Bethany, CT. – June 17, 1939

Bethany, Connecticut – June 17, 1939

     On the afternoon of Friday, June 16, 1939, two male youths, one 13, and the other 14, went to the Bethany Airport to watch planes take off and land.  According to a worker who remembered them, they reportedly stayed until later in the night before leaving. 

      Shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 17, 1939, they returned with the intent of “joy riding” in some airplanes.  The airport was closed at this time, so they broke into a hangar through a window, and opened large doors from the inside.  They then wheeled one of the airplanes outside and broke open a gasoline tank and fueled the plane. 

     The 14-year-old sat in the pilot’s seat and started the engine and taxied in a westerly direction until he struck a wooden marker damaging the plane. 

     The boys then pulled a second plane from the hangar and repeated the process.  This time the plane crashed into a fence along a roadway at the edge of the field.  Neither youth was injured, but decided that the noise they’d created might have attracted someone’s attention, so they fled the area taking with them leather jackets flying helmets, and aviator sun glasses, as well as handgun and some cash they found in a drawer.  The spent the rest of the night hiding out in a wooded area.      

     The following day the 13-year-old youth surrendered to police and related what had taken place. The other youth, who was known to have a criminal record, remained at large until captured on June 22.  Both were sentenced to serve time at the Connecticut State School.  


     Waterbury Democrat, “Search Still On Fir Air-Minded Youth”, June 19, 1939, pg. 5.

     Waterbury Democrat, ‘Naugatuck Boy Still Missing”, June 20, 1939.

     Waterbury Democrat, “Naugatuck Boy Caught In Woods”, June 22, 1939.

     Waterbury Democrat, “Youths, 13 and 14, Go To State School”, June 23, 1939

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.


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