures.  


Woonsocket Call, “No Trace Of Nungesser – Coli Plane Found By Searchers Scouring Ocean And Shore”, May 10, 1927, pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Naval Tugs Leave Boston In Search Of Missing Flyers”, May, 10, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “De Pinedo, Fog – Bound, Blames Air Conditions For Frenchmen’s Plight”, May 10, 1927

Woonsocket Call, “Nungesser Reported Sighted Off Coast of Newfoundland This Morning”, May 9, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Intensive 24-Hour Search Of North Atlantic Ocean Fails To Reveal Trace Of Flyers”, May 11, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Sea And Land Give Back No Answer To Anxious Questions”, May 11, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Nungesser’s Brother Feels Sure He Will Be Found”, May 11, 1927, Pg. 12

Woonsocket Call, “Number Of Persons In Southern Ireland Claim To Have Seen Plane”, May 11, 1927, Pg. 12

Woonsocket Call, “Hope Dwindles In Paris As No Word Of Airmen Comes”, May 12, 1927, Pg. 18

Woonsocket Call, “Ebbing Hope OF Searchers For Missing Flyers Seem To Rest On Newfoundland.” May 12, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Report Of Plane Whirring Through Fog Northwest of St. John’s N.F., Monday Morning Causes Stir.” May 13, 1927

Woonsocket Call, “Intensive Search On Land And Sea Fails To Bring News of Nungesser & Coli”, May 13, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Hope For Safety Of Nungesser-Coli Waning Despite Vague Reports”, May 14, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Member of Newfoundland Constabulary Writes Canadian Authorities That William Parsons Of Ocean Pond Less Than 100 Miles From Bay, Says He Heard Plane.” May 16, 1927

Woonsocket Call, “Continued Search Of Bleak Shores Of Newfoundland Fails To Reveal Any Trace Of Missing Flyers”, May 17, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Report of Plane Wreckage In Sea 100 Miles From Boston Made BY Steamer Captain”, May 18, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Airplane Wing Picked Up In Sea, Off Montauk Point, Long In Water”, May 20, 1927. 

Woonsocket Call, “Search For Missing French Flyers Goes On With More Vigor”, May 26, 1927, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Nungesser-Coli Search Airplane At St. John’s N.F.” June 9, 1927, Pg. 1

The Evening Independent, “Floating Wreckage Found Off Jutland Coast Sent To Paris For Identification As Part of Nungesser-Coli Machine” July 25, 1928.   

New York Times, “Lindbergh Rival’s Wreck Sought In Maine Woods”, February 22, 1987

New York Times, “A Fragment Of History Is Uncovered In Maine”, October, 15, 1987

New York Times, St. Pierre Journal, “Resuming The Search For A Pioneering Plane Off A Remote Island”, By Scott Sayare, June 24, 2013.

Yankee Magazine, “The Unfinished Flight Of The White Bird”, by Gunnar Hansen, June, 1980. 

“Marine Mysteries And Dramatic Disasters Of New England”, By Edward Rowe Snow, Dodd Media & Co. N.Y., C. 1976. (Chapter 10, Nungesser And Coli) 









Chance Relics Reveal A Forgotten Tale

Chance Relics Reveal A Forgotten Tale

By Jim Ignasher

First published in Your Smithfield Magazine, November, 2013    


Sergeant Robert M. Martin of Spragueville, Rhode Island

Sergeant Robert M. Martin of Spragueville, Rhode Island

     In March of 2013, Peter den Tek was hunting for ancient Roman artifacts in a field near Asperen, Holland, when he unearthed two relatively modern .50 caliber shell casings from World War II.  The casings were American, and den Tek, an avid historian, knew they were out of place, for although German troops had occupied the area during the war, no known land battles had occurred in that vicinity.  He therefore surmised they might be relics of an aerial battle, and subsequent research led him to learn that a desperate duel of life and death had in fact occurred decades ago and thousands of feet above that field.  Further investigation revealed a connection to a place den Tek had never heard of – Smithfield, Rhode Island.   

     “Hi Coach, It’s been a long time since I’ve written you and a lot has happened since then.”  Thus began a letter written by Robert M. Martin of Spragueville to his former high school football coach Tom Eccleston Jr. in December of 1942.  World War II was raging, and Martin was serving in the United States Army Air Corps training to be an aerial gunner. 

     “I’m now in my second week of school.” His letter went on, “I finish on Christmas, or at least I’m supposed to.  I never saw such a place because they try to flunk you out instead of pass you.  The captain wants about twenty percent washouts.”

     In Martin’s case, being “flunked” would have relegated him to a ground assignment; a horrible disappointment for a man who yearned to fly.   Those who served in the Air Corps were volunteers, but applicants were expected to be “perfect” both physically and scholastically with no margin for error.     

     In another letter dated February 3, 1943. Martin wrote that he completed gunnery school and was promoted to Staff Sergeant.  He was assigned to the crew of a B-17, a four-engine “heavy bomber” designed to deliver its payload of explosives to the heart of the Third Reich.  Such a plane was ideally suited to a man of Martin’s training for it bristled with up to twelve machine-guns, earning it the name, “Flying Fortress”.   Martin was designated the ship’s “tail-gunner”.

     Martin wrote he was offered the chance to go to Officer’s Candidate School, but turned it down.  “I just as soon stay in the ranks,” he wrote Eccleston, “I’m making so much money right now if not more taking everything into consideration, than a second lieutenant does.”  In addition to his regular pay, he was receiving “flight-pay”, and would get a twenty percent increase once overseas.    

     In a third letter to Eccleston dated May 20, 1943, Martin wrote, “I’m seeing a little bit of this country.  Just last week we took a trip up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and we flew all around where the faces of presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt are carved in the side of a mountain.  We are going to fly over the Grand Canyon if we can, and I guess we will alright.”

     Martin further wrote that he hoped to see Eccleston sometime in June for he expected a brief leave to see friends and family before going overseas.  “It’s been a long time and the old pace sure will look good to me.”  Whether the army granted that promised leave is uncertain, as things can change quickly during wartime.   

     Martin’s crew was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 92nd Bombardment Group, 407th Squadron, and sent to England where they would take part in the allied strategic bombing campaign being waged against Europe.  

     On July 28, 1943, Martin woke before dawn, shaved, ate breakfast, and made his way to briefing for what would be his crew’s first combat mission. It’s possible the men joked back and forth to hide their apprehension of what the day would hold.

     The target that day was a ball-bearing plant in Kassell, Germany.  After dropping their bombs the formation turned for home, but along the way encountered heavy flack and enemy fighter planes.  Martin’s plane suffered damage causing it to fall behind from the protection of the formation.  Then they were on their own; a “straggler”.  Sensing blood, a squadron of five German fighters moved in for the kill. 

      Staff Sergeant Sebastian Stavella of New Jersey, was the ball-turret-gunner, and wrote of his WW II experiences in April of 2005.  He recalled that the fighter planes, “were hitting us from all sides.”

     As bullets tore through the aluminum fuselage, the pilot, 2nd Lt. Harold Porter, gave the order to bail out.  ”I quickly got into position to get out of the ball turret” Stavella wrote, “and as I did, an FW 190 attacked the side of the ship and hit it with a 20 millimeter, (exploding shell.) ripping off the side of the ship and hitting one of our waist gunners, (S/Sgt. Jerre M. Algeo.) killing him.”            

The tail section of Sergeant Martin's downed B-17.            Photograph  provided through Peter den Tek.

The tail section of Sergeant Martin’s downed B-17. Photograph provided through Peter den Tek.

     Another account of the battle was remembered by Kees Vermeer, who was 13 years-old at the time, and saw what happened next from his front yard.  Martin’s B-17 was shot down by enemy fighters, but from Kees perspective it appeared to have been downed by flack. “When the flack hit the bomber, there was no fire; the plane engine just whinned one last time, then the plane spiraled out of control, somersaulted a few times, and broke up into large pieces.  About five parachutes unfolded after the bomber split up, one of which disappeared quickly.”  

      The parachute that “disappeared quickly” was evidently Sgt. Martin’s, whose body was later identified by his crewmate, Tec. Sgt. Stephen Maksin, who noted that Martin’s chute was badly torn.  Martin’s remains were brought to a nearby village and buried, but after the war they were re-interred in Ardennes American Cemetery, Belgium. The rest of Martin’s crew survived, and spent the remainder of the war as POWs.

    Of the five German fighters that attacked Martin’s aircraft, two were shot down.  Although it can never be proven, perhaps S/Sgt. Martin was responsible for downing one of them.  It’s also possible the shell casings found by Peter den Tek might have come from Martin’s gun – at least it’s an intriguing thought to consider.

     After learning the details of that long forgotten air battle, den Tek began planning the creation of a memorial to honor Martin and his crew.  His idea has generated tremendous local interest and he is currently negotiating with Dutch officials over a suitable location for the project. 

     Through old photographs and eye witness accounts, den Tek has located the B-17’s crash site and has recovered pieces of the aircraft.  He believes at least one engine still lies buried in a field, and if it can be recovered, he wants to incorporate it into the memorial.  If soil conditions are right, it could still be in relatively good condition.  He has also learned that one of the plane’s machine guns is on display in a museum, and hopes the serial number will give him a clue as to its position on the B-17.      

Spragueville Honor Roll  Sgt. Martin's name appears at the top.

Spragueville Honor Roll
Sgt. Martin’s name appears at the top.

S/Sgt. Martin has been remembered here in Rhode Island.  His name appears on the Spragueville War Memorial located at the corner of Pleasant View Avenue and Swan Road.  Martin was also remembered in 2007 when three Burrillville High School students, Brian Baily-Gates, Douglas Clark, and Adam Goudreau, researched the circumstances surrounding his death for a history project.  They chose Martin as a subject because he had graduated Burrillville High School in 1940, and had played for the school’s champion football team.  (Smithfield didn’t have a high school then, so residents attended school elsewhere.) 

     The research that Peter den Tek has conducted since his initial discovery has been, to use a metaphor, like peeling an onion, for the air battle that brought down Martin’s B-17 is only a fragment of the overall story.  There is so much more to tell.   For example, there were nine other crewmen on S/Sgt Martin’s aircraft, and his was but one of many lost that day.  Furthermore, Dutch civilians, some from the Asperen area, were used as forced labor by the Nazi’s in the very industrial complex the allies bombed!         

     There is other information that Peter has shared, but for now it will have to wait, for this story is still unfolding. (A follow-up article is anticipated.)  In the meantime, he and I correspond through frequent e-mails as he literally digs deeper to preserve the memory of a crew of World War II airmen.       

     Special thanks to Bill Eccleston of North Providence, and Peter den Tek of Holland, for their help with this article.  (JI)

Massachusetts Airport Postal Covers

Pittsfield Airport - June 6, 1931

Pittsfield Airport – June 6, 1931

Fort Deven's, Mass. - 1941

Fort Deven’s, Mass. – 1941

New Bedford - Fairhaven Airport - 1930

New Bedford – Fairhaven Airport – 1930


Otis Air Field – March 27, 1944

   Otis Air Field – March 27, 1944

Falmouth, Massachusetts    

U.S. Army - Douglas RA-24B, U.S. Air Force Photo

U.S. Army – Douglas RA-24B, U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 27, 1944, Women’s Air Service Pilot, (WASP), Frances F. Grimes, was killed shortly after take-off from Otis Field.  The aircraft was an RA-24B, (42-54552), the army’s version of the U.S. Navy’s SBD Dauntless dive bomber.   Shortly after taking off, the plane developed engine trouble and dove into the ground. 

     Frances Fortune Grimes was born in Deer Park, Maryland and was a graduate of West Virginia University, and the University of Pittsburg.  She entered the service in January 1943 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, and began her flight training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, on January 15, 1943.   She completed her training as part of the class 43-W-3 on July, 3, 1943, and was designated a ferry pilot, assigned to Love Field in Dallas.  From there she served at Camp Davis, North Carolina, before arriving at Otis Field on December 15, 1943.   She was 32-years-old at the time of her death.   

     Three other WASP pilots were also serving at Otis Field at the time: Shirley Ingalls, Mildred A. Toner, and Mary L. Leatherbee, all of whom acted as pallbearers at Miss Grimes funeral held at Camp Edwards. 

     This was the second fatal accident involving the same type of aircraft from Otis Field within three weeks.  On March 3, 1944, another RA-24B (42-54555) crashed near the entrance of Woods Hole Harbor killing the pilot, 2nd Lt. Joseph H. Gardner, 29.  (See posting on this website for more info.)  

     For a photo of Miss Grimes, and other information about WASP pilots, go Wings Across America/ Wasp On The Web/ Above and Beyond.


Falmouth Enterprise, “Woman Pilot Dies In Otis Field Crash” March 31, 1944   

Lawrence Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian

Wings Across America/Wasp On The Web/Above & Beyond –



Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Vehicle

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Vehicle - Danielson Airport - 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Vehicle – Danielson Airport – 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Danielson Airport

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol - Danielson Airport - April 8, 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol – Danielson Airport – April 8, 2015

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Insignia

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Insignia

Connecticut Civil Air Patrol Insignia

Danielson Squadron Insignia – Civil Air Patrol

Danielson Squadron Insignia - Connecticut Civil Air Patrol - Danielson, CT.

Danielson Squadron Insignia – Connecticut Civil Air Patrol – Danielson, CT.

Navy Jets Break Record – 1951

Two R.I. Navy Jets Set New Record – 1951    


U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On January 8, 1951, two U.S. Navy Grumman F9F Panther jets left Jacksonville, Florida, for Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, making the 989 mile trip in one hour and fifty minutes, a new speed record for that trip with that type of aircraft. The previous record had stood at two hours and twenty minutes.

     The pilots, Lieutenant Dixie Mays, 29, of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Lieutenant Percy L. Liles, 30, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, maintained an average speed of 536 mph. 

     The airmen said they had no intention of trying to set a record, but were pushed along by a strong tail wind.  

Source: New York Times, “Navy Jets Break Record”, January 9, 1951



Squantum Naval Air Station Seaplanes – 1949

Squantum NAS Seaplanes - 1949

Squantum NAS Seaplanes – 1949

Leslie Haddock – Aeronaut And Showman


Bellingham, Massachusetts -August 20, 1901


     It was August and it was hot, yet modesty standards of 1901 dictated that men wear jackets and women don ankle length skirts with layers of petticoats underneath.  However, the heat wasn’t enough to deter the large crowds who had come to witness a balloon exhibition given by famous aeronaut, Leslie Haddock, but as the balloon rose into the evening sky, it quickly became apparent that something had gone terribly wrong.     

     Silver Lake is a body of water that lies in the approximate geographical center of the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts.  At the dawn of the 20th century it was known as Hoag Lake, and was a popular tourist destination due to an amusement park located along its shores. The park was owned and operated by the Milford, Attleboro, & Woonsocket Street Railway Company, and it cost a nickel to ride the street car to get there.   Besides a large carousel and other rides, the park boasted a restaurant, a dance hall, a theatre, a beach, outdoor concerts, boat rentals, live animal acts, and the occasional balloon exhibition.    

Early postcard view of Hoag Lake, Bellingham, Massachusetts

Early postcard view of Hoag Lake, Bellingham, Massachusetts

One such exhibition was scheduled for the third week of August of 1901, to be performed by a man named Leslie Haddock, a well known aeronaut in his day and no stranger to hair raising experiences.  He arrived on Monday, August 19th, and began his exhibition by making two ascensions that day, much to the delight of the cheering crowds. 

     The following evening, as crowds of people emptied out of the theatre after a lively performance, they gravitated to an open area where Mr. Haddock was in the process of inflating his balloon.  As the numbers of spectators grew so did their anticipation.  Finally, about 10 o’clock, it was time for lift-off.  Haddock gave a signal, and workmen released the rope that held the balloon earthbound.  The craft soared several hundred feet into the air and drifted towards the lake.  A flare tied to a rope at the bottom of the balloon allowed everyone on the ground to track the its progress. Suddenly the craft began falling at a rapid rate and the crowed let out a collective gasp.  Some pointed skyward, as if by doing so others would see better, while still others stated what seemed obvious.  “He’s in trouble!”, and “Something’s wrong!”

     The balloon continued dropping near the boat house and the crowd began running towards the shore to get a better look. When the craft was twenty feet from the water Haddock leaped over the side and dropped into the lake making a dramatic splash. The balloon, now relieved of its weight of human cargo, suddenly rose upward and drifted away; the glowing flare still indicating its position in the dark sky.   

     Looking out over the lake there was no sign of Haddock.  Had he drowned?  Should someone jump in and try to save him?  A murmur swept through the crowd as this was debated, followed by a sigh of relief when Haddock’s head suddenly bobbed to the surface.  He waded ashore to the thunderous applause of the happy spectators who now had an exciting story to tell when they got home.

     Haddock later explained that the accident was due to a sudden tear in the upper portion of the balloon which had allowed the gas to escape, and supposed the fabric had failed due to age.  He went on to say that he had been worried about the craft’s air-worthiness, and had taken a parachute along as a precaution, but never had the chance to use it.

     Hoag Park remained in operation until 1922, when the property was sold to new owners.  The decline in trolley car use seems to have been a factor.   Unfortunately, the new owners were unable to bring the place back to its former glory, and over time the park simply faded into history.  

     This wouldn’t be the last adventure Mr. Haddock would have in a balloon.  Several years later in July of 1908, he took part in a balloon race in Chicago where his entry, the 87,000 cubic foot Cincinnati, became entangled in electrical wires upon take-off. 


(Woonsocket) Evening Call, “Dropped Into The Lake”, August 24, 1901, Pg. 4

New York Times, “Nine Balloons Off In Race To Coast”, July 5, 1908


U.S. Navy Helldiver – 21702

U.S. Navy Helldiver - Squantum Naval Air Station - BU# 21702

U.S. Navy Helldiver – Squantum Naval Air Station – BU# 21702

Narragansett Beer – Airship – 1910

Narragansett Beer ad - Airship - 1910

Narragansett Beer ad – Airship – 1910

Click on image to enlarge.

Bohemian Beer- Airship -1910

Bohemian Beer Ad - Airship - October, 1910

Bohemian Beer Ad – Airship – October, 1910

Kaman Seasprite Helicopter

Kaman Seasprite helicopter - built by Kaman Aircraft Corp, Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Kaman Seasprite helicopter – built by Kaman Aircraft Corp, Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Forgotten Tales of North Central Airport


By Jim Ignasher

               Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine – March, 2012                 

Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

     North Central Airport opened in 1951, but how many know it was actually re-named Peters-Fournier Airport in 1953?  And who, by the way, were Peters and Fournier?  Theirs is but one of the forgotten tales connected to Smithfield’s state-owned airport which lies tucked away in the northeast corner of town.   

    Just as the invention of the automobile led to the necessity of the parking lot, the airplane created the need for airports.  The earliest “airports” were nothing more than grass fields, but the first airplanes didn’t require much space for take-offs and landings. 

     The advent of World War II led to the rapid advancement of aviation technology, for in just five short years the United States went from propeller driven planes to high-powered jets.  By wars end it was clear that small grassy airfields would no longer be adequate to handle modern post-war aircraft.   This led to the genesis of what later became Smithfield’s North Central Airport.

     Even before the end of the war, there were those in northern Rhode Island who were preparing for peacetime commerce, and those plans included the construction of a modern state-owned airport that could service the Blackstone Valley region.  In March of 1945, members of the Woonsocket and Pawtucket Chambers of Commerce met to discuss the feasibility of such an undertaking.  At that time, northern Rhode Island already had four airports. There was Smithfield Airport, located where Bryant University stands today; Montgomery Field in North Smithfield; What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket; and Woonsocket Airport.  All were considered for possible expansion, and each was rejected for different reasons.

     The proposed airport had to be located within easy access to Providence, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket, with room for future expansion.  A large area of mostly undeveloped land on the Smithfield-Lincoln town line seemed to fit the requirements, and by the summer of 1945 it was officially announced that the site for the present-day airport had been selected.  Understandably, not everyone supported the decision; especially those who stood to have their land taken under eminent domain by the state.  Despite any protests, within a year, 862 acres had been condemned, and the project was set to move forward.  However, due to political infighting, rising cost estimates, and problems with funding, actual clearing of the land didn’t begin until February of 1950.  Construction took another twenty-two months as costs ran higher than original estimates.  An interesting bit of trivia relates to the fact that twelve miles of electrical wire was installed during construction.     

     Dedication ceremonies took place on December 15, 1951.  Part of the celebration included a helicopter owned by New England Helicopter Service that carried 1,700 pieces of mail out of the airport to the Saylesville post office in Lincoln.  The mail contained souvenir cachets that received a special cancellation stamp before being mailed out.  Today, due to their rarity, these cachets are sought after by collectors.

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication  postal cover - December 15, 1951

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication postal cover – December 15, 1951

    North Central Airport gets its name for being in the northern-central portion of the state.  It couldn’t be called Smithfield Airport because that name was already in use.  Many are probably unaware that the airport actually has another name, although it is seldom if ever used.  In 1953, the airport was re-dedicated as the Peters-Fournier Airport in honor of Cranston native Private First Class George J. Peters, U.S. Army, and Connecticut native, Sergeant William G. Fournier, United States Marine Corps, both World War II Medal of Honor recipients.  (Sergeant Fournier was born in Connecticut, but lived a good portion of his life in Rhode Island.)

     Pfc. Peters was part of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment that landed in an open field near Fluren, Germany, on March 25, 1945.  Almost immediately an enemy machine gun opened fire on them killing several men.  The rest found themselves pinned down in the open with no place to hide as the gunner methodically swept the field with bullets.  With disregard for his own safety, Peters single-handedly attacked and silenced the machine gun, but was mortally wounded in the process.  His actions undoubtedly saved the lives of others in his unit.  Besides the airport, a school in Cranston is also named for him.  

     On June 28, 1943, during heavy fighting on Guadalcanal, Sergeant Fournier’s unit was attacked by overwhelming enemy forces and ordered to withdraw.  Fournier and another Marine, Lewis Hall, sacrificed their lives when they ignored the orders and stuck to their machine gun position to cover the retreat of their comrades.  Their gallantry saved the lives of many Marines who later re-grouped and counter attacked, eventually winning the battle. 

     On October 19, 1963, an air show sponsored by the Pawtucket Rotary Club was held at North Central which began with a skywriting greeting to the crowd of approximately 15,000 attendees.  Among the attractions were aerial stuntmen who performed wing-walks, precision flying, and daring transfers from moving vehicles to low flying airplanes.  One daredevil jumped from an altitude of two miles wearing a special suit that allowed him to perform a series of loops and whirls while trailing smoke before opening his parachute at a mere 1,500 feet.       

A view of North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I. - 2007

A view of North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I. – 2007

The airport has an administration building that hasn’t changed much since it was built.  In 1977 it was dedicated as the Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, the name of which can be seen over the main entrance from the parking lot.  Mr. Spooner was a native of Pawtucket, and former publisher of the (Pawtucket) Evening Times who was very influential in helping to make North Central Airport a reality. 

     As with any airport, North Central has seen its share of accidents; the total number of which may never be known for accurate record keeping did not exist before the 1960s.

     The first known accident occurred several months after the airport opened, on July 19, 1952, when a 29-year-old man was fatally injured when his plane crashed just after take-off in a cow pasture one-hundred feet beyond the runway.      

     Some accidents were the result of pilot error, such as the one which occurred in November of 1966, when the pilot forgot to lower his aircraft’s wheels before landing; or the piggy-back landing – midair collision that occurred in September of 1968 when two planes tried to land on the same runway at the same time.

     Other less notable accidents involved collapsed landing gear, aircraft overshooting the runway and crashing into trees, ground collisions, and the occasional “nose-over”.      

     On September 8, 1997, North Central Airport was the scene of one of Rhode Island’s most horrific civil aviation accidents in terms of loss of life, and the worst to ever occur at the airport, or in the town of Smithfield.   On that day, a Cessna 182E carrying a group of skydivers crashed on take-off killing five of the six people aboard.  One of those aboard was a twenty-one year-old Massachusetts woman who was making her first parachute jump.  Her parents and boyfriend had come to support her, one of whom carried a video camera that captured the crash on film.    

      For some unknown reason there seems to be a bit of confusion, at least for some, as to the exact location of the airport.   It’s hard to believe, but some sources have it listed as being in Pawtucket, while others think it’s in Lincoln, probably due to the Lincoln mailing address of 380 Jenckes Hill Road.  Posters advertising events at the airport in recent years have cited both locations.  To be fair, some of the undeveloped acreage is located in Lincoln, but just to set the record straight, the airport proper is definitely in Smithfield.     











A-6 Texan Military Trainer

A-6 Texan Military Trainer

A-6 Texan Military Trainer

Chester M. Spooner Building – North Central Airport

     Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building – North Central Airport

Smithfield, Rhode Island


Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

Chester M. Spooner Memorial Building, North Central State Airport, Smithfield, R.I. (Photo taken 2007)

     Chester M. Spooner was a native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and former publisher of the (Pawtucket) Evening Times, who was very influential in helping to make North Central Airport a reality.

     For more information about North Central Airport, see “Forgotten Tales Of North Central Airport” under Articles on this website.

Forgotten Tales of North Central Airport

“Spirit Of Woonsocket” WWII Bomber Ad

Click on image to enlarge.

Spirit Of Woonsocket WWII Bomber Ad - Woonsocket, Rhode Island

Spirit Of Woonsocket WWII Bomber Ad – Woonsocket, Rhode Island

World War I Era Army Pilot

Unidentified World War I era military pilot.

Unidentified World War I era military pilot.

Uxbridge Bomber Crash Memorial Site

     On May 18, 1944, a B-24 Liberator crashed in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, killing all crewmen aboard.  A memorial now exists on a two-acre parcel of land in the middle of a housing development where the bomber crashed.    For more information click here: Uxbridge Bomber Crash – 1944


Uxbridge Bomber Memorial Site - August, 2012

Uxbridge Bomber Memorial Site – August, 2012

Memorial to those who lost their lives in the Uxbridge Bomber Crash - May 18, 1944.

Memorial to those who lost their lives in the Uxbridge Bomber Crash – May 18, 1944.

North Central Airport (R.I.) postal cover – 1951

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication  postal cover - December 15, 1951

North Central Airport (R.I.) Dedication postal cover – December 15, 1951

Number of New England Aircraft And Pilots – 1930

     Number of New England Aircraft and Pilots – 1930

     On October 19, 1930, The New York Times announced that there were 8,893 licensed airplanes in the United States, and gave a breakdown if the number of aircraft, pilots, and gliders in each state.  For the purposes of this website, only the New England states will be mentioned.  

Connecticut: 126 aircraft, 162 pilots, 6 gliders.

Maine: 30 aircraft, 64 pilots, 1 glider.

Massachusetts: 206 aircraft, 436 pilots, 18 gliders.

New Hampshire: 26 aircraft, 44 pilots, 3 gliders.

Rhode Island: 36 aircraft, 41 pilots, no gliders.

Vermont: 17 aircraft, 26 pilots, no gliders.

Source: New York Times, “8,893 Airplanes Licensed By Nation”, October 19, 1930.

Alexander V. Wilson’s New Aeroplane – 1908

   Alexander V. Wilson’s New Aeroplane- 1908

    On October 17, 1908, it was reported in the The Evening Times that a man named Alexander V. Wilson of Bangor, Maine, had built an “aeroplane” that didn’t need a motor which he had brought to New York City for a demonstration.  He was issued a patent for his invention on Sept. 1, 1908.

     The article stated in part, “So confident is he (Wilson) of success that he is prepared to put in a bid to the government for a naval aeroplane as soon as the official specifications are issued.”   

     It went on to state Wilson had built, “several machines within the last dozen years. He has also flown with them.”  Wilson reportedly conducted his flying experiments on frozen Eagle Lake near Bar Harbor in the winter, and along Maine’s coastline in the summer.

     “Of course,” said Mr. Wilson, “I can only rise in the air and remain there without a motor provided there is sufficient wind.  Therefore it is best to have a small motor to rise when the atmosphere is still, but with any kind of wind the motor may be shut off  and I can fly as easily without it against the wind as with it, and control my machine perfectly”  This would seem to indicate that Wilson’s aircraft did have a motor, but that it could be shut off during flight and the plane could remain airborne.   

     Wilson’s invention was 36 feet long, (Wingspan not stated.) with four flexible wings, two in front, and two aft.   The pilot would bend the wings as need for steering and landing, and controlled their movement with a moving fulcrum.   

Wilson was scheduled to demonstrate his invention at Morris Park race track on November 4th.

 Source: The (Pawtucket, R.I.) Evening Times, “This Airship Does Not Need A Motor”, October 17, 1908, Pg. 11.


Touchette Memorial, Marlborough, Mass.

Click on image to enlarge.


Marlborough, Mass. - Dedicated to the memory of USAF Captain Robert W. Touchette.

Marlborough, Mass. – Dedicated to the memory of USAF Captain Robert W. Touchette.

F.A.A. Airport Police

F.A.A. Airport Police patch/insignia circa 1970s.

F.A.A. Airport Police patch/insignia circa 1970s.

Federal Aviation Administration Police Patch

Federal Aviation Administration Police Patch

First Hydro-Airplane Manufactured In Rhode Island – 1915

     First Hydro Plane Manufactured In Rhode Island

January – 1915

     On January 25, 1915, it was announced in the Providence Journal newspaper that the Providence firm of B. Stephens & Sons at Fields Point had constructed a new type of “hydro-aeroplane” which they would begin initial trials with the following week.   

     A lot rested with the success of this project as representatives of three foreign governments were interested in purchasing these planes. 

     “For the past six months,” the Journal article stated, “the firm has been quietly at work in carrying out the ideas of construction evolved by its senior member, who has long been identified with the boat-building business, and who has recently become interested in science of aviation.” 

     The motor utilized for the project was the “Ashmusen type” produced by the Taft-Pierce Company of Woonsocket, R.I., capable of delivering 105 horsepower.   It was said to be “of the horizontal opposed type”, with an eight-and-a-half foot diameter propeller, that would spin at 900 to 1,000 revolutions per minute. 

     The new hydroplane had a 33-foot wingspan, with the lower wing being shorter than the upper.  The exterior of the boat was finished in African mahogany, and the inside with cedar covered with marine glue and canvas.  Four watertight bulkheads lined the interior, making the boat, “practically unsinkable”.  The hull was “double concaved” to give it less resistance as it moved across the water.  Shelby seamless tubing was used throughout, with cold-rolled steel fittings.  The fuel tanks could hold 80 gallons, giving the craft a flight time of over nine hours. 

   Control of the aircraft was done with a steering wheel likened to that of an automobile.  Foot pedals worked the elevators.    

Source: Providence Journal, “Local Firm Makes Hydro-Aeroplane”, January 25, 1915, Pg. 12


Navigational Beacon and Tower

Aircraft Navigational Beacon and Tower on display at the New England Air Museum

Aircraft Navigational Beacon and Tower on display at the New England Air Museum

South County (R.I.) Balloon Festival – 2014

Balloon At Sunset -  South County Balloon Festival - 2014

Balloon At Sunset – South County Balloon Festival – 2014

Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

By Jim Ignasher


     On June 24, 1910, The Providence Journal reported, “Joe Seymour, in a private test at Narragansett Park last evening, accomplished the first successful aeroplane flight ever made in New England.” Narragansett Park, a.k.a. Narragansett Trotting Park, was a race track that once existed between present-day Park Avenue, that Gansett Avenue, and Spectacle Pond, in Cranston, Rhode Island. Seymour accomplished his feat in a Curtis bi-plane.

     There is some debate as to this actually being the first airplane flight in New England.  There seems to be mounting evidence that Gustave Whitehead flew an airplane in Connecticut in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers.  And a recently discovered (Woonsocket) Evening Call article dated April 23, 1910, described the flight, and subsequent crash, of Greely S. Curtis at Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  While Seymour’s flight may not have been the first in New England, it might have been the first for Rhode Island. 

     Mr. Seymour had arrived at the park earlier in the day in preparation for an exhibition he was to give. However, mechanical difficulties prevented him from flying until it was nearly dark.  Not wanting to disappoint the two-hundred or so spectators who had gathered, he decided to make a test flight once around the park, but never climbing above an altitude of 200 feet. 

     According to the Providence Journal, “He maintained this altitude for about 200 feet and then descended easily, bringing the craft to a stop at almost the exact spot from which it had been started.”

     Seymour may also have been the first to wreck an airplane in Rhode Island. The following morning it was reported, “Joseph Seymour, the aviator, was severely hurt, and his Curtis aeroplane badly wrecked at Narragansett Park late yesterday afternoon, when the machine going 30 miles an hour, crashed into a post hidden in the grass, while Seymour was attempting to alight.”    

     After wrecking, Seymour contacted the Herring Aeroplane Factory in Massachusetts, and ordered two replacement propellers.  Oddly enough, they just happened to have two in stock that would fit his aircraft.  This was good news, for otherwise they would have had to be custom made – out of wood – which would take considerable time. 

     Such early flights were still considered newsworthy for 1910.  On the day Seymour crashed his plane, it was reported that a man named William Hilliard had flown a Burgess bi-plane for a distance of three miles while maintaining an altitude of just seventy-five feet in Newburyport, Massachusetts. 

    From Rhode Island, Mr. Seymour went to Garden City, Long Island, where he took part in another air exhibition in July.  Unfortunately, bad luck followed him there and he crashed again while making an in-flight turn.  The following September, Seymour’s plane was nearly hit in mid-air by another aircraft while flying at yet another exhibition.

Update February 14, 2017

     An article that appeared in the New York Tribune on March 2, 1910 stated that A. M. Herring and W. Starling Burgess, of the Herring-Burgess company, made a successful flight at Marblehead, Massachusetts, the day before.    


Providence Journal, “Aviator Soars In Air In Night Flight Here”, June 24, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Seymour, In Biplane Crashes Into Post.”, June 25, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Rushes Aeroplane Repairs”, June 26, 1910, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Aeroplane Hits Post”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Three-Mile Flight In Five Minutes”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Seymour Machine Wrecked”, July 28, 1910

(Woonsocket) Evening Call, “Airship Damaged”, April 23, 1910, Pg.1

New York Tribune, “New Style Flier – Herring And Burgess Have A Successful Trial At Marblehead”, March 2, 1910

B-24, Dragon And His Tail

B-24 Liberator - Dragon And His Tail -Taken at North Central Airport, Smithfield , R.I.

B-24 Liberator – Dragon And His Tail -Taken at North Central Airport, Smithfield , R.I.

“Jack’s Hack” – New England Air Museum

"Jack's Hack" - B-29 -  New England Air Museum - June, 2005

“Jack’s Hack” – B-29 – New England Air Museum – June, 2005

Smithfield, R.I. Airport – 1932

Click on images to enlarge.

The original hangar at the Smithfield R.I. Airport which opened in 1932. Bryant University now occupies this land.

The original hangar at the Smithfield R.I. Airport which opened in 1932. Bryant University now occupies this land.

Smithfield Airport Hangar – Unknown Date
Courtesy Louis McGowan
Johnston, R.I. Historical Society

A WWII Footnote to History


How a chance meeting affected the outcome of World War II

By Jim Ignasher

The original hangar at the Smithfield R.I. Airport which opened in 1932.  Bryant University now occupies this land.

The original hangar at the Smithfield R.I. Airport which opened in 1932. Bryant University now occupies this land.

Photo courtesy of John Emin Jr.

      Like the ripples caused by a pebble tossed into a still pond, sometimes a minor event can have far reaching effects.  Take for example a boy in Pennsylvania who yearned to be a pilot; or the young man in Rhode Island with a passion for flying who decided to build an airport.  The decision made by each would touch the life of the other, and ultimately play a role in the outcome of the Second World War.

    This story is true, but it’s virtually unknown beyond the borders of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and therefore won’t be found in any history books about the war.  It might never have come to light had it not been for cards and letters saved by John and Marjorie Emin; owners of a farm once located where Bryant University stands today.  

    John was a pilot, and like most pilots, he wanted to own an airplane.  In July of 1931 he purchased a two-seater Curtis Pusher aircraft which he kept at What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket about twelve miles from his farm.  Twelve miles may not seem like much of a distance today, but automobiles and roads in those days made getting from Smithfield to Pawtucket a bit of an effort.  Therefore, John fancied the idea of an airport closer to home.

     The following year while on a visit to Massachusetts, Emin happened upon an airplane hangar for sale and bought it.  It was dismantled and brought to his farm where he reassembled it himself.  When he was finished he painted “Smithfield Airport” across the front in large letters.  After clearing a nearby cornfield for use as a runway, Smithfield had its first airport.  (The Bryant University football stadium now occupies the area were airplanes once landed, and a maintenance building has replaced the original hangar.) 

      In December of 1932, William G. Benn of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, was a 2nd Lieutenant with the103rd Observation Squadron of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Three days before Christmas that year he and his observer, Private John G. Mallon, left Boston for Philadelphia in a Douglas O-38, bi-plane. 

     The weather of course was cold, as is typical for New England in December. Snow flurries were already falling as the plane lifted into an overcast sky, and within an hour the flurries turned to snow.  As winter winds buffeted the plane, ice began forming on the wings causing a loss in airspeed and altitude.  Before long, Benn was struggling to keep his ship in the air.

     The men knew they were in trouble, but finding a place to set down presented a problem, for the plane lacked a radio and they were over unfamiliar countryside.   Checking a Department of Commerce map, Mallon discovered that the nearest airport was already several miles behind them in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  (The Woonsocket Airport no longer exists.) By this time the plane was barely one-hundred feet in the air and in danger of stalling for lack of airspeed.  With no other choice, Benn took a heading for Woonsocket, when suddenly below them appeared a small airport that wasn’t on their map for it had only opened a few weeks earlier.  Thanking God for their deliverance, Benn set the plane down on the snowy field and coasted to a stop. The name on the hangar told him they had landed at the “Smithfield Airport”, but neither of the airmen had any idea where Smithfield was.  

     As Benn and Mallon climbed from their airplane they were met by John Emin who had seen their emergency landing from his farmhouse.  (The farmhouse stood where the dome of Bryant’s “Unistructure” is located today.)  After brief introductions, Benn asked to use a telephone to notify his superiors that he had landed safely and hadn’t crashed in the storm, but John explained that he didn’t have one.  The nearest phone was at a general store about a mile down the road in the village of Stillwater, and John graciously allowed the airmen the use of his car to get to it.         

     In March of 1935, Benn published his recollections of this day in an article he wrote for the Pennsylvania Guardsman, in which he described the store in Stillwater as “the original country store”, with a pot-bellied stove in the center and shelves lined with tobacco, groceries, shoes, clothing, toys, and “notions”.  Benn described how he and Mallon ate bananas while waiting for their call to be put through, and noted the attention they were getting from several card-playing locals who stopped their game long enough to give them a thorough once-over while a dog stood at their feet begging for a handout. 

     When their business was complete, they returned to the airport where John and Marjorie invited them to stay until the weather cleared.  The flyers graciously accepted, but having lived in a large city like Philadelphia, they were surprised to learn that country living meant doing without certain “luxuries” such as indoor plumbing and electric lights.  In his article Benn recalled how they spent an enjoyable evening with their hosts and slept soundly in an antique featherbed.  The following day the weather in Rhode Island had cleared enough where they decided to try for home.

     The young men didn’t forget the kindness shown to them and wrote thank you notes.  These letters and other correspondence have survived, and are still in the possession of the Emin family.    

     In his letter Lieutenant Benn wrote:

    Dear John and Margy: 

     May this note of appreciation find you snugly returned from a very Merry Christmas in New Bedford.

     The trip down to Philadelphia was none too pleasant.  The snow lasted down to New Haven with haze and mist from there into this city.  Landed here at 2 in the afternoon so it did not take very long.  Found that all of this area was closed in with clouds and rain Saturday so am all the more glad that we were honored by your hospitality.

     Would like to have put on a little more show for you but trust that you will believe me when I say that it takes but a small amount of ice formation on a wingfoil to change the flying characteristics of the airplane.  She flew right wing heavy all the way down to Trenton where the warm air into which we were flying, melted most of the ice away.

     Might call to your attention the fact that upon landing, we asked if they had any trouble in finding Smithfield.  The answer was no because they had a late edition of the Department of Commerce map of that area and that it was well marked.  I trust that you will not be swamped with transient pilots who, after hearing of our wonderful experience with you, would like to duplicate.  We both wish to assure you that we had a most enjoyable time and were truthfully reluctant to depart.

     We thank you sincerely and hope that we may have the good fortune to call upon you again.

     With every best wish for the New Year, truly,

                                                             W.G. Benn

                                                            2nd Lt. A.C. (P.N.G.)

      Private Mallon related in part, “I have related the experience to many other people over the holiday and all agree what a delightful couple we must have visited.”

     What followed was a pen-pal relationship between the Emin’s and William Benn that lasted into World War II.

     Benn sent the Emin’s a copy of the Pennsylvania Guardsman magazine containing the story of his unexpected visit, along with a letter describing how his mother liked the informal account he had sent to her, rather than the formal version that appeared in print.  To this Benn wrote: “But after all, I do not pretend to be any sort of writer – to the contrary, just a good pilot, and to that end, my story is going to remain. However, I did so hope that some others would have the pleasure of enjoying our trip with us.  I believe that many of the boys have and therein, the purpose fulfilled.

     Benn had taken courses in archeology hoping for a career in that field of science, but by the late 1930s it seemed apparent that the United States would be drawn into war so he elected to stay in the military.  All the while he kept up his correspondence with the Emin’s through cards and letters.  In March of 1941 Benn wrote that he and his wife Dorothy were the proud parents of a daughter, Bonnie. The following Christmas the United States was at war.  

     The Emin’s mailed Benn a Christmas card that season of 1941, but he waited nearly four months to respond. It’s understandable due to what was going on at the time for all military personnel. 

     In his letter dated April 26, 1942, he wrote in part:

     “Christmas & New Years wasn’t much – constant alert, and probably will not be much for several years to come.  In the meantime, many are the times that I reflect back to Pennsylvania & New England – to places & people like you – to things done and odd experiences, people met and liked.  It is true enjoyment in a busy life.”

   At the time Benn wrote that letter he was assigned to the U.S. 4th Air Force, commanded by General George Kenney, based in San Francisco, California.  Kenney had been in the army since World War I, and was held in high regard for his innovative ideas in the use of aircraft serving in combat roles. In the spring of 1942 he took command of the 5th Air Force which was ordered to Australia to fight the Japanese.  He brought with him fifty hand-picked pilots who had served under him in the 4th Air Force, one of them being William Benn, who was assigned as the General’s aide. 

     Part of the mission of the 5th Air Force was to support allied ground troops and attack Japanese supply ships re-enforcing enemy positions. The initial strategy had been to use high altitude bombers to bomb enemy ships, but bombing from high altitudes allowed targets ample time to scatter and avoid being hit. The obvious answer was to conduct the bombing at lower altitudes, but this carried higher risks for the aircrews, and early in the war the United States didn’t have the airplanes to spare.  

     William Benn, who by this time had been promoted to Major, pondered the problem and came up with the idea to attack the enemy ships from the side rather than from above. In August of 1942, he went to General Kenney with an idea he called “skip bombing”.  Benn proposed using conventional bombs which could be “skipped” across the water like a stone across a pond into the side of a ship. The bombs would be equipped with delayed fuses to give them a few seconds to sink below the hull waterline before exploding, thereby producing maximum damage.   

     The plan of attack was to send in two groups of high-level bombers as a diversion to attract enemy anti-aircraft fire, while a third group would come in low, about 300 feet above the water’s surface, and release their bombs.

     The idea was simple enough in theory, and Kenney was intrigued with its possibilities.  Benn was given command of the 43rd Bombing Group with authorization to develop and perfect the technique. Testing began at Port Moresby, Australia, in September of 1942, where B-25 Mitchell bombers made trial runs at the hulk of an old barge.  (The B-25 was a twin-engine light bomber used by the allies throughout the war.)

B-25 Mitchel bomber USAF Museum photo

B-25 Mitchel bomber
USAF Museum photo

      One obstacle to overcome was the fact that conventional bombsights were designed for dropping bombs from high altitudes, not low-level attack runs.  Benn solved this problem by making cross hairs out of electrical tape on the Plexiglass nose of the aircraft where the bombardier sat, thus using the plane itself to aim the bomb. 

     By the autumn of 1942, Benn’s squadron was ready to try his skip bombing technique in actual combat.  On October 22nd, Benn led a night mission against Japanese ships at Rabual with limited success.  Although some vessels were hit, none were actually sunk.  A second raid was conducted on October 30th with similar results.  

     Even though initial success was limited, Major Benn had proven the idea had merit and set the course for others to follow.  Major Paul Gunn later expanded on Benn’s idea by using modified B-25s equipped with forward firing guns with good results.

     Prior to the implementation of skip bombing, the allied success rate for bombing enemy shipping in the Pacific was less than five percent, but with skip bombing the success rate rose to over seventy percent.  This no doubt changed the course of battles, saved American lives, and helped shorten the war. For his efforts Major Benn was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.   

     Benn’s success attracted the attention of Time Magazine, which featured him in an article about skip bombing that appeared in the January 18, 1943 issue.  The article mentioned that Benn’s skip bombing technique was now the standard mode of attack used by General Kenney’s 5th Air Force.  Unfortunately, Benn never saw the article, for on the day the magazine hit the newsstands, he took off from Jackson’s Drome airstrip on what was to be a routine reconnaissance mission and disappeared.

     The aircraft he was piloting was a B-25 Mitchell bomber with tail number 41-12485.  There were six others aboard the lone aircraft when it vanished; Major Donn Young, Lt. Col. Dan Searcy, Sgt. Wilfred Coyer, Sgt. Herman Elsner, Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, and S/Sgt. Michael Ewas.               

     No distress calls were ever received, and it was surmised that whatever happened had been sudden and quick.  Search planes flew along the missing B-25’s estimated route, but found nothing.  Speculation as to what happened was brief.  There was a war on, and planes and men were lost everyday.     

     Back in Smithfield, John and Marjorie Emin wondered why their friend Bill had stopped writing, and hoped it was because he was too busy. Then the day came when a newspaper clipping arrived in the mail stating that Benn was missing. Naturally they prayed for the best, but they never learned anything more.

     On March 2, 1943, what became known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea began in the Pacific.  The Japanese had sent sixteen warships to reinforce their troops in New Guinea, and the 5th Air Force was charged with stopping them. The battle raged for two days, during which the Allies used Benn’s skip bombing technique against enemy ships.   When it was over the Japanese were the clear losers, and as a result, this was the last time they attempted to use large vessels to reinforce their positions.  Even though he wasn’t there to see it, Major Benn’s skip bombing technique was credited for the American victory.   

     World War II ended in August of 1945, and the troops went home to resume their lives.  Those who had been lost faded into the recesses of history, remembered primarily by those they left behind.  John and Marjorie Emin passed away without ever learning the fate of William Benn. 

     Benn’s aircraft was just one of thousands declared “missing” during the war, however the mystery of what happened to him was solved in 1957 when an Australian survey team happened upon the wreckage of a World War II aircraft in a wooded valley in New Guinea.  The tail numbers matched those of Major Benn’s long lost B-25.  U.S. authorities were notified, and the remains of the servicemen were recovered. 

     Investigators determined that the aircraft had not gone down due to hostile action, but had most likely entered fog when it flew into the valley, and the crew never saw the mountain looming ahead.  Death had been instantaneous. 

     One has to wonder if history would be different if John Emin hadn’t built his airport.  Would Bill Benn have made it to Woonsocket?  If he hadn’t survived, would someone else have developed the skip bombing technique?  The world will never know, but it can be argued that because Bill Benn found safe haven that long ago Christmas many allied troops survived the war and were able to go home to live out the rest of their lives in peace.





RICON Airport Original Building

RICON Airport original Hangar, Coventry, Rhode Island

RICON Airport original Hangar, Coventry, Rhode Island

Click on image to enlarge.

Vintage Piper Cub Airplane

Vintage Piper cub Airplane, RICON Airport, Coventry, R.I.

Vintage Piper Cub Airplane, RICON Airport, Coventry, R.I.

RICON Airport Planes – 2008

Planes at RICON Airport - 2008

Planes at RICON Airport – 2008

RICON Airport – Coventry, R.I.

View of the first hangar at RICON Airport (2008) located in Coventry, R.I.

View of the first hangar at RICON Airport (2008) located in Coventry, R.I.

Rhode Island Airport Corp. Police – early 2000s

R.I. Airport Corp. Police

R.I. Airport Corp. Police

R.I. Airport Police – 1990s

Worn by the Rhode Island Airport Police in the 1990s.  Note "Div. Of Airports". This patch is no longer worn.

Rhode Island Air National Guard Police Insignia

Worn by ANG officers in the 1970s

Old R.I. Air National Guard Police patch from the 1960s -1970s

Rhode Island Air National Guard Police Insignia

Rhode Island Air National Guard Police Insignia

T.F. Green Airport Map – 1970s

T.F. Greene Airport map from the 1970s showing old runways and terminal building.

T.F. Greene Airport map from the 1970s showing old runways and terminal building.

New England Fair Ad. – 1915

New England Fair Ad from Sept. 3, 1915

New England Fair Ad from Sept. 3, 1915

Click on image to enlarge.

Blind Men Are WWII Plane Spotters

Blind Men Are WWII Plane Spotters

Worcester, Mass. – January 22, 1941

     Civilian “plane spotters” were used throughout World War II as part of our nation’s civil defense, and as evidenced by an AP news article, one didn’t need eyes to “see” potential enemy airplane.

     In Worcester, Mass., a small group of blind men volunteered for duty and proved that they could distinguish different types of  aircraft by the sound of their engine(s).    One of the group,  Eino H. Friberg, was quoted as saying, “The individual with eyes sees in one direction only. We blind have to ‘see’ sounds coming from all directions.  We learn to sort out those sounds, to attach meanings to them, to identify them, much as your eyes are trained to sort out red flowers from green leaves.” 

     In the early days of the civilian plane spotter system, the military ran several nationwide tests to see how well the volunteer spotters would do.  It was found that blind “spotters” could hear approaching aircraft and identify them at least a minute before those with sight and normal hearing.  It was also discovered that blind spotters were not encumbered by dark nights, fog, or cloud cover. 

     Friberg explained that when he first hears the sound of a motor, he has to determine if its one motor or two.  He then determines its location, how fast its moving, and in what direction.

     Friberg attempted to teach other spotters with sight to close their eyes and try to hear what they couldn’t yet see.  

     Two other blind men in Friberg’s group were John Cooney, and Raymond Lessard. 


Source: Woonsocket Call, “Blind Men In Plane-Spotting Posts Beat Sharp-Eyed Comrades In Tests”, January 21, 1941, Pg.1 

First “Air Wedding” In Vermont – 1927

First “Air Wedding” In Vermont – 1927

     What was reported to be the “first marriage in an airplane on record in the State of Vermont” occurred on August 25, 1927.  On that day, Miss Violet Sadie Branch of South Royalton, and Mr. Kenneth Dickerman of Randolph took off in an airplane piloted by Paul Schill from the Milton Airdrome.  Also aboard was the Rev. S. Rowe from the Congregational Church in Milton, who began the ceremony once the plane had reached 2,800 feet.  At that time the motor was shut off and the plane allowed to glide as the happy couple exchanged their vows.  The entire event took just eight minutes.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Couple Married In Plane Flying Over Town Of Milton, Vt.”, August 26, 1927, Pg. 2 

Airplane Used To Feed Birds – 1931

Aircraft Used To Feed Birds – Woonsocket, R.I. – 1931

     In February of 1931 it was reported that members of the Woonsocket Sportsman’s Club of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had employed an airplane pilot to fly over nearby woodlands and drop feed for game birds due to food shortages created by extreme winter weather over the previous six weeks.  Although such things had been tried in other states, it was believed this was a first for Rhode Island, and possibly New England.  

     The aircraft flown belonged to Woonsocket Airways Inc., piloted by Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, based at the now defunct Woonsocket Airport.  The plane made two trips during which 400 pounds of feed were dropped. 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Plane Used To Feed Wild Birds In This Section”, February 14, 1931, Pg. 1

R. I. Air National Guard 143d Tactical Airlift Insignia

Rhode Island Air National Guard 143d Tactical Airlift patch

Rhode Island Air National Guard 143d Tactical Airlift patch

Protest of Air Show – 1911

   Click on image to enlarge.

    On December 23, 1911, it was reported in the (Woonsocket) Evening Call newspaper that the Providence (RI) Council of the Knights of Columbus had registered a formal complaint against an aerial exhibition involving a “hydro-aeroplane”, scheduled for Christmas morning at Narragansett Park.  A letter was sent to Mayor Edward M. Sullivan asking that the air show be postponed until later in the day after church masses had been held.  Mayor Sullivan told the press that the flight would likely take place as scheduled. 


Sky Cap Insignia 1970s

Worn by curbside luggage handlers at airports.

Worn by curbside luggage handlers at airports.