Westfield, MA. – October 4, 1974

Westfield, Massachusetts – October 4, 1974

     On October 4, 1974, a Massachusetts Air National Guard F-100D fighter jet was landing at Barnes Airport in Westfield when the drogue parachute failed to deploy properly.  (The parachute is designed to help slow and stop the aircraft during landings.)  

     The fighter jet then overshot the runway after touchdown, and continued at approximately 175 mph through 1,000 feet of brush and two fences before reaching the Massachusetts Turnpike, (aka Rt. 90), where it crashed into a passing car killing the lone 22-year-old woman driver.  The jet then flipped over and came to rest upright on the opposite side of the highway.  There was no fire as a result of the crash, and the 26-year-old pilot wasn’t seriously injured.    

     The aircraft was attached to the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.


     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Woman Killed As Airplane Hits Her Car”, October 8, 1974, page 8.

Gardner, MA. – July 29, 1966

Gardner, Massachusetts – July 29, 1966


F-84 Thunderjet – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On July 29, 1966, a Massachusetts Air National Guard F-84 fighter jet left Barnes Air Force Base in Westfield, Massachusetts, for a routine training flight.  The pilot was Captain Daniel Palucca, assigned to the 104th Tactical Fighter Group based at Barnes.  Shortly before noon, while flying over the town of Gardner, the aircraft began experiencing mechanical difficulties to the extent that maintaining control became impossible.  Captain Palucca aimed the aircraft away from the densely populated area of town and ejected. 

     The F-84 crashed into a wooded area where Jackson Hill Road and Kendall Street meet.  It broke into numerous pieces and burned. Captain Palucca landed safely several yards off Route 2A near the Skorko junkyard not far from the Westminster town line with only minor injuries.    


    The Gardner News, (Gardner, Mass.), “Plane Crashes, Explodes On Jackson Hill Rd. – Pilot Parachutes To Safety Shortly Before Impact, Avoids Homes In Area”, July 29, 1966  

Granby, MA. – February 1, 1965

Granby, Massachusetts – February 1, 1965


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 1, 1965, a flight of three Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets left Tampa, Florida, to return to Barnes Airport  in Westfield, Massachusetts, after completing aerial gunnery training.  As the aircraft entered the New England area they encountered a snowstorm and were diverted to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts.  There, the three planes circled the Westover Field area for about fifteen minutes, according to a husband and wife who lived Granby, Massachusetts, a town to the northeast of Chicopee.  As they watched the planes, one was seen to crash and explode in a gravel pit located in a wooded area, about 1,000 feet from the nearest home.  The witnesses said it was still snowing heavily at the time of the accident.  

     The downed aircraft, (Ser. No. 0-22019), had been piloted by Major James Romanowicz, age 45, of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.   

     Major Romanowicz was a veteran aviator, having served as an army pilot during World War II with the 10th Tactical Fighter Group.  He’d been serving with the Massachusetts Air National Guard since 1948, and had been rated a command pilot since 1959.   He’s buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol, Massachusetts.  He left behind a wife and six children.

     The other two aircraft landed safely.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed By Jet Crash In Mass. Town”, Date unknown.

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #89990193

     Springfield Union, “Athol Pilot Loses Life In F-86 Crash In Granby”, February 2, 1965

Atlantic Ocean – August 16, 1963

Atlantic Ocean – August 16, 1963


F-86 Sabre - U.S. Air Force Photo

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 16, 1963, four Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets were engaged in target practice about 60 miles southeast of Nantucket, taking turns making live firing runs at a 30 by 6 foot canvas target being towed behind a fifth aircraft.  The aircraft were all part of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group. 

     At one point a section of the target was shot away, and it struck the wing of an F-86 piloted by Captain Hugh Lavallee, 29, of Springfield, Massachusetts.  Lavalle’s aircraft suddenly became uncontrollable, and he was forced to eject while at 20,000 feet over the water.  

     After his parachute deployed, he dropped safely to the water, landing about 3/4 of a mile away from the Russian fishing trawler, Johannes Ware.  Captain Lavallee was rescued by the trawler, and once aboard was treated well, handed dry clothing, and given medical attention.  A Coast Guard helicopter from Falmouth, Massachusetts, arrived awhile later and brought Capt. Lavallee to Otis Air Force Base.        

     Keeping in mind that this incident occurred while the Soviet Union and the United States were involved in what was known as “The Cold War”, the incident received a lot of positive press, and was even featured in the September 13, 1963 edition of Life Magazine.

     Unfortunately, Captain Lavalle was killed a few weeks later on November 16, 1963, while flying another F-86 over the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.  On that date, he and another F-86 pilot were on a navigational training flight, and Capt. Lavallee was last seen entering a cloud bank before all contact with him was lost.  The wreckage of his aircraft was found two days later, in a rural area about eight miles from the town of Stony Creek.     


     (Toledo, Ohio) The Blade, Soviet Seamen Save U.S. Flier”, August 16, 1963

     The Blade, “Russian Rescuers Kind, Hospitable, Flier Says”, August 17, 1963

     Wilmington Morning Star, “Survivor Of Crash At Sea Killed In Second Wreck”, November 18, 1963


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