Barnes Airport, MA. – October 19, 1952

Barnes Airport, Westfield, Mass. – October 19, 1952


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     Shortly before 4:00 p.m. on October 19, 1952, two F-86 Sabres were taking part in an airshow at Barnes Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, when they were involved in a high-speed mid-air collision.  The planes disintegrated on impact killing both pilots instantly. 

     The men were identified as Captain Fred H. Stevens, 28, of Salem, Virginia, and 1st Lieutenant Robert H. Danell, 25, of Wakefield, Massachusetts.  

     Both pilots were assigned to the 131st Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

     The airshow was part of the airport dedication ceremonies, in which four F-86 jets had been taking part.  The accident occurred just after the four had completed a maneuver known as a “bombshell” in which the four jets would go into a steep climb and then peel away in different directions.  

     In October of 2012, sixty years after the accident, a memorial honoring Capt. Stevens and Lt. Danell was dedicated at Barnes Airport.   

     Source:  Unknown Massachusetts Newspaper, “2 Die As Jets Collide At Westfield”, October 20, 1952  

Granby, MA. – February 1, 1965

Granby, Massachusetts – February 1, 1965


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 1, 1965, a flight of three Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets left Tampa, Florida, to return to Barnes Airport  in Westfield, Massachusetts, after completing aerial gunnery training.  As the aircraft entered the New England area they encountered a snowstorm and were diverted to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts.  There, the three planes circled the Westover Field area for about fifteen minutes, according to a husband and wife who lived Granby, Massachusetts, a town to the northeast of Chicopee.  As they watched the planes, one was seen to crash and explode in a gravel pit located in a wooded area, about 1,000 feet from the nearest home.  The witnesses said it was still snowing heavily at the time of the accident.  

     The downed aircraft, (Ser. No. 0-22019), had been piloted by Major James Romanowicz, age 45, of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.   

     Major Romanowicz was a veteran aviator, having served as an army pilot during World War II with the 10th Tactical Fighter Group.  He’d been serving with the Massachusetts Air National Guard since 1948, and had been rated a command pilot since 1959.   He’s buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol, Massachusetts.  He left behind a wife and six children.

     The other two aircraft landed safely.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed By Jet Crash In Mass. Town”, Date unknown., memorial #89990193

     Springfield Union, “Athol Pilot Loses Life In F-86 Crash In Granby”, February 2, 1965

Southampton, MA – July 18, 1964

Southampton, Massachusetts – July 18, 1964


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On July 18, 1964, a flight of four Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets were returning to Barnes Airport after a gunnery training mission.  One of the Sabre’s was piloted by Captain John H. Paris, 33, of Newburgh, New York. 

     As the jets approached the airfield, Paris’s aircraft suddenly lost power and dropped out of formation.  Captain Paris ejected, but his parachute failed to open.  He fell into Pequot Pond and was killed.

     Meanwhile, his F-86 came regained level flight and belly land on its own in an open field about 2 miles northeast of the north end of Runway 20 at Barnes Airport; about 700 feet east of Ross Road.   The aircraft sustained major damage but there was no fire.

     Captain Paris was part of the 131st Fighter Squadron.   


     Providence Journal, (R.I.), “Flier Killed In Crash As Thousands Watch”, July 19, 1964

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

Atlantic Ocean – August 16, 1963

Atlantic Ocean – August 16, 1963


F-86 Sabre - U.S. Air Force Photo

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 16, 1963, four Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets were engaged in target practice about 60 miles southeast of Nantucket, taking turns making live firing runs at a 30 by 6 foot canvas target being towed behind a fifth aircraft.  The aircraft were all part of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group. 

     At one point a section of the target was shot away, and it struck the wing of an F-86 piloted by Captain Hugh Lavallee, 29, of Springfield, Massachusetts.  Lavalle’s aircraft suddenly became uncontrollable, and he was forced to eject while at 20,000 feet over the water.  

     After his parachute deployed, he dropped safely to the water, landing about 3/4 of a mile away from the Russian fishing trawler, Johannes Ware.  Captain Lavallee was rescued by the trawler, and once aboard was treated well, handed dry clothing, and given medical attention.  A Coast Guard helicopter from Falmouth, Massachusetts, arrived awhile later and brought Capt. Lavallee to Otis Air Force Base.        

     Keeping in mind that this incident occurred while the Soviet Union and the United States were involved in what was known as “The Cold War”, the incident received a lot of positive press, and was even featured in the September 13, 1963 edition of Life Magazine.

     Unfortunately, Captain Lavalle was killed a few weeks later on November 16, 1963, while flying another F-86 over the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.  On that date, he and another F-86 pilot were on a navigational training flight, and Capt. Lavallee was last seen entering a cloud bank before all contact with him was lost.  The wreckage of his aircraft was found two days later, in a rural area about eight miles from the town of Stony Creek.     


     (Toledo, Ohio) The Blade, Soviet Seamen Save U.S. Flier”, August 16, 1963

     The Blade, “Russian Rescuers Kind, Hospitable, Flier Says”, August 17, 1963

     Wilmington Morning Star, “Survivor Of Crash At Sea Killed In Second Wreck”, November 18, 1963


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