Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944

Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 7:45 p.m., on the night of March 28, 1944, members of the U.S. Navy’s VF-7 squadron were at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, preparing for a night tactics training flight.   All aircraft involved in the operation were F6F-3 Hellcat fighter planes.

     The first six aircraft left the ground without incident.  The next aircraft in line, (Bu. No. 41964), was piloted by Ensign Claude Earl Schilling.  When Ensign Schilling was granted clearance, he proceeded down the runway.  After traveling approximately 2,000 feet down the tarmac, his aircraft inexplicably veered to the right and went off the runway and onto the grass where it ground-looped back onto the runway and came to rest.   Meanwhile, the eighth aircraft, (Bu. No. #41938), piloted by Ensign Charles Francis Sullivan, had also been granted permission to take off on the same runway used by Schilling.  Due to the dark conditions, nobody realized that Schilling hadn’t made it into the air,  and Sullivan’s Hellcat struck Schilling’s plane just aft of  the cockpit severing the fuselage and igniting the fully loaded fuel tanks. 

     Sullivan managed to escape the burning wreckage, but Schilling was killed.

     According to the navy investigation report, what caused Ensign Schilling’s aircraft to leave the runway could not be determined.   

     Ensign Schilling is buried at Rio Vista Fellows Masonic Cemetery, in Rio Vista, California.  See www.findagrave.com, Memorial #135531762. 


     U.S. Navy Investigation Report #44-12718    




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