T. F. Green Airport – September 27, 1975

T.F. Green Airport, Warwick, R.I. – September 27, 1975

     At about 1:00 a.m., on the morning of September 27, 1975, a Falcon cargo jet belonging to an express company landed at T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, after being diverted from its original destination of Boston’s Logan Airport due to low visibility conditions over Boston.    

     Aboard the Falcon was a pilot and co-pilot, and one passenger.  Among its cargo were some low-grade radioactive materials, minor explosives, and flammable liquids.     

     About an hour later the Falcon was given clearance to resume its journey.  The tower gave instructions to use Runway 23 left for take off.   At the time clearance was given, a fog and drizzle condition existed at Green, and the pilot inadvertently turned onto Runway 23 right, instead of 23 left.  Unbeknownst to the Falcon pilot, Runway 23 right had been closed since 5:25 p.m. the previous evening, and two large passenger jets, an Allegheny Airlines DC-9, and an American Airlines 727, were parked about halfway down the 5,000 foot runway and were not visible to the flight crew. 

     The airliners were not occupied at the time, except for one maintenance man working aboard the DC-9.

     Although the runway was closed, the runways lights were still on, which investigators later determined contributed to the accident. 

     The Falcon began its take-off run and reached a speed of 100 mph before its left wind struck the nose wheel of the DC-9 causing damage to the wing and nose wheel.  The initial impact did little to slow the Falcon, which continued on and slammed into a maintenance truck which had also been parked on the runway, sending the truck tumbling under the left wing of the 727.  The truck erupted in flames and burned furiously beneath the fuel laden wing of the 727. 

     After colliding with the truck the Falcon’s main landing gear collapsed and the jet skidded to a stop about 150 yards later.  The plane did not catch fire and the crew and passenger scrambled out through a cockpit escape hatch – unhurt.

     Due to a quick response by the airport fire department the burning truck was extinguished and the fuel in the wing of the 727 did not ignite, although the aircraft did suffer serious damage from the burning truck.

     The lone maintenance man aboard the DC-9 was transported to a medical facility to be treated for shock.

     None of the materials aboard the Falcon jet were found to be leaking or in any way compromised.


     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Radioactive-Cargo Plane Crashes At State Airport”, September 28, 1975.    

     South Middlesex News, “Wrong-Way Takeoff At RI Airport”, September 28, 1975, page 9A 

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Law Not Violated In Warwick Crash”, September 30, 1975, page 6

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Airport Crash Cost $1 Million”, October 2, 1975, page A-1

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Runway Lights May Have Led To Collision”, October 3, 1975, page B-2

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Faulty Lights Crash Factor”, October 5, 1975, page 9.

     Additional reading for researchers: 

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Cargo Aboard Crashed Jet ‘Sounded Worse That It Was'”, February 3, 1976, page A-7

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “State Seeking Dismissal Of Runway Crash Suit”, December 4, 1976, page 8.  

T. F. Green Airport – January 22, 1966

T. F. Green Airport – January 22, 1966

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On January 22, 1966, a Piper Cherokee owned by the Newport Air Taxi Co. of Newport, R.I., was coming in for a landing at T. F. Green Airport when it was involved in a mid-air collision with a Cessna 150 owned by Wille Aero Inc.  The Cessna had an instructor and student aboard, and was making touch and go landings at the time of the accident.  The pilot of the Cherokee was alone.

     The two planes collided about 100 feet above the airfield and came down just inside the airport fence near a residential area at the southern end of the airport.  Everyone aboard both airplanes was killed instantly.


     The Boston Sunday Globe, “Planes Collide, 3 Die”, January 23, 1966, page 40.     

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Warwick, Rhode Island

 Hillsgrove Airfield is now T. F. Green State Airport


Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922. Library Of Congress Photo

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922.
Library Of Congress Photo

     On May 26, 1927, navy Lieutenants Adolphus W. Gorton and Clifton Sprague were scheduled to fly from Hillsgrove Airfield in Warwick, Rhode Island, to Washington, D.C..  The plane took off with Gorton at the helm, and when the aircraft was barely 100 feet off the ground it suddenly looped in a circle and struck the top of thirty-foot tree near the end of the field.  After glancing off the tree, the aircraft plunged downward into the ground, plowing the turf for thirty-five feet before coming to rest in a heap of wreckage. 

     Lieutenant Sprague escaped with minor injuries, but Gorton suffered the loss of three teeth and his nose was reportedly “torn nearly from his face”.   The crash was witnessed by Lieutenant Gorton’s mother who had gone to the airfield to see him off.   Gorton later recovered rom his injuries.

     Lt. Adolphus Worthington Gorton was born in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, on January 29, 1897, the son of Charles A. Gorton Jr..  After attending Dartmouth College for one year, he entered the American Ambulance Service shortly before the United States entered WWI, and served in France.  Seven months later he was operated on for appendicitis and was sent home.  After his recovery, he transferred to the naval air service and began pilot training.  

     As a naval pilot, he distinguished himself in may ways throughout his career.  A few examples include:

     On October 8, 1922 he won the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy in Detroit, Michigan for attaining an average speed of 112.6 mph.  The trophy was sterling silver worth at the time to be $5,000.  

     On August 8, 1923, he broke two aviation speed records in one day flying a U. S. Navy NW-2 over the Delaware River at 177.5 mph, and then 185.5 mph respectively.   

     On July 3, 1929, Gorton successfully “docked” his aircraft while in flight to the airship USS Los Angeles. 

     Gorton died September 28, 1989 in Florida at the age of 92.   


New York Times, “Lieut. Gorton Wins Air Race”, October 9, 1922 

Providence Journal, “Lieut. Gorton Hurt As Plane Crashes”, May 27, 1924, Pg. 1



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