Off Block Island – March 13, 1987

Off Block Island – March 13, 1987

     On March 13, 1987, a single engine Cessna P21, (Reg. No. N6434A), with a lone pilot aboard, left Hyannis, Massachusetts, bound for East Hampton, New York, and ultimately to New Bern, North Carolina, but disappeared in-route.  Officials said the aircraft had been flying at 16,000 feet over water between Block Island and Long Island on IFR rules when its radar signal was lost.  A search was instituted but only a piece of the plane’s antenna was recovered.

     At about 3 p.m. on March 19, the fishing boat Heidi & Kristi was dragging its nets for flounder about four miles northeast of Block Island when the fuselage of the missing plane was snagged in its nets and brought to the surface.  The pilot was still inside.


     The Providence Journal, “Boat Hauls Up Plane, Dead Pilot”, March 20, 1987, page A-3.

     Aviation Safety Network  

Block Island Sound – January 12, 1988

Block Island Sound – January 12, 1988

     On January 12, 1988, a Cessna 152 with two men aboard was taking part in a naval test of unarmed torpedoes about three miles south to the entrance of Narragansett Bay when the aircraft suddenly fell from an altitude of 600 feet and crashed into the water.  The pilot was able to escape and was rescued, but the observer, navy Petty Officer First Class James W. Fletcher was trapped inside and went down with the aircraft in 115 feet deep water.   

     The wreckage of the aircraft was later located, and Fletcher’s body was recovered by a navy diver, however the aircraft was not. 

     Petty Officer First Class Fletcher was born in Caldwell, Idaho, and raised in Hines, Oregon.  He enlisted in the navy in 1967 and was a veteran of the Vietnam War.  In 1986 he was involved with the rescue of a helicopter pilot who crashed in Narraganset Bay and cited for his actions.  At the time of his death he was assigned to the Naval Underwater Systems Center.  He’s buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery  in Paris, Arkansas. 


     Providence Journal, “Divers Recover Body Of Navy Man Lost On Jan. 12”, January 23, 1988, page A-8

    Providence Journal, “Navy Won’t try To Raise Downed Airplane Wreck”, February 4, 1988, page C-3


Off Block Island, R. I. – June 7, 1943

Off Block Island, Rhode Island – June 7, 1943


U.S. Navy Wildcat Fighter
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of June 7, 1943, a flight of F4F Wildcat aircraft took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a formation training flight.  The flight headed southward towards Block Island, which is three miles off the coast of Rhode Island.  At about 5 p.m., the flight leader led the formation into the edge of a cloud formation.  As the aircraft entered the clouds, the Wildcat being piloted by Ensign James Wilson Davis was observed by his wingman to suddenly roll over violently and go into a steep dive.  The wingman followed downward, but pulled out of the dive at about 300 feet.  Ensign Davis’s aircraft crashed into the sea and disappeared about a half-mile east of Block Island. 

     The navy serial number of Ensign Davis’s Wildcat was 12208.        

     The members of the flight were assigned to VF-16. 

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report, no. 43-7180, dated June 7, 1943.  

Block Island Sound – August 10, 1948

Block Island Sound – August 10, 1948


TBM-3E Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On August 10, 1948, two navy TBM-3E Avengers left the Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Air Field for an instrument training flight out over Block Island Sound.  On the return leg of the flight, the pilot of one aircraft, (Bu. No. 53145), noted an odor of smoke in the cockpit.  Both aircraft were about fifteen miles east of the airfield at this time.  The smoke condition thickened and grew worse.  The pilot radioed that he was bailing out and did so while the aircraft was still over open water.  The pilot parachuted safely in the water and was rescued a short time later.  The aircraft was lost.  There was nobody else aboard at the time of the incident. 

     The aircraft was assigned to VA-95 .

     Source: U. S. navy accident report dated August 10, 1948. 


Block Island Sound – August 5, 1983

Block Island Sound – August 5, 1983

Updated March 16, 2019

     On the evening of August 5, 1983, a four-seat, Piper Archer PA-28, (N6877J), owned by Yankee Airways, landed at Block Island Airport in Rhode Island, and discharged three passengers. 

     At about 8:30 p.m. the aircraft took off towards Connecticut with a lone 25-year-old female pilot aboard.  A second aircraft owned by Yankee Airways left just afterwards and followed the first aircraft.  

     The destination of both aircraft had been Groton, Connecticut, but while in-route the pilots were informed that heavy fog and low clouds had settled in over the Groton area and both were advised to head for Elizabeth Airport at Fisher’s Island.  (Fisher’s Island is located in Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut.) 

     As the two airplanes were making their way to Fisher’s Island, the first was observed to crash into the water and “cartwheel” before sinking.  A search and rescue operation was instituted, but initially nothing was found, and the search was hampered by increasing fog.  The following day the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Fairweather recovered two wheel assemblies from the aircraft floating in the water.  Later that day the owner of a pleasure boat reported finding aircraft debris about five miles south of Fisher’s Island.    

     On August 8, the body of the missing pilot was recovered about one mile off Block Island.   

     The missing aircraft was found three years later on July 25, 1986, when the wreckage was snagged on a fishing net and hauled to the surface.  The plane was located shortly after dawn off  the northwest coast of Fisher’s Island near Hay Harbor.


     New London Day, “Coast Guard Suspends Search For Missing Pilot”, August 7, 1983, page A-1

     The Sun, (Westerly, R.I.), Search For Pilot Of Downed Plane Halted”, August 7, 1983, page 8

     The Sun, (Westerly, R.I.), “Pilot’s Body Found”, August 9, 1983, page 8.

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Body Of Woman Pilot Recovered From Block Island Sound”, August 9, 1983, page A-7

     The Day, (New London, Ct.), “Plane Wreck Found”, July 25, 1986, page 1.   


Off Block Island – March 8, 1982

Off Block Island – March 8, 1982

     On March 8, 1982, a lone pilot was ferrying a single-seat Cessna T188C, (#N9374J), from Virginia to Gander, Newfoundland.  

     At about 1:15 p.m., the pilot radioed the Federal Aviation Administration’s control center in Nashua, New Hampshire, that he was currently at 9,000 feet over the ocean off the New England coast and was having engine trouble.  He was given a heading and directions to Block Island Airport, but a few minutes later he reported he was donning survival gear and preparing to make an emergency water landing.  He gave his position as about six miles southeast of Block Island.  

     The plane went into the water and broke apart, but the pilot was able to extricate himself and climb atop one of the wings.  There he remained for about a half-hour until the wing sank.  He spent about another 90 minutes in the water before he was rescued by a passing fishing boat.  He was then air-lifted from the boat by a Coast Guard helicopter and transported to Falmouth Hospital on Cape Cod where he was treated and released.         


     The Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Ditches Plane, Saved After 2 Hours”, March 9, 1982, page A-7     

     The Sun, (Westerly, RI), “Pilot Survives Ocean Crash”, March 9, 1982, page 14

Block Island Sound – June 19, 1965

Block Island Sound – June 19, 1965

     On June 19, 1965, a Waterford, Connecticut, man left New London – Waterford Airport in a four-passenger Piper Comanche  bound for Montauk Point, Long Island, New York.   Ten minutes into the trip the aircraft developed engine trouble.  The pilot attempted to radio a distress call on an emergency frequency monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration, rescue facilities, and airport control towers, but nobody acknowledged receiving the call.   When the engine lost all power the pilot was forced to make an emergency water landing about three miles off Fisher’s Island, New York.  The plane remained afloat for several minutes before sinking, during which time the pilot was able to stand on the wing and search for any passing boats but didn’t see any.  After donning two life jackets, he began to swim towards Fisher’s Island.  The water temperature was about 50 degrees, and after the first hour he began to tire. Finally a passing charter boat, Skipjack, happened upon him and he was rescued.  Ironically, the boat’s captain was a former neighbor of the downed airman.       


     New London Day, “Waterford Man Rescued As Plane Sinks In Sea”, June 22, 1965 


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