MISHAPs: 09 JAN 59 WV-2 LOCATION: NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts SRIKE: Yes BUNO: 141563
"...The Crash of the Big Dipper As I recall..." Contributed by MAXYMILLIAN, AT2 Frank email@example.com [05JUN2006]
The date was December 9th 1954. The aircraft was a WV-2 BuNo 131387 named the "Big Dipper" and assigned to the Naval Air Development Unit (NADU) at NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts. I was on the flight schedule for what should have been a routine 4-5 hour round trip.
It was typical weather for a New England morning in early December, chilly, spitting rain and a little bit windy. The aircraft had been scheduled to fly to the Naval Air De-velopment Center at Johnsville PA to either deliver or pickup some new equipment.
The flight proceeded normally until we arrived in the Johnsville area. The pilot called for landing stations and the crew assumed their assigned landing positions. That placed me and most of the crew on two benches that ran fore and aft just behind the flight deck. The field was blanketed in fog and it was raining hard with a lot of snow mixed in. Approach control put us into a counter clockwise racetrack type holding pattern waiting for things to clear up a little. After a few minutes the navigator, who was stand-ing up behind the pilot and co-pilot with an arm on each seat, turned around and told us it would be a while until we landed. I quickly became bored with just sitting there so I went aft through the radar observer's compartment and into the bunkroom located in the space near the rear hatch.
Lying down on a bunk I must have dozed off. When I woke up I realized we were in the process of landing. I propped myself up on an elbow and watched out the port that was located in that bunk space. I felt and observed some violent maneuvers, the last of which was watching the starboard wing go up and feeling the aircraft "slip" to the port side. When the wing came back down I realized we were too close to the ground for such maneuvers and that this was going to be a rough landing. I felt that the pilot had "overcorrected" and brought the wing back too far. I threw myself down on the bunk and grabbed for the bunk rails to hang onto.
I have the distinct impression that the starboard wing tip was the first part of the air-craft to touch down. That wing (starboard) immediately broke off, rupturing the fuel tanks on that side, and we burst into flames. The initial flame was so hot that I could feel the flash through the skin of the aircraft and the port turned bright orange. The port wing, still having lift, rolled us over onto our back. We rotated through a 180° turn and slid off the runway tail first burning all the way.
Fortunately we had rolled to starboard, which kept me in the bunk area instead of throwing me into the aisle. I crawled off the bottom of the top bunk not yet realizing that we had turned over. Looking forward I saw a pair of feet sticking out of the next bunk forward. I found another crewmember named Mooney who immediately sug-gested "Let's get the hell out of here." We went to the hatch, which was just across the aisle and I attempted, unsuccessfully, to open it. Mooney grabbed it and managed to roll it back. As I started out the hatch, which was on the port side of the aircraft where the wing was still attached, I saw that the wing was on fire and hesitated a couple of seconds thinking I should grab the small fire extinguisher hanging by the hatch. Mooney kicked or shoved me through the hatch screaming at me to get out of there. We dropped the 4-5 feet to the ground and ran for the side of the runway. We, appar-ently, were the first to exit the aircraft. As people appeared at the hatch, we screamed at them to "muster here" so that we could let the crash crew know how many people were still aboard. One of the last to exit through that hatch was our radioman who had been doused with red hydraulic oil which we initially thought was blood. He was hav-ing difficulty seeing and was being assisted by another crewmember, which contributed to our impression of a serious injury. When we approached to lend a hand, we were greeted, much to our relief, with a smart-alec remark.
It's my understanding that the hatch leading outside from the flight deck had jammed and five people in the forward part of the aircraft escaped through one of the triangular -shaped windows located next to the pilot and copilot's seats. One of the officers stood there in the heat of the gasoline fire and pulled men through the window. He happened to be bald headed and wound up with a really good tan on the top of his head.
I need to compliment the crash truck crew who performed admirably throughout this episode. They were real fire-eaters. Their primary concern was the safety and rescue of the flight crew and was the personification of professionalism. I'm happy to report that no one died in this crash, which is hard to believe when looking at the photos of the crash site.
NADU Mishap Photograph This photo was taken shortly after the crash and shows how the "Dipper" was totally destroyed. If you use your imagination you can see a little snow clinging to the grass in the foreground.
NADU Mishap Photograph Here's a photo taken the day of the crash and after the fires had been put out. Note how foggy it is.
NADU Mishap Photograph Here's another photo showing an aerial view of the crash site taken the next morning. Note the trail of chewed up and burned ground coming from right to left.
NADU Mishap Photograph This photo is a close up of the aircraft taken the next day. The large chunck of debris in the lower left corner is the starboard wing. All that remains of the port wing is that trail of ash coming off the near side of the fuselage.
A quick examination of the crew at the crash site showed that no one had any apparent life threatening injuries. We were loaded onto a bus and taken to sickbay for a closer examination where one of the first things we had to endure was a dose of medicinal brandy. No seconds were allowed. After the exam an officer ordered a driver to take the enlisted crew over to the galley and tell the duty cook to "give them whatever they want". We wound up with some luke warm roast beef, cold mashed potatoes and plenty of hot coffee. Since most of us had to leave the aircraft without jackets or hats we were taken over to the parachute loft and given brand new style AL-1 cold weather flight jackets. We were told that they were ours to keep forever and ever.
The following morning NADU sent our SNB (jokingly called Small Navy Bomber) down to pick up some of the crew. It was a small aircraft capable of carrying only 5 passen-gers so the whole crew couldn't fly back in her. I don't know what the selection process was but I wound up aboard. As we approached South Weymouth, we ran into a blind-ing snow squall and the Ace sitting in the co-pilot's seat turned around and shouted at us in the back to keep an eye out for the hanger. I could have killed him.
After the crash and when everything had pretty much returned to normal at South Weymouth rumors, as they always do, started to float around. One of them suggested that during Hurricane Carole, when the Dipper was flown inland, we had waited to long too "get out." During the take off in the high winds she had suffered some unap-parent damage, which had weakened the wings. I personally have to disagree with this. I feel very strongly that the starboard wing tip made the first contact with the runway and there are not many wings that can take that kind of punishment.
One of the other rumors that I'm aware of is plausible and believable to me. That is that the Connie, being new to NADU, was a big attraction to all our pilots and they all wanted "Time" in her. On this particular flight, the co-pilot wanted to make the land-ing and the pilot agreed. The co-pilot took over, and flying from the right hand seat at-tempted the landing. Since we were in a left-hand racetrack pattern, it limited the co-pilots view of the runway. He asked for and was refused a right hand approach. Being in the right-hand seat, when he banked the aircraft to the left he lost sight of the run-way and being inexperienced with the aircraft, let it drift too far out. When he straightened up and leveled the wings he was to far too the right. He dropped the port wing and "slid" to the left to get over the runway. He didn't have room enough and got too close to the ground and, when he tried to get "wings level" he overcorrected and dropped the starboard wing. The tip tank hit the runway causing the wing to tear off and burst into flame.
A few weeks after the crash we got some really disappointing news. We were sum-moned to the personnel office where we were asked to sign chits accepting custody of the AL-1 flight jackets. This meant that we would have to turn them in or pay for them when we were through using them. I lied and told the yeoman that I had given mine away. He said OK and let it go at that.
Most of us on the crew had personal tools that we kept in the shop or aboard the air-craft and were allowed to file a claim for lost personal gear that the Navy would pay for or replace. I heard one of the officers remark at one point that if all the tools and per-sonal gear that claims were filed for were actually aboard, the aircraft would never have gotten off the ground.
ZPG-2W "...The information on the small square says that PL-12 NADU ZPG-2W crashed. If my memory serves me right - it collapsed from hitting either the hangar or the mooring mast..." COBANE, ATN2 B. C. firstname.lastname@example.org [31DEC2003]
MISHAPs: 09 DEC 54 WV-1 LOCATION: NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts SRIKE: Yes BUNO: 131387 CAUSE: Crashed, rolled and burned during hard landing at NAF Johnsville, PA. No fatalities. http://home.comcast.net/~elmccaul/WVRoster/ [URL Updated 31JAN2005 | 07DEC2002]
NADU Mishap "...Crashed while landing at Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville PA. We had been in a holding pattern for quite some time due to heavy rain and snow in the area. It's rumored that the copilot was making the landing from the right hand seat and was denied a right hand approach. During the left hand approach he lost sight of the runway and lined up to far to the right which necessitated some violent maneuvers close to the ground. We hit hard, the starboard wing broke off, we burst into flames, turned over and went off the side of the runway. There were 14 white hats, 5 officers and one civilian aboard, all of whom escaped with only minor injuries. The info I have indicates her pilot was Lt. J.T. Freeman and the co-pilot was Lt. R.F. Martin. The crew consisted of: Booner, P. T., Chandler, H. A., Eskland, R. K., Evans, W. R., Fischman, S. S., Freeman, J. T., Gleason, C. O., Good, H. L., Johnson, F. E., Lohman, J. E., Magna,, A, Martin, R. F., Maxymillian, F. J., Mooney, R. R., Stephenson, L., Sylvain, R. N., Toy, E. G., Vlasis, R. R., Wyatt, J. E., and Youdis, A. F...." Contributed by MAXYMILLIAN, AT2 Frank email@example.com [16MAY2003]
MISHAPs: 00 XXX 60 ZPG Mishap "...Another tragic loss at NADU. I believe I had just transferred to VS-36 when this hugh airship went down. I'm not sure if someone sent me this clipping or if I found it in a newspaper at Norfolk. As far as I know, there were no injuries..." COBANE, ATN2 B. C. firstname.lastname@example.org [31DEC2003]
NADU History "...Newspaper picture of the collapse of the USN ZPG-3W BuNo 144243 gondola, possibly NADU's..." Contributed by COBANE, ATN2 B. C. email@example.com [23OCT2004]
"NADU Summary Page"