Warwick, R. I. – July 26, 1928

Warwick, Rhode Island – July 26, 1928

    On the evening of July 26, 1928, well known Connecticut aviator, Osmond H. Mather, took off from the Buttonwoods Airfield in Warwick, Rhode Island, in a small black and orange mono-coupe airplane.  With him as a passenger was Clifton H. Thompson, of Foxboro, Massachusetts.  The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate to Mr. Thompson the plane’s capabilities as Thompson was considering buying the plane for use at the newly opened Providence Airport in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  

     About one hundred people on the ground watched as the aircraft went through a series of maneuvers, among them was Thompson’s wife and daughter.  At one point while the aircraft was only 100 feet from the ground, it suddenly went into a dive before it crashed and exploded about 200 yards from the edge of the flying field.  Both occupants were killed instantly. 

     Osmond Mather was a well known pilot in the New England area,   and a World War I veteran who’d served in the Air Corps.   About five months before his death, he flew over the home of Connecticut’s Governor, John Trumbull, and dropped a box containing a miniature reproduction of Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”.  The gif was in honor of the Governor’s 55th birthday. 


     Clifton Thompson was also a World War I veteran having served in the Air Corps.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/175077080/clifton-badlam-thompson


     New Britain Herald, “Osmond H. Mather Dies In Airplane”, July 27, 1928, p.4.

     New Britain Herald, “Gift From Sky Dropped On Gov. Trumbull’s Lawn”, March 5, 1928, p.1. 


Warwick, R. I. – September 15, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – September 15, 1942


Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps Photo

     On September 15, 1942, a flight of three P-40 aircraft were cleared for take off at the Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, R. I. for a training flight.  The second plane to take off, (Ser. No. 41-13861), was piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Donald W. Hoefler, age 20.  When he had reached an altitude of about 500 feet he radioed the tower that he would be making an emergency landing and as he turned to do so his plane crashed and exploded south of the airport.  

     Lieutenant Hoefler is buried in White Chapel Memorial Park,, in Amherst, New York.  To see a photo of Lt. Howfler, click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/97621040/donald-w-hoefler


     Book, “Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States, 1941-1945”, By Anthony J. Mireles, C. 2006


Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913


DFP50096     Nels J. Nelson was sixteen when the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  Eight years later he was building his own airplanes in New Britain, Connecticut.  His first airplane made its maiden flight over Plainfield, Connecticut, May 1st, 1911. 

      Nelson took to giving flying exhibitions which were well received by a public eager to see what those “new fangled flying machines” could do.  By 1913 he’d developed what he called a “Hydroplane” capable of taking off and landing in water.  On July 1, 1913, Nelson flew his Hydroplane over Providence, Rhode Island, where he circled the area of Exchange Place and City Hall twice before making a turn around the dome of the state capitol.  From there he flew south where he landed in the water just off shore from the famous Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick.  The purpose of the flight was to generate interest in several flying exhibitions he was to give at Rocky Point as part of the 4th of July celebration festivities.  Advertisements of his arrival had been posted in local papers for several days. 

     Mr. Nelson was scheduled to give three exhibitions on July 4th; at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.  An article that appeared in The Woonsocket Call on July 5th described the first flight; “Shortly before 10 o’clock Nels Nelson sailed his 70 horse-power flying boat out into the bay in front of the Mansion House, watched by thousands of interested spectators.  The motor began to buzz and immediately the huge hydroplane commenced to skim at a rapid rate over the water.  As soon as the maximum speed was attained, the planes were slanted and the boat rose into the air, dripping like a sea gull which had captured its prey.  For a few moments Nelson drove the machine on the level – about 12 feet from the surface of the bay.  Soon, however, he rose higher until it became necessary to tip back one’s head to watch the flight.  Higher and higher went the boat, finally becoming but a speck in the sky sailing towards Prudence Island.”    

      On the second flight of the day Nelson took 21-year-old Irving Tukey aboard as a passenger.  The take-off went smoothly and the flight was uneventful until the aircraft was returning to land.  As Nelson was making his final approach, he cut power to the engine in anticipation of gliding down to the water, but at that instant, a strong gust of wind caught the plane and sent it into a sharp down-turn into the Narragansett Bay from an altitude of 60 feet.  

     Tukey suffered a broken wrist, a laceration to his forehead and numerous bumps and bruises.  Nelson was battered and dazed, but otherwise alright.  Both men were rescued by a private boat that was anchored nearby watching the festivities. 

     What became of Nelson’s hydroplane isn’t recorded, but the accident didn’t deter him from further flying.  The following September he flew another plane that he had built from New Britain, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois.

      Mr. Nelson died in 1964 at the age of 77.  Many of his fellow aviators never reached middle age. His interest in aviation continued throughout his life.  Between 1903 and 1964, (the span of 61 years), he had witnessed the birth of the airplane, the jet, the rocket, and manned space flight.     


The Woonsocket Call, “Birdman Flies At Rocky Point”, July 3, 1913, Page 10

The Woonsocket Call, “Fourth Big Day At Rocky Point”, July 5, 1913, Page. 2

The Woonsocket Call, “Drop Into Bay”, July 7, 1913, Page 1

Internet website  www.earlyaviators.com Nels J. Nelson, 1887-1964




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