Missing Aircraft – April 19, 1980

MISSING AIRCRAFT – April 19, 1980

Aircraft: Cessna 150, Registration N19593

      At 9:00 a.m., on April 19, 1980, a Cessna 150 left Bayport Airdrome on Long Island, New York, for a three-leg navigational training flight to Newport, Rhode Island, then to Oxford, Connecticut, and back to Bayport.  The pilot was 55-year-old Rose Heinlen, a student pilot from Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. with less than 60 hours of flight time.  Somewhere between Long Island and Newport she and the Cessna disappeared and have not been seen since.  No distress calls were received.

     Civil Air Patrol wings from New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard participated in the search.  25 aircraft of all types searched the waters from Montauk, Long Island, to Martha’s Vineyard, including waters along the coasts of three states.  

     One area of focus was Narragansett Bay north of the Mount Hope Bridge, where it was reported that an oil slick had been sighted on the water.  A Coast Guard vessel sent to investigate found only a wooden raft that was not connected to the missing plane.

     One woman reported that she had seen an airplane resembling a Cessna flying only ten feet off the water of Narragansett Bay on the day of the disappearance. Three fishermen later corroborated this, but nothing was found. 

     Part of the investigation revealed that a steady 20 to 30 knot wind had been blowing at the time of the flight which could have pushed the aircraft as much as 300 degrees off course towards Cape Cod and the islands, and Mrs. Heinlen may not have been aware of this.

     On April 23rd it was reported that Mrs. Heinlin may have communicated with another pilot via radio between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. stating she was lost.  The revelation came about after a Rhode Island pilot reported hearing a radio conversation between a woman and another pilot.  The woman stated she was lost, and the pilot was attempting to give her directions.  Unfortunately, the pilot giving directions was never identified. 

     As of this time the case remains open. 


Providence Journal, “4-state Search For Small Plane Centers Briefly In Touisset Area”, April 22, 1980, Pg. A-3

Providence Journal, “Lost Pilot May Have Sought Directions”, April 23, 1980, Pg. B-13

Providence Evening Bulletin, “CAP Widens Search For Lost Cessna”, April 22, 1980, page A-6    





A Mystery Man Lands In Middletown, R. I. – 1959


Middletown, Rhode Island – June 13, 1959 

     On the evening of June 13, 1959, Albert Presso went to answer the insistent knocking on the door to his Willow Avenue home in Middletown, Rhode Island.  He opened the door to find a well dressed man in his twenties who identified himself as Greg Saunders, and then began to relate an incredible story.

     Saunders appeared shaken, but managed to tell bits and pieces of what he had to say – a plane – a fire – bailing out – a crash.   Presso knew immediately that he needed to alert authorities. Middletown police arrived in short order and took Saunders to Newport Hospital for examination.  There he recovered his composure enough to give a detailed account of what had happened.

     Saunders said he was a travel agent from Los Angeles, California, on a combined business and pleasure vacation.  He had left California for Mexico City a few days ago flying his own twin-engine, blue and white Piper Apache.  From there, he traveled to Nassau and on to Miami, Florida.  After leaving Florida he landed at Flushing Airport in Queens, New York. 

     At 4:30 p.m. on the 13th, he took off from Flushing bound for Maine, and attained a cruising altitude of 6,500 feet which put him above a rainstorm moving up the coast.  Somewhere near Rhode Island, he noticed flames licking out of the port engine and tried to extinguish the fire, but couldn’t.  He then tried to use his radio to call for help, but found it inoperable due to the fire. 

     At this point he felt he had two options, to drop down through the storm and risk a crash landing, or set the autopilot, bail out, and take his chances.  He opted for the later and took the plane up to 8,000 feet where he put it on a heading that would take it out over the Atlantic Ocean and away from populated areas.  He figured that the craft had enough gas to carry it another 300 miles provided it didn’t explode first.

     Saunders explained that normally he wouldn’t have had a parachute aboard, but because his flight plans had carried him over water he thought it prudent to carry one, along with an inflatable rubber raft. 

     Saunders came down on a Christmas tree farm in Middletown, and after removing his parachute he began looking for help.  He said he hiked for almost an hour before he found himself at Mr. Presso’s home. 

     Officers noted that the neatly pressed tan suit Saunders was wearing showed no signs that he had hiked through wet weather on a farm, and his shoes were dry and free of mud.  They also discovered that no reports of any aircraft in distress had been received. Skeptical of his story, they asked Saunders for positive identification, but he explained that in his haste to leave the burning aircraft that he had left it behind. He added that he would be filing an insurance claim for $49,795 for the loss of his plane, but first he needed to report the loss to Federal Aviation officials in Boston.   

     Saunders was dropped off at the Viking Hotel in Newport while police made plans to verify his story. 

     A check of the Flushing Airport revealed that there was no record of Saunders or his aircraft having ever been there. Civil Aeronautics Division officials in Boston stated that they had no record of Saunders ever filing any flight plans with them as required by law. 

     When daylight came the following morning, there were still no reports of any downed aircraft.  An air search conducted by Trooper Ashworth of the state police and Robert Wood, the owner of the Newport Air Park failed to find any trace of the parachute that Saunders claimed he had abandoned. 

     Saunders had told officers that his permanent address was 1136 Glendale Boulevard, in Los Angeles, California, however, phone company records showed this to be untrue. Obviously there were a lot of holes in Mr. Saunders’ story. 

      When police showed up at the Viking Hotel they discovered that Saunders had left, telling the clerk on duty that he was “going back home to Boston.”  The FAA in Boston was notified to be on the lookout for Saunders as Rhode Island officials had more questions for him, but Saunders never showed.  In fact, he was never seen again. 

     Who was Gregory Saunders, if in fact that was his real name, and what would possess him to perpetrate such a hoax?  Was it the media attention, an attempt at insurance fraud, or was it something else?  The story is long forgotten in Middletown, but the mystery remains.  


Providence Journal, “Man Says He Leaped From Burning Plane”, June 14, 1959, N:1

Providence Journal, “Dapper Parachutist’s Tale Grows Even More Murky”, June 15, 1959, Pg. 1 

Providence Journal, “Now, He’s Gone, Like His Plane, Parachute” June 15, 1959, Pg. 6


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