Boston, MA. – August 24, 1990

Boston, Massachusetts – August 24, 1990

     Shorty before 6:30 a.m. on the morning of August 24, 1990, a Piper Cheyenne turboprop aircraft with three people aboard was making its way towards Boston’s Logan Airport from Cape Cod when the pilot reported that the engine had suddenly lost all power.  The aircraft crashed in a driveway between two houses on Lorna Road in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood killing all aboard.  The resulting explosion set both homes on fire.  One was vacant, the other occupied, but the residents escaped without injury.

     Source: Providence Journal, “3 Killed As Plane Crashes In Boston Neighborhood”, August 24, 1990, page B-5.  


Boston Airport – April 21, 1925

Boston Airport – April 21, 1925

     On April 21, 1925, what was described as “a large plane, planned for use for commuting between this city and Martha’s Vineyard…” left Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard bound for Boston.  The pilot was identified as Lieutenant A. L. Edson, M.N.G.  While at Boston the plane experienced engine trouble and crashed in the mud flats near the airport.  The aircraft was wrecked, but the pilot suffered relatively minor injuries. 

     The exact type of aircraft is not given, but it was reported to have an OX5 motor.

     Flight Surgeon, Captain Lyle C. White administered first aid.


     Unknown Newspaper, “Flew Boston To Edgartown”, April 24, 1925    

      Unknown Newspaper, “The Wrecked Aeroplane”, May 1, 1925    

Samuel A King’s Balloon “Colossus” – 1872

Samuel A. King’s Balloon “Colossus” – 1872

Updated November 27, 2002

Advertisement from August, 1878      In January of 1872, famous aeronaut and balloonist Samuel A. King, (1828 – 1914), of Boston, began constructing what would be, when completed, “the largest balloon ever made in America”.  The name of the balloon was to be “Colossus”.

     The balloon, it was reported, would have a circumference of 191 feet, with a capacity to hold 100,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas.  It would require 1,200 yards of Lyman cloth to make, which would be custom manufactured for this specific purpose.  To give the balloon added strength, twenty-four bands of four-thickness cloth would encircle the sphere.  The entire balloon would be coated with an oil based varnish to make it air tight in order to prevent the massive amount of gas from wicking out through the fabric.

     The pilot and passengers would be carried in two custom made cars suspended beneath the balloon, with one car situated above the other.  The upper car would be smaller than the lower one.  The top car would carry scientific instruments and passengers, while the lower one more passengers and ballast.  The entire balloon, empty, would reportedly weigh between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds, and when fully inflated would have a lifting capacity of 7,000 pounds, which could equate to fifteen or twenty passengers. 

     It was expected that the Colossus would be completed in time for its scheduled inaugural launch from the Boston Common as part of the city’s 1872 Fourth of July celebration.   Construction would take place at Mr. King’s residence and workshop located at 179 Chelsea Street in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  

     On June 6, 1872, as the balloon was nearing completion, it was seriously damaged by fire.  Portions of the balloon fabric had been spread out on a vacant lot between Chelsea and Watts Streets where it had received the first of four coats of the oil-varnish.  As the fabric was left to dry, a storm approached, so workmen carefully rolled it up to prevent moisture damage.  At some point after the storm had passed, the fabric was unrolled, at which time sections were found to be on fire due to spontaneous combustion caused by solvents in the oil-varnish. 

     Professor King was away in Philadelphia at the time making arrangements for the completion of one of the passenger carrying baskets, and was notified of the setback by telegraph.  

     Fortunately the balloon was salvaged, and repairs completed in time for it’s anticipated ascension from the Boston Common on July 4th.   On that day thousands came to watch the event.  This was to be Professor King’s 164th balloon ascension, and he was going to take twelve passengers with him on this historic flight.  “In my judgement,” King told a reporter, “although you can’t depend much on the weather, we will find ourselves about ten o’clock to-night somewhere up in the mountains of New Hampshire.”  His comment about the unpredictability of the weather would prove to be prophetic.  

     Most of the twelve passengers were newspaper men, but at least one was a scientist from Washington, D.C., who planned to record atmospheric conditions with scientific equipment.   While the balloon was being inflated on the Common, at least four citizens approached King with cash offers if he’d take them along on the flight, but all were refused.    

     The scheduled time for lift-off was 4 p.m.  Shortly after 2 p.m., as the balloon was about 80% inflated with Hydrogen gas, a violent storm suddenly appeared, and when the sky opened up spectators were sent running for cover in all directions.  The strong winds whipped at the balloon which swayed back and forth tugging at its moorings.  Whether it was struck by lightning or not is uncertain, but suddenly there was a loud boom as the Colossus abruptly exploded.  The fabric was in shreds and the massive giant immediately fell flat on the ground.  One newspaper described the scene afterwards as such: (The balloon) “…lay inanimate on the earth a dirty mass of cotton shreds, dragged and slimy in the rain and mud.”

      Fortunately there were no reported injuries due to the explosion.

     Fore more information about Prof. Samuel King click here. 


     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, VA.) “A Colossal Balloon”, (Copied from the Boston Advertiser, May 23, 1872.     

     The Tiffin Tribune, (Tiffin, Ohio), “The Largest Balloon In The World Ruined By Spontaneous Combustion”, (Copied from the Boston Advertiser), June 20, 1872.

     The New York Herald, “Boston’s Big Gas Bags – Serious Catastrophes To Science In Boston”, July 5, 1872



Boston, MA – July 4, 1879

Boston, Massachusetts – July 4, 1879


     On July 4, 1879, Aeronaut George A. Rogers and four companions, Baldwin, Kater, Bradley, and Donahue, made a balloon ascension from the Boston Common.  The balloon then drifted eastward, passing over Faneuil Hall, then over part of Boston Harbor, and then over East Boston, Winthrop, and towards the open sea.  Not wanting to be pushed out to sea, a drag rope and grappling hook were thrown out.  Unfortunately, the grappling hook broke as soon as it hit the ground, and there was nobody in the vicinity to grab the drag rope. 

     Before long the men found themselves out over the open water, and as they were passing Deer Island they encountered a “pop-up” thunder shower.  The heavy rains pelted the balloon and caused it to abruptly drop towards the water. 

     Off in the distance crewmen aboard the steamer, Samuel L. Little, and the tug boat, Camilla, saw the plight of the aeronauts and each gave chase.  Meanwhile, the sloop-yacht, Magic, was heading inbound returning to Boston, and its crew saw the balloon being blown seaward in their general direction.  The Magic’s commander, Captain, Edward C. Neal, set an interception course and within a few minutes was able to throw a line to the balloon which was now very low to the water and six miles at sea.  The line was secured, and Captain Neal ordered a small boat into the water to be rowed directly under the balloon.   

     As this was being done, strong winds were buffeting the balloon, causing it to twist and sway while tugging on the rope.  Professor Rogers climbed into the hoop of the balloon to direct rescue operations and open the release valve, while Bradley climbed into the netting ready to grab any other lines that might be tossed.  Meanwhile, Kater and Donahue were pulling sandbags of ballast from the bottom of the gondola and throwing them into the sea.   Then without warning,  Baldwin was suddenly pitched from the basket, but managed to grab hold of the outside and hang on.  Then the rope leading to the Magic suddenly snapped and the jerk of the balloon that followed caused Baldwin to lose his grip and fall into the water.

     Fortunately by this time the Samuel L. Little had arrived on scene and managed to secure the balloon’s drag rope, thus preventing it from being blown away, however, as the drag rope became taunt it pulled Bradley from the netting and sent him falling.  As luck would have it he landed squarely in the small boat that had been launched from the Magic.  Although badly bruised, Bradley was able to assist in rescuing Baldwin from the water.  Fortunately he was quickly rescued.

     Now that the balloon had been relieved of the weight of two occupants, it suddenly shot upwards as far as the drag rope secured to the Samuel L. Little would allow.  As the balloon bobbed a few hundred feet in the air, Rogers managed to open the emergency valve and release some of the gas to escape from the balloon.  As the balloon dropped back towards the water, Rogers and the others were taken aboard the Samuel L. Little.   

     The balloon was also salvaged from the water and brought aboard the steamer.

     As a point of fact, this had been Professor Rogers 38th ascension.   


     The Cincinnati Daily Star, (Ohio), “Aeronautic Adventures – Mishaps That Befell Some Balloonists Yesterday”, July 5, 1879

     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.) “Boston Ballooning – Peril Of A Fourth-Of-July Party Of Aerial Travelers”, July 10, 1879


Off Revere Beach, MA – June 6, 1907

Off Revere Beach, Massachusetts – June 6, 1907  

     The following article appeared in The Sun, a now defunct New York newspaper, on June 7, 1907.  It tells of a flight over Boston made by famous aeronaut Lincoln Beachey that ended with his unintentional landing in the water one mile off shore from Revere Beach.  Beachey’s “flying machine” was constructed with a motor and a balloon, and was not an airplane.   


     Aeronaut Beachey Finally Is Fished Out Of The Water Off Revere Beach

     Boston, June 6, – After an exciting trip over greater Boston, Lincoln Beachey of San Francisco dropped with is flying machine into the water between Nahant and revere Beach late this afternoon and was rescued by four boats which had been chasing his disabled air craft for half an hour.

     He made his flight from an amusement place at Revere Beach to Boston Common and back, as he had promised, but many times on the way he was in danger.  Twice his motor broke down; once shortly after he had crossed the Mystic River, and again after he had got back into midair after a descent at Winthrop for temporary repairs.

     The second time he was carried several miles in the direction of Boston Light.  Then he got temporary control of the machine again and sailed over Nahant, and finally, a mile off Revere Beach, he dropped into the water.  The boats which had started after him when he was seen wabbling in the air above Winthrop soon reached him and fifteen minutes later had him and his airship on shore.

     On the way to the Commons he circled his airship twice around the State dome and dropped a message for Gov. Guild.  The Governor and most of the legislators crowded the balconies and sidewalks about the State House as the airship sailed over them.  There were 50,000 persons on the Common when the airship descended near the Soldiers Monument.        

Boston, MA – May 23, 1896

Boston, Massachusetts – May 23, 1896

     At 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, 1896, a balloon ascension was scheduled to take place at the Congress Street ball fields in Boston.  The man advertised to fly the balloon was an aeronaut identified only as “Strickland”. 

    At the appointed time the balloon was to rise to an altitude of 5,000 feet where Strickland was to perform daring feats on a trapeze suspended beneath the balloon, and then drop using a parachute and land back on the ball fields.   Unfortunately as the balloon was being filled with hot air it was accidentally set on fire and quickly eaten by the flames. 

     The crowd, of course, demanded a refund of their ticket money, which likely would have been done, however, some chose not to wait and started a riot.  During the melee a dozen people were injured and Strickland himself, it was reported, “would have been killed but for the resistance of a squad of policemen.”       

     Source: Vermont Phoenix, “Massachusetts Notes – Balloon Ascended In Smoke”, May 29, 1896

A Most Unusual Air Battle Over Boston – 1936

Originally published in The Smithfield Times magazine, August, 2015.

 A Most Unusual Air Battle Over Boston

 By Jim Ignasher

       “Lady, please,” the policeman begged, “all I want is your name and address for my report. Then I promise I’ll leave you alone.”

     “Just give me a gun!” Was all she would say. “Just give me a gun!”

     The patrolman was growing weary of the young woman’s refusal to answer his questions, but showed patience by reminding himself that she was obviously ill. One reason he loved his job was because of the unending variety of situations he encountered, and this one was certainly different. Looking at the woman, he wondered why someone so pretty would do what she did. There had to be more to the story, but whatever it was, she wasn’t telling.

     The date was May 22, 1936. The setting was the Boston Airport. (Today known as Logan Airport.) Earlier in the day the woman had arrived at the hangar belonging to Intercity Airlines and asked to take a one hour observation flight over the city. She had taken several such flights in the past and always with the same handsome young pilot whom she requested again. However, that pilot, she was told, was unavailable that day, and was asked by the operations officer if she would consider flying with someone else. After some hesitation she agreed, and the job fell to Charles W. Sutherland.  

     Almost from the start something about the woman made Sutherland uncomfortable, but he couldn’t say exactly what that “something” was. She was attractive and well dressed, wearing a white linen skirt under a finely tailored blue coat. Her hair and makeup were perfect. Maybe that was it; she looked more like she was ready for an important date than someone who wanted to go flying.

     They climbed into an open-cockpit bi-plane, of the type commonly seen in old World War I movies. The seats were in tandem. While Sutherland took the front seat where the pilot’s controls were located, the woman sat in the rear. There was a rearview mirror, similar to those in an automobile, mounted above the front cockpit which allowed Sutherland to periodically glance back at his passenger as he went though the pre-flight safety check. Although Sutherland’s gut told him something wasn’t right, the woman’s demeanor seemed normal.

     Flying in such open aircraft generally required a leather helmet and goggles. The helmet kept the wind from pulling at ones hair and offered minimal protection in an accident, while the goggles protected ones eyes from wind and grit. The woman seemed reluctant to don the headgear, and Sutherland wondered if it was because of her stylish hair-do, but finally and carefully, she put it on.

     Seeing that the woman was settled in, Sutherland started the engine and taxied out to the runway. The weather was clear and seasonable and he hoped the flight would be nothing more than routine. The takeoff and rise to altitude went smoothly, and in a few minutes he leveled the plane at 10,000 feet and began a long lazy circle over Boston Harbor that would take them around the city and back to the airport.

     Things appeared to be going well, and the pilot began to wonder if his fears had been unfounded. Periodically glancing in the rearview mirror, he saw that the lady seemed to be enjoying the flight, but then she suddenly unfastened her seatbelt and begin shifting around in her seat. At one point she leaned way out of the cockpit to peer over the side. Sutherland turned to ask if she was alright and she nodded, but didn’t smile. To him, it appeared as if she was trying to make up her mind about something – was she going to jump? Sutherland couldn’t take the chance. He put the plane into a steep dive with the intent of returning to the airport, but as the plane descended the woman’s behavior became more erratic.

     At 1,500 feet she suddenly pulled off her helmet and goggles and tossed them overboard, letting her thick brown hair billow in the slipstream. Then she tried to climb out of the airplane! As she put one leg over the side Sutherland knew he had to act quickly. Unfastening his own safety belt, he stood up, reached back, and grabbed her by the only thing her could – her hair.   He then used his brawn to pull her back into her seat, but by this point she was intent on finishing what she’d come to do. She fought back, hitting, scratching, swearing, and biting, but Sutherland held tight.

     There he was, standing up in the airplane roughly 2,000 feet over the city, with one hand on the control stick and the other gripping the woman’s hair, struggling to keep the ship steady as he searched for the airport. Strong winds coming in off the ocean buffeted and rocked the plane making the situation all the more difficult, for it wouldn’t take much to toss both of them into space.    

     The battle against life and death raged for the next fifteen minutes over the skies of Boston. There was no way for Sutherland to call for help, and there was nothing anyone could do even if there had been. He was on his own, trapped in the sky struggling with a deranged woman who could at any moment bring both of them hurtling to their deaths.

     She screamed and swore at Sutherland, calling him every name in the book, and a few that hadn’t been invented yet, all the while trying every move she could think of to get him to let go. The question was; did she want to kill herself more than Sutherland wanted to save her?

     She flailed and twisted. Sutherland locked his arm and continued to hold tight. Every time he brought the plane closer to the ground she would cause him to jerk back on the controls and regain altitude. As the low flying plane passed erratically over the city, people on the ground thought it was some sort of publicity stunt, but for what they weren’t sure.    

   The battle continued, and both participants grew tired. Sutherland still held firm, but his arm was cramping. He could feel his strength ebbing and wondered how much longer he could hold on. Then an idea came to him. He swung the plane hard throwing the woman off balance and causing her to tumble into her seat. In that few seconds it took her to recover, he switched hands, and battle started anew. Spotting the airport ahead, he made a straight line for it. Boston’s airport was a busy one, and he hoped other air traffic would see him coming and get out of his way. If it didn’t, then his efforts would have been for naught.

   Miraculously, he managed to land the plane in his contorted position, and as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac the woman stopped fighting, slumped in her seat, and accepted defeat.  Airport employees raced out in a car to meet them and gave Sutherland a hand in holding the woman until Boston police could arrive.

     Even though the woman had flown with Intercity Airlines before, nobody had ever bothered to ask her name, for such things were not required in 1936. She carried no identification, and when police questioned her all she would say was, “Just give me a gun.” Exasperated, they took her to a nearby hospital for evaluation where she was admitted as a “Jane Doe”. Her picture was posted in local papers hoping someone would recognize her, but follow-up articles for this story could not be located.

     As for Mr. Sutherland, he was hailed as a hero, and he no doubt decided to trust his instincts more in the future. What motivated the pretty young woman to try to end her life is unknown, but her actions made for what is perhaps the most unusual aerial battle to ever take place over Boston.      




Boston, MA – July 3, 1909

Boston, Massachusetts – July 3, 1909


    balloon On Saturday, July 3, 1909, a church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was having a Fourth of July celebration fair.  Part of the festivities included a balloon ascension scheduled for later in the day.  At the appointed time, aeronaut Joseph J. Cannon, 37, took off in his balloon and drifted across the Charles River and over the Boston Common.  It was there the hot air in the balloon suddenly began to cool down causing an uncontrolled loss of altitude.  The craft came down between two tall business buildings at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets.  (These buildings no longer exist.) The balloon’s netting became caught, leaving Cannon suspended over the narrow alleyway that ran between the two buildings.   He was rescued, unhurt, by members of the Boston Fire Department.    

     Source: (New Brunswick) The Sun, “Boston Aeronaut Is Rescued From His Perilous Position” July 5, 1909 


Boston, MA – July 23, 1925

Boston, Massachusetts – July 23, 1925

     On July 23, 1925, a small plane carrying two men crashed just after take-off from East Boston Airport.  Witnesses said the aircraft suddenly went into a nose dive and came down on the railroad tracks belonging to the Boston, Revere Beach, & Lynn Railroad.     

     The pilot, Mark C. Hogue, 29, was killed instantly.  The passenger, George Burroughs, 50, died on the way to the hospital.

     Hogue was a former WWI veteran, having served as a Lieutenant in the Army Air Service.  After the war he flew for the U.S. Mail as an airmail pilot, before becoming a commercial pilot.  He was also an aerial photographer, and had photographed many estates of the rich and famous on Long Island, New York.      

     Updated June 12, 2017

     Lt. Hogue had survived an earlier plane crash in Vernon, Connecticut on August 8, 1920.


     New York Times, “Two Die In Boston Plane”, July 24, 1925

     The Daily Kennebec Journal, (Maine) “Air-pilot And Passenger Killed In Fall Near Boston”, July 24, 1925 

     Hartford Courant, “Mark Hogue Has Narrow Escape”, August 9, 1920



Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲