Simsbury, CT. – October 4, 1944

Simsbury, Connecticut – October 4, 1944


P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On October 4, 1944, two army P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft took off from Bradley Field in Winsor Locks for a “routine combat training flight”.  One aircraft, (Ser. No. 42-22595), was piloted by First Lieutenant Junior L. Birdsong.   The other aircraft, (Ser. No. 42-8305), was piloted by an unnamed officer. 

     While conducting a combat training exercise over the town of Simsbury the two aircraft collided in mid-air.  Lieutenant Birdsong was unable to escape from his plane and was killed when it crashed.  The other pilot parachuted safely in a wooded area on Avon Mountain.  Both aircraft went down in thick woods within three-quarters of a mile of each other, and within a mile of the nearest main road.  They reportedly “burned fiercely” until firefighters from Simsbury and Bradley Filed could reach them.   

     Lt. Birdsong is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, in Pittsburg, Texas.  To see a photo of him go to


     Hartford Courant, “One Dies, Another Safe In Simsbury Air Crash”, October 5, 1944.   

     The Pittsburg Gazette, (Texas), “Military Funeral For Lt. J. L. Birdsong”, October 13, 1944.


Simsbury, CT. – November 17, 1978

Simsbury, Connecticut – November 17, 1978

     On the night of November 17, 1978, a U.S. Marine helicopter with four Marines aboard left South Weymouth Naval Air Station in Massachusetts bound for Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  While in-route, the helicopter experienced a mechanical problem, and the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing in an open field in the town of Simsbury, Connecticut, but the rotor blades clipped a tree near the edge of the field and a crash resulted.  All four were transported to a hospital with serious injuries.   


     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Conn. Helicopter Crash Injures 4 Marines”, November 18, 1978, page A-2

Talcott Mountain, CT – December 19, 1884

Talcott Mountain, Connecticut – December 19, 1884

Zephaniah Phelps

Zephaniah Phelps

     If the following story is to be believed, it is perhaps the first mechanically involved aviation related accident to occur in the state of Connecticut, and possibly New England. 

     Zephaniah Phelps, age 75, was said to be an inventor whose main interests focused on perpetual motion and aerial flight.  He lived in a hut in the woods near the town of Avon, Ct., and reportedly wasn’t taken seriously by those who knew him.  Undaunted, Mr. Phelps built a flying-machine of his own design, and by the early winter of 1884 he was ready to test it. 

     On December 19, 1884, Phelps carried his invention to the top of Talcott Mountain where a tall wooden observation tower stood.  His flying-machine was designed to be worn on his back, and according to the Weekly Saratogian, “consisted of a strong but light gas generator, a combination of cog-wheels and pulleys and two light pitch turbine wheels, both arranged at a slight angle to the vertical.  The whole contrivance, including two tri-angular wings, weighed about sixty pounds.”       

     While standing atop the observation tower, Phelps donned his machine and secured himself to it with a rope.  After starting the small engine, he leaped into space. 

     “For a moment the machine rose a few feet and then began to drop.” the Weekly Saratogian reported, “Phelps found his generator losing power with every second and attempted to discover the cause.  By some mistake he opened the discharge valve and instantly was falling rapidly, with his turbine motionless and useless.  The only check to his descent were the two triangular wings.”

     Phelps dropped into some trees about 700 feet below the tower breaking several bones.   

     The newspaper account goes on to state he was found by a hiker who happened to hear his groans, which would seem to indicate that there hadn’t been any witnesses to the whole affair.  Phelps was reportedly carried to a house about a mile away for treatment of his injuries.

     “I do not care so much for my hurts,” Phelps was quoted in The National Police Gazette, “But I had hoped to make my name immortal, and now I am so crippled that I am afraid I can never fly.  It was not the fault of my principles or my machine.  When I got on top of the tower I strapped myself to the cylinder and tied on my turbine attachments.  Then I stood on the side and stared my gas machine.  The turbine wheels revolved as well as I had expected, and carried me clear of the tower and some feet away.  I was going finely when the wind caught me and turned me downward.”     

Updated August 13, 2018

     Two other aviation related accidents known to have occurred on Talcott Mountain happened in 1971 and 1972.

     On December 15, 1971, a Simsbury, Connecticut, pilot crashed on the mountain in heavy fog.  He reportedly escaped with only a few minor scratches.   

     On April 13, 1972, a man from Virginia was killed when his plane crashed and burned on Talcott Mountain in heavy fog.    


     Morning Journal and Courier, (New Haven, Ct.), “A Perilous Ride – An Old man’s Unsuccessful Trial Of A New Flying Machine”, December 22, 1884.

     Weekly Saratogian – Saratoga Springs “A Flying Machine Crank”, December 25, 1884

     The National Police Gazette, “Like A Falling Star”, January 17, 1885    

     Hartford Courant, “Crash on Takeoff Leaves Pilot Hurt”, January 23, 1975.  Article is primarily about a man who crashed in Simsbury, Connecticut, on January 22, 1975.  In that instance a Beechcraft Musketeer crashed in a field just after takeoff, after having completed its annual inspection.  The pilot was transported to a hospital for treatment. The end of the article relates that two other crashes had occurred in Simsbury, both on Talcott Mountain.

Updated August 29, 2018

     On September 21, 1976, a 29-year-old hang-glider from Wethersfield, Connecticut, was killed when he crashed just after taking off from the top of Talcott Mountain.  According to witnesses he fell 150 feet and came down in a tree.   

     Source: Providence Evening Bulletin, “Conn. Hang-Gliding Expert Killed,” September 22, 1976, page A-12. 

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