Coventry, RI – March 28, 1952

Coventry, Rhode Island – March 28, 1952

U.S. Navy Grumman F9F Panther U.S. Navy Photo - National Archives

U.S. Navy

Grumman F9F Panther

U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On March 28, 1952, a flight of three navy F9F-5 Panther jets took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight.  At some point after take off, one pilot noticed that one of the other aircraft was on fire and radioed a warning.  The burning aircraft (#12528) was piloted by Commander Richard L. Wright, the commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 73, (VF-73).  Being over a populated area, Commander Wright made no effort to bail out, and elected to stay with the aircraft.  His plane crashed and exploded in a wooded area off Tiogue Avenue in the town of Coventry, near the East Greenwich town line.     

     Commander Wright was a veteran of WWII, and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, and various other medals during his time in the service.  He was survived by his wife Susan, and a son, Richard Jr..  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49339264/richard-lee-wright

    According to a newspaper article that appeared in The Woonsocket Call, March 28, 1952, this accident occurred on March 28, 1952, however, Commander Wright’s tombstone lists the date of his death as March 31, 1952.  The reason for this is unclear.

     There has been some discrepancy over the years as to the location of this accident.  Some sources say it occurred in the water off Little Compton, Rhode Island, or in the town itself.  Others state Coventry-East Greenwich.  A check with the Coventry Town Hall has revealed that the crash actually occurred in Coventry, Rhode Island.      

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Quonset Jet Pilot Killed In Crash”, March 28, 1952, Page 1 

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Pilot Identified”, March 29, 1952, Page 3.

     Newport Mercury, “Navy Pilot Identified”, April 4, 1952 

     Town of Coventry, R.I., Death Records

 

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Updated March 30, 2019 

5 Miles Off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island

    

F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 8, 1949, two navy F8F Grumman Bearcat aircraft took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air station for what was to be a high altitude instrument training flight.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 95332), was piloted by Ensign Henry J. Harling, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y.

     While at 10,000 feet both pilots went on oxygen and continued to climb to 32,000 feet.  At 28,000 feet Ensign Harling reported smoke in his cockpit, and both aircraft began to descend.  A short time later, while at an altitude of 25,000 feet, Harling radioed to the other pilot that he was going to bail out. 

     The other pilot later told investigators that he saw smoke coming from the area of the exhaust ports, and that the tail wheel on Ensign Harling’s aircraft was down.  He observed Ensign Harling open the cockpit canopy, and at that time saw that he was still wearing his oxygen mask.  Harling’s plane was then seen to roll on its back, nose down, and spin twice, before apparently recovering.  It then entered a cloud bank and the other pilot lost sight of it. 

     The other pilot followed Harling’s plane down through the cloud bank, and upon coming through it observed an explosion when Harling’s plane hit the water about five miles off Sakonnet Point.

     Witnesses on boats reported seeing Harling’s plane trailing smoke before it hit the water. No parachute was observed.

     Planes and rescue boats were immediately launched.  An oil slick was discovered, but after a two-day search it was concluded that Ensign Harling had been unable to escape from the cockpit and had remained in his aircraft when it hit the water.  The cause of the accident was speculated to be a failure in the aircraft’s hydraulic system, particularly with the aircraft’s tail wheel.   

     Ensign harling has been assigned to VF-73.

 

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Navy Pilot Dives In Sea” , September 9, 1949 

     U. S. Navy accident report dates September 8, 1949

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