Hillsgrove Airport, R. I. – April 14, 1948

Hillsgrove Airport – April 14, 1948

     On April 14, 1948, a 31-year-old pilot was soloing in a Piper Cub J-3 airplane.  The pilot was a student training under the GI benefit program and was making practice landings at the Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick.  The pilot began a landing approach, but while still 1,000 feet short of the runway the engine suddenly stopped.  The pilot managed to “mushroom” the plane atop a cluster of trees just outside the airport.  The plane suffered heavy damage, but the pilot was not injured. 

     Source:  The Pawtucket Times, “Pawtucket Pilot Unhurt In Crash”, April 15, 1948, pg. 18 

Warwick, R. I. – August 16, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island – August 16, 1940

      On August 16, 1940, a 24-year-old student pilot in a Piper Cub was waiting for clearance to take off from Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick.  Meanwhile, a 35-year-old student pilot in a Luscombe aircraft was returning to the airport from a solo flight.  As the Liscombe was approaching the runway, the control tower operator gave the green light to the Piper Cub to take off.  The pilot of the Piper Cub gunned his engine and began his take off run while the Liscombe continued its approach.  The tower operator suddenly realized what was taking place, and tried to signal the Piper Cub to abort, but it was too late.  The tower operator would later state that a hangar had obstructed his view of the approaching plane. 

     Just as the Piper Cub left the ground it collided in mid-air with the in-coming Liscombe.  The collision took place when both aircraft were about ten feet off the ground. 

     Both aircraft crashed to the ground, but there was no fire.  Despite the damage to each aircraft, neither pilot suffered serious injuries. 


      The Pawtucket Times, “CAA Investigates Two-Plane Crash”, August 17, 1940, pg. 3.       

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935 

Warwick, Rhode Island     

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard. Today known as T.F. Green State Airport - Warwick, R.I.

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard.
Today known as T.F. Green State Airport – Warwick, R.I.

     On the morning of August 28, 1935, veteran pilot Joshua Crane Jr., 37, began his final approach to a temporary field adjoining Hillsgrove Airport from an altitude of 1500 feet.  Crane was flying a Waco, model YOC, (NC-14621), a four passenger aircraft.   Also aboard was Arthur E. Howe, 26, of Philadelphia.  Both were en-route from Boston to Cleveland, Ohio, and were stopping at Hillsgrove to pick up a third man, Arthur L. Johnson of Cranston. 

    The weather was clear with a southwest wind of 20 miles per hour and gusty.  When the plane had dropped to 500 feet, a gust of wind sent it into a left spin and it plunged to the ground in a small lot on Occupassatuxet Road in Warwick’s Hoxie section, miraculously missing any houses in the area.  (Occupassatuxet Road no longer exists.  It was taken by eminent domain during an airport expansion project.) The impact drove the plane’s motor into the passenger cabin causing severe crushing injuries to both men.   

     Bystanders pulled Crane and Howe from the crumpled wreck and both were transported St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition.  Crane died shortly afterwards, and Howe was reportedly only given a 50-50 chance of survival.   

    The death of Joshua Crane came as a shock to the New England aviation world, for he was regarded as an excellent pilot throughout the region. He began flying after graduating from Harvard University in 1917 at the age of twenty.  At that time, World War I was raging in Europe and he enlisted in the United States Navy as a pilot where he received training at Squantum, Massachusetts, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.  By 1918 he was stationed in England flying anti-submarine patrols trying to prevent German U-boats from attacking convoys.  

     While in England, he met his future wife Dora, and they married in 1920.  

     After leaving the navy, he continued flying in the relatively new sport of air racing where his reputation grew.  Besides racing, he also became involved with several air-passenger service ventures that flew out of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.   By 1930 he had become general manager of Southern New England Airways, Inc., a long defunct service that once flew out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  During the literally thousands of hours he logged in the air, it was estimated that he had transported more than 25,000 passengers.

     In addition to passengers, he also flew humanitarian missions and ferried people for the government.  On one occasion he flew from Boston with a planeload of prisoners destined for the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  Shortly before his death, he had taken Rhode Island’s Governor Theodore Francis Green and a military aide to an army camp in upstate New York to observe war games.  The plane that the governor flew on was the same one that Mr. Crane was piloting the day he crashed. 

     Like many pilots, Crane had his share of “close calls”.  One incident occurred in November of 1930 when a glider he was piloting went down in Pawtucket.  Neither he nor his two passengers were seriously hurt. In April of 1933 his plane loaded with passengers crash landed in southern Rhode Island when the motor lost power, but thankfully those aboard suffered only minor injuries.  Then in July of that same year the landing gear collapsed as he touched down at an airport in Skowhegan, Maine. 

     In February of 1934 he became stranded on an island that he owned known as “No Man’s Land” located about three miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  (Today the island is known as “Normans Land”). On that occasion, he had “nosed-over” on landing and damaged the propeller which forced him to wait until the Coast Guard could bring a new one.   

     The accident which killed Joshua Crane was investigated by the Department of Commerce.  Investigators who examined the wreckage found, “The airplane was so broken up that very little could be learned as to the control system prior to the accident except that all control surfaces were still attached, and the left wing flap was found to be in full down position while the right one was in full up position.  In analyzing this accident, full cognizance was given to the fact that most probably the left wing flap functioned while the right one did not.” 

    This possible malfunction of the flaps, combined with gusty wind conditions, may have led to the crash.  


The Woonsocket Call, Joshua Crane Jr., Dead, Passenger Injured In Crash”, August 28, 1935, Page 1.

The Providence Journal, “Joshua Crane, Jr., Fatally Injured As Plane Crashes”, August 29, 1935, Page 1.

Department Of Commerce, Report of the Accident Board 



Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On December 22, 1940, two aircraft, each flown by student pilots, collided in mid-air directly over Hillsgrove Airport.  One, an Aeronca Cub, flown by Gilbert B. Kornstein, 19, and the other a Taylorcraft, flown by Millard McInnis, 26.   

    The impact broke the tail off the Aeronca, sending it plummeting to the ground killing Kornstein instantly.

     McInnis was able to nurse his damaged plane down, clipping a tree and flipping over in the Norwood section of Warwick, about three miles from the airport.  He required a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from a leg wound, but he survived. 


Woonsocket Call, “Young North Smithfield Flier Dies In Mid-Air Crash”, December 23, 1940, Pg. 1  


Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

     Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

Warwick, Rhode Island


Martin B-10 Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

Martin B-10 Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the beginning of September, 1936, members of the U.S. Army 99th Bombardment Squadron came to Hillsgrove Airport for two weeks of training.  On the evening of September 21st, three B-10 Bombers took off a night training mission.  Shortly afterwards, heavy fog settled over the area, and when the planes returned the pilots were given instructions via radio on how to land.

     The first bomber to attempt a landing overshot the runway, and according to witnesses, its wheels almost touched down before the pilot gunned the engines for another attempt.  Due to the heavy fog, the pilot evidently didn’t realize how close he was to the end of the runway, and the plane plowed into a patch of woods, broke apart, and caught fire.  All three crewmen aboard died as a result of the crash.   

     The other two planes left the area and landed at Boston and Albany, New York.    

     The crew were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lieut. Jack J. Neely, 25, of Hempstead, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Texas, but death records state Hempstead.)  

     Corporal Angelo Mazzaco, 26, of Long Branch, N.J., died at the scene. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Jersey City, N.J., but death records state Long Branch.)

     Private Thaddeus Macaziewski, 28, of Schenectady, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  (Newspaper accounts identify him as Joseph, J., but Providence death records list him as Thaddeus.)     


Woonsocket Call, “Tragic Hillsgrove Accident Subject Of Two Inquiries”, September 22, 1936, Pg. 1

City of Providence, R. I. death records.

City of Warwick, R.I. death records.







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