Warwick, R. I. – July 9, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – July 9, 1942

     On July 9, 1942, a small plane with a pilot and two passengers aboard took off from Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick for a routine flight.  The pilot, was an experienced flyer with about 2,400 hours in the air.  He also held a commercial pilot’s license with an instructor’s rating.       

      One of the passengers was a 26-year-old man from Putnam, Connecticut, who’d had an interest in aviation, and had obtained his student pilot’s license two days earlier. 

     The other passenger was a 31-year-old man from Killingly, Connecticut.  

     After becoming airborne the pilot began to put the aircraft through a series of aerobatic maneuvers. At one point he reportedly “zoomed” the flight office and then climbed to 1,500 feet.  The aircraft then went into a loop, after which the pilot reportedly deliberately stalled the engine and put the airplane into an intentional spin.  (Investigators later wrote in their final report of the crash that the pilot, “made a practice of thrilling his audience by spinning close to the ground before affecting recovery.”) (The report wasn’t released until January of 1943.)

     The aircraft had almost leveled out when it crashed wheels down near the airport.  The impact killed the West Warwick man, and seriously injured the other passenger and the pilot. 

     The type of aircraft is not known. 


     The Windham County Observer, (Putnam, CT.), “Pilot Blamed For Death Of Putnam Aviation Student”, January 13, 1943, pg. 3.   


Warwick, R. I. – August 16, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island – August 16, 1940

      On August 16, 1940, a 24-year-old student pilot in a Piper Cub was waiting for clearance to take off from Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick.  Meanwhile, a 35-year-old student pilot in a Luscombe aircraft was returning to the airport from a solo flight.  As the Liscombe was approaching the runway, the control tower operator gave the green light to the Piper Cub to take off.  The pilot of the Piper Cub gunned his engine and began his take off run while the Liscombe continued its approach.  The tower operator suddenly realized what was taking place, and tried to signal the Piper Cub to abort, but it was too late.  The tower operator would later state that a hangar had obstructed his view of the approaching plane. 

     Just as the Piper Cub left the ground it collided in mid-air with the in-coming Liscombe.  The collision took place when both aircraft were about ten feet off the ground. 

     Both aircraft crashed to the ground, but there was no fire.  Despite the damage to each aircraft, neither pilot suffered serious injuries. 


      The Pawtucket Times, “CAA Investigates Two-Plane Crash”, August 17, 1940, pg. 3.       

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


Warwick, R. I. – May 29, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – May 29, 1943


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

     On May 29, 1943, 2nd Lt. Millard F. Parsley, Jr., (29), was returning from a training flight to Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick when his aircraft developed engine trouble and he requested an emergency landing clearance.  As he was making his approach his aircraft crashed and burned near the airport. 

     The aircraft Lt. Parsley had been flying was a P-47C, (Ser. No. 41-6552),  He was assigned to the 310th Fighter Squadron, 58th Fighter Group.  He’s buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Erwin, Tenn.

     To see a photo of Lt. Parsley, click here: https://etvma.org/veterans/millard-f-parsley-jr-11001/


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



Warwick, R. I. – October 31, 1962

Warwick, Rhode Island – October 31, 1962  

     On the evening of October 31, 1962, a twin-engine aircraft with two men aboard crashed in a thickly wooded area south of Major Potter Road in Warwick, about 3/4 of a mile from Love Lane.  An intensive search was begun involving state and local police, fire fighters, state officials, and numerous volunteers.  The search continued throughout the night in driving rain and thick fog conditions. 

     The wreckage was finally located at 6 a.m. the following morning.  When rescue workers reached the scene, they found one man, a 34-year-old from Woonsocket, to be deceased, and the other unconscious.  The injured man, a 32-year-old from North Smithfield, was taken to Kent County Hospital for treatment.   

     They type of aircraft is unknown. 


     The Rhode Island Pendulum, “Bulletin – The Early Story”, November 1, 1962, page 1.   

     New York Times, “Pilot Found Alive In Crash; Passenger Is dead In Cabin”, November 1, 1962

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.  

Warwick, R. I. – November 2, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 2, 1942


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

     On November 2, 1942, two U.S. Army P-40 fighter planes, based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, were on a training flight over Narragansett Bay when they collided in mid-air.   

     One plane, (41-14183), piloted by Staff Sgt. John W. Smallsreed, 21, of Newton Falls, Ohio, suffered minor damage and was able to return safely to Hillsgrove.    

     The second plane, (41-14135), piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Pierson, 23, of Chicago, suffered heavy wing damage, and he was forced to bail out.  After the bailout, Pierson’s plane continued on and crashed in the center of the intersection of Barton Street and Grand Avenue in the Warwick Neck section of the city. 

     The aircraft narrowly missed an automobile being driven by Edward W. Thurber of Pawtuxet.  The explosion of the P-40’s impact spewed debris and gasoline onto his car setting it on fire.  Thurber, not knowing for sure what had just happened, jumped from his flaming car and allowed it to roll down a hill where it came to rest in a vacant lot and continued to burn.   

     A home at 49 Barton Avenue was also set on fire, but the owner was able to extinguish the flames with a garden hose. 

     Mrs. Forrest B. Morgan of Grand Avenue told reporters that she had been standing where the plane crashed for twenty minutes waiting for her daughter.  She had just started back towards her home when the plane hit and was not injured.

     Meanwhile, Lt. Pierson was seen landing in Narragansett Bay where he disappeared after hitting the water.  Four volunteer firemen from the Conimicut Fire Department launched a boat to rescue Pierson, but needed to be rescued themselves when their boat capsized in the rough water. 

     Some reports were later received that Pearson had been rescued, but these were found to be in error.  He was officially reported as “missing”.  

     Harry Robbins, an eye witness to the crash, told reporters, “One (plane) passed under the other and the two wings hit.  The bottom plane turned over a couple of times, the pilot jumped out, and one wing started to smoke.  Then the plane made two wide circles and I saw it coming towards me.  The explosion it made when it landed was deafening.” 

     Lt. Pierson’s body was later recovered on November 30th. He’s buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.   https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/76339168/william-h-pierson

     S/Sgt. Smallsreed was later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.  He died in North Africa on May 23, 1943.  To see a photo of him click on the link.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56250377/john-w-smallsreed  


Providence Journal, “Two Army Planes Collide Over Bay; One Pilot Missing”, November 3, 1942, Pg. 1



Off Conimicut Point, R.I. – August 3, 1916

Off Conimicut Point, Rhode Island – August 3, 1916 

Updated January 1, 2022.

     The information about this accident comes from a small news item that appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on August 5, 1916, Page 1, under the heading “Condensed Telegraphs”. 

     The new hydro-aeroplane of the Rhode Island Naval Militia struck a submerged oyster stake off Conimicut Point in Narragansett Bay.

     No further details were given. 

     Another news item found in The El Paso Herald, dated August 3, 1916, read as follows: “The hydroplane presented to the Rhode Island Naval Militia by Miss Lyra Brown Nickerson, struck a submerged oyster stake and partly sank off Conimicut.  Later it was drawn into shallow water to be repaired.”   

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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