Engine Disintegrating -Hole InWing-
Witnesses Watch In Horror
(Traveler Staff Photo by Frank Kelly)
CIVILIAN flight instructor R. Arthur Orleans of Nantucket
describes crash of Air Force radar plane off the island.
(Traveler Staff Photo by Frank Kelly
LISTENING on radio to details of search for survivors of
plane crash off Nantucket is Michael Lamb of Nantucket. He
was one of two private pilots aloft at the time who
witnessed the crash.
CIVILIAN flight instructor R. Arthur Orleans of Nantucket
NANTUCKET--Two fishermen and a veteran flight instructor. who had just taken off with a
student witnessed the death throes of the giant Air Force radar plane.
Maxwell Ryder of West Creek Rd. and Ralph Handy of Somerset Rd. were fishing at 7 p.m. from the shore near
Maddaket Harbor."We saw a plane with one engine disintegrating heading right for us," they
both said."When I looked up," Handy said, "I could see a hole in the wing, "The pilot was trying to gun the
engines to avoid hitting the houses, It seemed that he cleared them by about 200 feet. Then we saw a terrific explosion."
The fishermen's wives, who were driving to the beach to pick them up, spotted the plane heading into the area
where they knew their husbands were fishing.
(Continued on Page Fourteen)
Sees Fireball Skim
Water For 4,000 Feet
(Continued from Page One)
Another eyewitness, R. Arthur Orleans of Monomoy, a flight instructor and pilot for 34 years, took off from Nantucket Airport at 6:56 p.m. in a Cessna 150. With him was a student flyer, Lyle Rickard. "Suddenly the tower ordered us to divert from the flight pattern for an emergency, Orleans said". "I pulled up, fearing that Michael Lamb, another pilot coming in for a landing, might be in trouble." Lamb, a Nantucket carpenter-contractor, was flying in from Westchester County. N.Y.
in His Mooney single-engine plane. "Then at 1,000 feet," Orleans said. "I saw this fire, obviously
an aircraft fire at about 5,000 to 6,000 feet and about eight miles from the airport. At first it was small, then the
smoke and fire increased. Then there was a fireball explosion. It was a tremendous thing".
It looked to me as though at least one, possibly two, of the engines dropped off the aircraft right after the burst. And it
looked like parts of the structure dropped away. Suddenly, the flame was snuffed out. The pilot turned
about 90 degrees left and headed a little south of west. He went along the north shore,turning slowly and descending
slowly over Maddaket, the north point. He kept turning along the shore and reached the south shore of the island and appeared to be in control. "About a half mile offshore he began what seemed to
be a ditching attempt. The instant he contacted water there was a tremendous burst of flame, one of the biggest things I've seen. It was just a fireball skidding about 4,000 feet along the water parallel to shore. "At the end of the skid she disappeared. You couldn't see a thing. You knew she was gone.
From Boston Travler Wednesday April 26, 1967
3rd Picket Plane Crash Probed
Grim Search Intensifies Off Nantuckett
By DICK LAMERE and
Col James P Lyle
Pilot On flight photo taken 1954
Courtesy of daughter Jana Trevino
NANTUCKETFive Coast Guard cutters and several helicopters swept the waters off this island resort today in a grim search for a giant Air Force radar picket plane which crashed in a ball of fire last night, killing 15 of the 16 men aboard.
The wreckage of the $7 million craft
was believed to be about a quarter-mile off Maddaket Beach in approximately 50 feet
of water.An oil slick spotted at dawn today was ringed with flares. Officials reported that several pieces of debris believed to be from the plane had washed up on the beach.
By mid morning, only two bodies had been recovered.The sole survivor of the fiery crash, First Lt.Joseph L. Guenet, 29, the navigator, was reported in good condition at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. He was expected to be transferred to the Otis Air Force Base Hospital later today.
As the search continued, a special investigation board was meeting at Otis to probe the third crash of a picket plane.
(Continued on Page Eleven
SURVIVOR WEARING EMERSION SUIT
Survivor Guenet was wearing a rubber emersion suit when he
was plucked from the water. Air Force officials said crew members don the suits only in
time of emergency.
There had been some' reports of some crew members manning individual life rafts for the ditched landing, but Air Force officials doubted anyone could have survived the flames.Had anyone escaped, he could have survived only 45 minutes in the chill 41-degree water without an emersion suit, or several hours with the suit. _One of the bodies was pulled from the water by fishermen aboard the trawler Stephen R. Out of New Bedford and transferred to the cutter Cape George, which earlier had picked up the other body.The two previous picket plane crashes occurred last November, when 19 men were lost, and in July of 1965, when 16 men died.
Only recently, plans were announced for a memorial park for those victims at the air base.
Col. Lyle, 47, had assumed command of the 551st Early Warning and Control Wing at Otis last July.
He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and was reported to be "one of the best-liked men on the base."During the two wars. he compiled 283 combat hours as a pilot.
The plane, an EC-121 Constellation, was carrying six tons of electronic equipment and was embarked on an 18-hour mission at the time of the crash.The mission was called a "routine, active air defense" one,, an Air Force spokesman said. He also said that Coal. Lyle was putting in normal flight time to maintain his accreditation as a pilot. "As commander," the spokesman said, "Col. Lyle could schedule himself for any flight he wished."
SUMMARY OF CIRCUMSTANCES
At 7:05 p. m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on April 25, 1967,
EC-121H serial number 53-0549 crashed and was destroyed one mile
south of the western tip of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Of the
16 crew- members aboard the aircraft 15 were fatalities. One of the
two navigators aboard survived sustaining major Injuries.
The aircraft and its crew were assigned to the 551st Airborne Early
Warning and Control Wing (AEW&C) and were participating in an
active air defense mission over the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft
commander for the flight (who as the 551st AEW&C wing
commander) briefed the aircrew and completed a normal pre-flight
clearance form for the mission. The pre-flight inspection of the aircraft
was accomplished and no significant deficiencies were revealed.
Following normal engine starts, the aircraft departed the parking ramp
at Otis Air Force Base at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Takeoff was made from Runway 23 at 6:30 p.m. EST. Observed
weather conditions at the time of takeoff were: four thousand feet
scattered visibility nine miles and surface winds from 190 degrees at
velocity of four knots. Following takeoff, the aircraft made a left turn
and proceeded to Nantucket Range for a radar monitored departure.
The crew members were to leave their seats to start up their
equipment as the aircraft passed through 2, 000 feet in the climb. The
aircrew is allowed to activate all necessary equipment after passing
2,000 feet providing operation of the aircraft is normal.
At 6:58 p.m. EST, the pilot of the aircraft reported climbing through
6, 000 feet and on a heading of 150 degrees. Following this
transmission, he declared that he thought the number three engine was
on fire and that the aircraft was returning to Otis Air Force Base. One
minute later, he stated the fire was in the right wing root section of the
aircraft. Although the pilot made a left turn toward Otis Air Force
Base, he then elected to land at Nantucket Airport and continued his
turn to a southerly heading. At this time, he was eight miles from
Nantucket and 22 miles from Otis Air Force Base.
The aircraft was cleared to land on any runway at Nantucket Airport
and the last radio transmission from the pilot was 7:03 p.m. - EST
when he requested that the runway lights at Nantucket Airport be
turned on. The aircraft was observed to fly over the west end of
Nantucket island on a southerly heading and ditch into the ocean one
mile south of the west end of the island. The aircraft was seen to
impact the water in a flat attitude and immediately burst into flames
and travel approximately 1,000 feet before submerging.
Immediately upon receiving notification that the aircraft had crashed
Otis Air Force Base officials contacted the U. S. Coast Guard
detachment at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Also alerted were an Air
Force and a Navy aircrew that were flying in the nearby area. Air
Force and Coast Guard helicopters were dispatched and soon arrived
at the crash site. All search efforts were coordinated by the Coast
The search aircraft dropped flares, as it was getting dark, and also
released survival equipment at the scene of the crash. One of the
helicopters discovered the surviving air crewman [1st Lieutenant
Joseph L. H. Guenet - Navigator] and accomplished an immediate
rescue. The air crewman was flown to Nantucket Island for medical
attention. The bodies of two crew members [M/Sgt Frank W. Garner
Jr., Flight Engineer and A/1C Theodore E. LaPointe Jr., Radio
Operator] were located and recovered by surface vessels. The other
crew members were not recovered.
Salvage operations for the recovery of the aircraft wreckage were
initiated by the Navy. The primary search area was established at two
square miles with a secondary area of eight square miles. The search
operations conducted by the Navy utilized nets and divers. SONAR
equipment was also used. The main portion of the wreckage was
located on May 1 in 50 feet of water, with water visibility of only one
foot due to local storm conditions, The search, which continued for
30 days, was often hampered by bad weather or strong winds.
Search and salvage operations were finally discontinued on May 31,
1967 after the majority of the aircraft wreckage had been recovered
and no additional aircrew members bodies had been located.
SOURCE: Department Of The Air Force, Headquarters Air Force
Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, NM
Members of the crew, listed as missing, are:Col. James P. Lyle, 47, aircraft commander, 5377 Lindbergh Ave., Otis AFB:
Maj. Howard N. Franklyn. 44, first pilot, 21 Maple St., Buzzards Bay;
wife, Marjorie daughter, Sandra, 20. Hometown Medford.
Capt. Frank R. Ferguson II 27, navigator, 5317D Arnold Ave. Otis
AFB; wife, Diane,
children Daryn, 3, and Todd, three months, Hometown, Newport News, Va.
SMSGT Robert E Mulhern 42 flight engineer, Briarwood Ave. Hyannis;
wife, Margaret, 11.
Home town , Ft Waldon Beach, Fla,
M/Sgt. Frank W. Garner Jr. 38, flight engineer 5610A Patrick Road,
Otis AFB; Wife Shirley, daughters,
Betsy, 12 and Jean 10, Hometown Springfield IL
S/Sgt. Richard D. Bearden, 34. radar crew chief, 5547B Gibson St.,
wife, Pauline; children, Randall, 10, and Thelma, 9. Hometown, Douglasville, Ga.
Airman 1/C Robert J. Clapper, 25, airborne data processor technician,
Randolph St., Otis AFB; wife, Janice; children, Kevin, 3; Deborah, 2 Hometown, Glen Aubrey, N.Y.
Airman 1/C Theodore E. LaPointe Jr., 25, radio operator, ;163 Clifford
St., New Bedford;
wife, Marie; children, Theodore, 4; and Michael, 2. Hometown, Pittsfield.
Airman 1/C William M. Walsh, 34, radar operator, 53 Carte Real Ave.,
wife, Joan; Children James, 8; Dennis, 7; Ruth Ann, 5; Kevin, 3., Maureen, 5 months.
Airman 1/C Richard D Gravely. 26, radar operator, 108 Lock Wood Ave.,
Louelle, son David 1. Hometown, Mabscott W. VA.
Airman 2/C Danny R. Burden Otis AFB single, from Amherst. den, 22,
stationed at Otis AFB, single, from Lexington KY.
Airman 2/C Dennis E. Boyle, 20, nav. technician, stationed at Otis AFB, single from Brooklyn.
Airman 2/C William M. Cook, 20, radar operator; stationed at Otis from Amherst
Airman ;A3/C Dennis R. Cole, 19, student radar operator, stationed at
Otis AFB, single, from
Rescued a short time after the crash was 1st Lt. Joseph L. Guenet, 29,
Tinker St., Otis AFB, wife, Anna Jane. Hometown, Montreal.
Crew picture (not the Crew on 0549)Click to view
APRIL 26, 1967
HERO PILOT HAD LONG RECORD OF BRAVERY
FALMOUTH--Col. James P. Lyle, the hero pilot who kept his radar plane from crashing onto Nantucket Island yesterday, plunging into the sea instead, was a veteran of two wars and has received numerous decorations for bravery.
The Colonel, ironically, was the officer who briefed newsmen here Nov.10,1966 during another such tragedy when 19 airmen died in a plane crash 120 miles off Nantucket. Col. Lyle was the Wing Commander of the Early Warning and Control Squadron [Wing] at Otis Air Force Base. A spokesman said Lyle took the flight in order to fulfill Air Force requirements of a base commander. His normal duties entail directing ocean hops from his base headquarters.
Col. Lyle was born in Springtown, Texas, 47 years ago. He had been in the Air Force for 26 years.A year after he graduated from North Texas State College, Denton, Texas, in 1939, Lyle entered the Aviation Cadet Program.
He graduated from flying school and navigation school and also the B-24 transition training. In March of 1944, Col. Lyle was reassigned to the Mediterranean Theater as commander of the 827th Bomb Squadron in Italy. While in that country, he flew 35 combat missions and had a total of 246 combat hours.
His next major assignment came in 1948 when he was sent to Itazuke Air Base, Japan, as inspector- general of the 315th Air Division. In 1950 he was made wing inspector-general for the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, Far East Air Force.
During the Korean War, Col. Lyle flew 12 combat missions and 37 combat hours. In 1954, he served as acting chief, Flight Branch, in the Flight division of Headquarters USAF, in Washington, D.C. Col. Lyle completed a course in Spanish and was next assigned to the Republic of Honduras in 1957 as assistant chief of the USAF mission there.
In 1961, he became deputy commander of the 522nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing at McClellan AFB, Calif. He became commander of the wing a year later. In 1964 he was assigned to Air Defense Command Headquarters, Ent AFB, Colorado, as director of official personnel. He held that post until his assignment to the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing at Otis on July 22, 1966.
Among his decorations are, Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; Bronze Star; Air Force Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Presidential Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster; Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the French Croix de Guerre with one palm. The colonel is married to Juanita (Musgrave) Lyle. He has two children, James L. 22, and Jana, 15. Today, newsmen who were present during last Novembers crash, recalled how visibly shaken Lyle was during a news briefing. Col. Lyle was one of those who worked for the establishment of a memorial park at the base in tribute to the 19 who lost their lives in 1966 and the 16 other airmen who died in another crash on July 11, 1965. During memorial services for the victims of the 1966 crash, Lyle presented each next of kin with a flag.
Col. Lyles Secretary's story
More Articles from the Boston Traveler
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The cover of the AIR FORCE SERGEANTS Association Magazine Volume VIII, NO. 9 of September-October 1969 was in memory of MSgt. Frank W. Garner, life member Number 9.
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