Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Short History of Adirondack Airplane Crashes

Yesterday’s tragic death of two in the crash of a Piper Cherokee 140 single engine aircraft en route from Saratoga to Malone recalls the sometimes perilous nature of airplane travel in the Adirondacks. While the investigation is still underway, New York State Police have confirmed that Daniel R. Wills, age 48, of North Bangor, and his passenger Ronald E. Rouselle, age 66, of Malone, were killed in a crash that appears to have occurred at about 4,600 feet near Tahawas in the Santanoni Mountain Range in Newcomb. The accident appears to be the second fatal crash at Santanoni; a 1984 crash of a small private plane at Santanoni Peak also killed two. That same year a Cessna 206 crashed into Boreas Mountain. That aircraft, containing the skeleton of the pilot, was discovered by hikers in 1990.

Here is a list of nearly 30 plane crashes that have happened in the Adirondacks since 1912:

1912 – A Curtiss-Wright Bi-plane fitted with pontoons (believed to be the first airplane to fly over the Adirondacks) crashed into Raquette Lake; the pilot (Robert J. Collier, heir to Colliers weekly and the first President of the Aero Club of America) was unhurt and the plane was salvaged.

1926 – A private plane attempting to land on Lake George plunges through thin ice; the pilot and two passengers, who were on their way to Lake Placid were rescued by boat.

1928 – George Walker, the 27 year old President of Albany Air Service, crashed his Waco biplane into the Nazarene Church steeple in Wilmington. Two local boys were with him in the plane and they escaped unhurt, but Walker was seriously injured and it was considered a miracle he survived.

1931 – Three people were injured when their private plane crashed into a tree while landing at a makeshift airport on the Baldwin-Ticonderoga Road.

1934 – American Airlines Curtis Condor biplane crashes into Wilder Mountain, all four onboard survived.

1939 – The motor of a small private plane failed to gain altitude while taking off from Lake Clear Airport. The pilot, Herman Perry of Paul Smiths, survived.

1939 – One woman was injured when a chartered seaplane crashed into Pollywog Pond near the Saranac Inn. The pilot and another passenger were unhurt.

1942 – One man is killed and one survives when they stole an Aeronca from the Wesport air strip, ran out of gas, and crashed between Moriah and Port Henry.

1943 – Two Royal Canadian Air Force flyers on a training mission crashed into Wilmington Peak, north of the Whiteface Memorial Highway, in a snowstorm. They had been circling looking for a place to land; both men were killed.

1944 – Army National Guard C-46 transport crashes three miles west of Lewes Lake on Blue Ridge Mountain near Speculator. The wreckage was discovered in August 1945 by searchers looking for a civilian plane that went down between Lake Placid and Booneville.

1945 – A two seat Taylorcraft crashed on Labounty Hill, about a half mile from Saranac Lake; both the plane’s occupants were killed.

1945 – A small plane carrying three people flying from Lake Placid to Rome, NY crashed on Bullhead Mountain in Johnsburg. A search failed to locate the accident site and it remained undiscovered until a hunter came upon the crash several months later, along with the two women and one male pilot who were killed in the crash.

1950 – Two men survive the crash of their Fairchild trainer when it goes down off River Road in Lake Placid.

1958 – Julian Reiss, owner of Santa’s Workshop, and his daughter crashed near Moose Pond but were able to walk out to safety a day later. When Reiss returned to the spot in hopes of salvaging the plane, he discovered someone had stolen the planes 450 pound engine.

1959 – A NYS Department of Conservation plane on a fish stocking mission crashed into the side of Mt. MacNaughton after taking off from Lake Clear Airport. Four survived, but Chester Jackson of Saranac Lake was killed.

1962 – A B-47 bomber crashes into Wright Peak while on a training mission; four were killed.

1969 – The deadliest aircraft accident in Adirondack history occurred when a Mohawk Airlines commuter turbojet crashed into a mountain near Pilot Knob on Lake George. The plane had left New York City, made a stop in Albany to discharge 33 passengers, and was circling for a landing at the Warren County Regional Airport in Queensbury when it went off course. All fourteen on board were killed.

1969 – A Cherokee 140 piloted by F. Peter Simmons crashed in Iroquois Mountain. Simmons was badly hurt but was rescued and recovered.

1972 – A Bonanza en route from Montreal to Albany with two on board is reported missing. A hunter discovers the wreckage and two bodies near Meacham Lake in 1973.

1974 – An F-106 jet on a training mission from Griffiss Air Force base crashes near Hopkinton. The body of the pilot, who ejected before the crash, is found 20 miles away near Seveys Corners.

1978 – An eleven passenger Piper Navajo crashes at 3,100 feet near the summit of Nye Mountain. Three were killed, but a dog on the plane walked through miles of wilderness and arrived at Lake Placid 10 days later.

1980 – A Beechcraft Baron carrying two pilots and a family of three crashes into Blue Hill on its approach to Lake Clear; all five are killed.

1984 – A small private plane crashes into Santanoni Peak killing two.

1984 – A Cessna 206 crashes into Boreas Mountain. The aircraft and the skeleton of the pilot, are discovered by hikers in 1990.

1986 – Two Massachusetts Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt jets crashed near Wells while training. One of the plane’s pilots was killed; the otehr safely ejected.

1992 – An early morning Plattsburgh flight of a USAir Express 19 commuter plane crashes into Blue Hill while descending to land at Lake Clear; two of the four on board survive.

2000 – Two men barely survive the crash of a small private plane near Lake Placid.

2004 – A single engine Piper Arrow crashes within a mile of Lake Clear Airport while en route to Virginia. Pilot Paul Grulich and his wife Alice were both killed.

2007 – A twin engine Beech private plane crashes at Lake Clear Airport killing the pilot.

Photo: An early plane crash from the holdings of the National Archives.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




10 Responses

  1. mochadmutt says:
  2. Gary Curtis says:
  3. lynda says:

    has the plane crash in 2007 pilot scott p. thomas alias real name philip w. cooke has it ever been fully investigated as to his using a fake name, expired type ratings, th elarge amount of cash?