Wethersfield’s “Other” Plane Accidents

Although Wethersfield is certainly not Connecticut’s “Bermuda Triangle” the town has seen a number of other aeronautical accidents anomalies in addition to the “Fairway 6” and “Isaacson’s Field” incidents.

An Abrupt Termination (12/19/1928)

The headline and sub-headlines from the Hartford Courant told most of the story – “Mrs. Smith’s Plane Lost, Forced Down; Pilot Flying Elderly Woman to Son’s Funeral Today Lands in Wethersfield Meadow; Without Food Since Morning; Trip From Raleigh, N.C. to Hartford made in 7/12 Hours With Two Stops For Fuel.”

Mrs. C.E. Smith was flying north to attend the funeral of her son Harry A. Smith, President of the National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford (now located in Chicago, Illinois). On Tuesday December 18th she flew from St. Petersburg, Florida (her hometown) “with her chauffeur, Samuel Feinberg” to Jacksonville Florida. It was her first time on an airplane. There they immediately boarded a train to Raleigh, N.C., where she arranged with the Williams Flying Service in Greenville, S.C. to be flown to Hartford, Ct.   With fifteen minutes preparation Pilot George Keightley “took off for Raleigh, leaving Greenville before daybreak Wednesday.”

“At Raleigh, no aviation gasoline was available and with tanks only partly filled the bright red Stinson-Detroiter Junior cabin monoplane hopped off with the two passengers for Hartford. The inability to get gasoline at Raleigh necessitated a stop at Richmond, Va., and approximately 30 minutes were lost in trying to locate there. This 30-minute loss kept the flyers from reaching Hartford before darkness [and] made flying over unknown terrain hazardous.”

The plane then made a second stop at Armonk, New York for gasoline. The passengers were not able to get anything to eat at either stop. And the pilot, who had never flown over Connecticut, was unable to get “a Connecticut airway map” – receiving instead “meager instructions there as to the route he should follow.”

By the time the flight reached Wethersfield the sun was setting and the pilot was unsure of his proximity to Brainard Field. The aircraft was not equipped with either navigation lights or gasoline gauges so “taking no chances with his elderly passenger, he put the plane down in the Wethersfield meadow, rather than fly farther.”

The landing area was a field owned by the estate of F.A. Griswold near Wolcott Hill Road. Mrs. Smith was assisted from the airplane and taken to the nearby home of Ernest R. Spencer where she was served tea by Mrs. Spencer.   Mrs. Smith’s grandson who had been waiting for her at Brainard Field came to Wethersfield and picked her up.

The Courant reported that Mrs. Smith was not shaken up by the long flight or its “abrupt termination” but was disturbed that the other Hartford newspaper, the Times, had incorrectly reported her age as 85. “I have six years to live before I reach that age”.

She also said “if it had not been for her errand, she would have enjoyed every minute of her flight.”

Out of Gasoline (11/13/1939)

“Out of gasoline, apparently on a flight from New York into Vermont, a light monoplane flown by N.P. Slobodingal of Bellows Falls, Vt., was landed Sunday afternoon on a high knoll in pasture land on Maple Street Wethersfield, near the Chanticler Inn [in Rocky Hill].” (Hartford Courant)

The pilot’s brother was a passenger and the plane was not damaged.  After procuring gasoline from one of the motorists at the scene and waiting one and one half hours the plane took off.

Lower Than My Roof (8/11/1942)

On August 11, 1942 a U.S. Army airplane believed to have been flown by Lt. William Warner, son of Mrs. Henry C. Warner of State Street intentionally flew low over the house of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Pandolfe of 502 Ridge Road in order to draw attention to a chimney fire at the residence.

Mrs. Pandolfe was in the process of calling the Fire Department when she was “momentarily distracted” by the sound which seemed “as if it were lower than my roof”.

The Fire Department responded and quickly brought the fire under control with no damage to the residence.

Hopped the River and Never Came Back.” (9/4/1952)

The Wethersfield Police force commanded by Thomas J. Sullivan unsuccessfully searched for the “wreckage of an airplane” reported missing by its owner, W.S. Bailey of Glastonbury who said that his plane “hopped the river and never came back.” The missing aircraft was a gasoline powered model airplane.

Search by Feel (3/13/1977)

A twin-engine, four seater Piper Apache that had just taken off from Brainard Field crashed into Wethersfield Cove after disappearing from radar. It was piloted by Ernest A. Owner of Alexandria, Virginia. Two witnesses parked on the east side of the small body of water heard “what they thought was the sound of an explosion” according to Wethersfield Police Chief T. William Knapp. State Police scuba divers found most of the airplane the following morning about 300 feet of the western shore of the cove. It was split in two. The body of the pilot was recovered on March 16 by Wethersfield firemen and policemen using grappling hooks who had to “search by feel” in the zero visibility water.

“20 feet over my windshield” (1/8/1979)

“A small plane made an emergency landing in the southbound lane of I-91 in Wethersfield Monday about 7 p.m., but the only damage was a crumpled wing tip and a nick to an automobile.” (Hartford Courant)

Pilot Robert Schivner was flying his Cessna 150 from New Haven to Hartford’s Brainard Field with passenger Robert Beaudette when the “brand new” engine “just conked out.”

“’I just couldn’t believe my eyes,’ said Marshal McNaney who was driving home from work. ‘He flew about 20 feet over my windshield,’ he said. ‘It was just miraculous that the guy had enough room to land. It was blue and white. I’ll never forget it.’”

The plane was lifted onto a trailer and driven to Brainard Filed with a police escort.

 

Source: Hartford Courant Archives 

 

Also read about the Issacson’s Field and Fairway 6  plane crashes in Wethersfield.

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