Portland, ME., Balloon Ascension – 1873

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Portland (ME.) Daily Press
June 27, 1873

Portland (ME.) Daily Press
June 30, 1873

South Portland, ME. – July 11, 1944

South Portland, Maine – July 11, 1944   

A-26 Invader – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On July 11, 1944, a U. S. Army A-26 Invader, (Ser. No. 43-22253), left Barksdale Field in Louisiana, for a cross-country training flight to Bradly Filed in Connecticut, and then on to Portland, Maine.  The plane carried a crew of two: the pilot, 2nd Lt. Philip I. Russell, (24), of South Portland, Maine, and the flight engineer, Staff Sergeant Wallace Mifflin, (22), of Seattle, Washington.  The flight was uneventful until it reached Portland where it encountered heavy low-lying fog.  In the process of attempting to land, the aircraft crashed into a government operated trailer park used to house those working at the South Portland Shipyard.  The A-26 exploded and broke apart on impact setting numerous trailers ablaze. 

     In one instance it was reported that one of the plane’s engines tore through a trailer barely missing a mother and her child sitting inside.   Miraculously they escaped uninjured.  

     The accident killed 17 people as well as the crew of the aircraft, and 20 others were injured.  To this day this incident remains  Maine’s worst military aviation accident.

     In 2009 a memorial to this tragedy was erected at the crash site. https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/93284/Memorial-Crash-Douglas-A-26-Invader.htm  

     Lt. Russell is buried in Forest City Cemetery in South Portland, Maine.  To see more information, and a photo of Lt. Russell, click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/140838162/philip-irvin-russell 

     Staff Sergeant Mifflin is buried in Highland Cemetery in Colville, Washington.  To see more information and a photo of his grave, click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/40611427/wallace-mifflin 

     Both Lt. Russell and S/Sgt. Mifflin were assigned to the 331 Base Unit at Barksdale Army Air Base.    

     For more information about this accident, as well as a photo of the fire, click here: https://www.centralmaine.com/2019/07/11/maines-deadliest-aviation-disaster-remains-unexplained-75-years-later/

     Other sources:

     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “16 Dead Identified In Trailer Camp Crash”, July 13, 1944, page A-4 


Parachute Accident, Portland, ME., 1909

Portland, Maine – July 4, 1909

Updated June 15, 2017


     As part of a July 4th celebration in Portland, Maine, Professor Joseph Laroux of Portland, and his assistant, James Corcoran, 28, of Lowell, Massachusetts, were scheduled to give an exhibition of a triple parachute jump from a hot-air balloon.  The plan was to have Corcoran ascend in the balloon to an altitude of 6,000 feet while Laroux stayed on the ground.  When the balloon had reached the required safe altitude, the Professor was to fire a series of gun shots as a signal for Corcoran to jump. 

     Shortly after 4 p.m., the balloon took off from the Eastern Promenade before a crowd of 5,000 spectators.  When it had risen barely 500 feet, some members of the crowd began firing revolvers into the air which confused Corcoran into believing it was safe to jump.   Corcoran hit the ground before the first parachute could open receiving fatal injuries. 

     Mr. Corcoran was survived by his wife and a child.


     New York Times, “Parachutist Leaps To Death”, July 6, 1909 

     Hartford Courant,(Conn.) , “Parachute Jumper Falls To His Death”, July 1909

     Sanford Tribune, (Me.), “Aeronaut Is Dashed To Death”, July 9, 1909, page 6.   


Casco Bay, ME – July 4, 1887

Casco Bay, Maine – July 4, 1887

     At 5 p.m. on July 4, 1887, the balloon “Columbia” made an ascension from Lincoln Park in Portland, Maine, with two men aboard: the pilot, Professor Charles H. Grimley, and an unnamed passenger who was a reporter for the Boston Globe newspaper.   

     When the Columbia was fifty feet in the air it was caught by a strong wind and pushed into some telegraph and telephone wires briefly becoming entangled before breaking free.  It then climbed to 3,000 feet where it began drifting eastward towards the waters of Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  To be blown out to sea would have meant certain death, so Professor Grimley opened the valve to the balloon hoping to land on one of the islands in the bay.  As the balloon began to drop he threw out a long drag rope to slow their speed.  The rope whipped and snapped through the water but did little to halt their progress. 

     The balloon then reportedly began crossing over “Windward Island” where a some men made an attempt to grab hold if it, but they were pulled to the ground and dragged along with it and were forced to let go.  (It should be noted here that contemporary maps do not list a Windward Island for Casco Bay, and it’s possible the island mentioned was actually Cushing, or Peaks Island.)

     The rope continued to slash its way through the tree tops but failed to catch in the branches.  Finally the rope caught on a tree and a grouping of rocks which briefly stopped the balloon and held it, but the strong wind kept rocking the balloon and before long the rope broke and the Columbia continued up and onward out over the water.  Finally enough gas had been released through the open valve to cause it to plunge into the water.  The gondola, with the men inside, was almost completely submerged as fierce winds continued to buffet the balloon and push it across the bay while both men held on for their lives.

     By this time the men were well away from shore and without life jackets.  Fortunately their plight was seen by those aboard the yacht Mermaid, and the boat gave chase.  The Mermaid eventually caught up to the balloon and managed to rescue both men.  The balloon was not recovered. 

     Professor Grimley told the press it was the most exciting and dangerous trip he had ever made.


     The Worthington Advance, (Worthington, Minn.) July 28, 1887

     Griggs Courier, (No. Dakota) “Recent Ballooning, July 28, 1887


Portland Maine Municipal Airport

Portland, Maine Municipal Airport

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Post Card View Of Portland, Maine,  Municipal Airport

Post Card View Of Portland, Maine,
Municipal Airport

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