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Topic: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: Geezer
Posted 2012-12-06 13:06:55 and read 9470 times.

Yesterday, while researching web sites for something else, I discovered a whole web site devoted to an experimental plane that I witnessed crashing at an air show at old Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, on May 27, 1945. It has been 67 years now since it happened, and all this time I never knew the correct name of the plane, or the name of the pilot who perished in that horrendous, fiery crash. Now I know; I spent half the afternoon reading about the incredible war record of the pilot, Captain William Glasgow; he had over 80 combat missions while in North Africa, then on a mission over Germany later on, he was shot down, and taken to a German hospital. His first attempted escape was unsuccessful, but in his second attempt, after much pain and suffering from his wounds, and two weeks, he finally made it back to his unit.

Now, May 27, 1945...........

I was 13 years old at the time; my sister's husband, H.M. Hall (who is now 97 years old and is retired and living in Gulfport, Florida), worked for the Air Force at old Wright Field; we had all gone over to "The Field" (as everyone called it then) to watch the air show.

The papers reported there were about 100,000 people at the Field, 70,000 of which were sitting on bleachers set up for the air show. We watched a C-46 Commando snag a glider and yank it into tow, and then we were the first civilians to get a peek inside the B-29 Superfortress. (Believe me, the B-29 was BIG NEWS in 1945 !) There was a fly-over by the massive, (for then) one-of-a-kind XB-19. Legendary war aces Maj. Richard "Dick" Bong (who was the leading Ace of all WW 2) and Capt. Dominic "Don" Gentile flew fighter demos — Bong in a P-38 Lightning and Gentile in a P-51 Mustang. Lt. Steve Pisanos flew a P-59 Airacomet, the Army's futuristic, jet-powered fighter. (Kinda sounds funny, hearing about "the Army"........but back then, the "Air Force" WAS part of the Army ! ) (I can see all you retired USAF types "flinch" at that!)

At 4 p.m., several fighter pilots lined up for a flyby. According to an eyewitness account by Capt. John Ducas, who was squeezed into the back of Bong's P-38, ( hey.....P-38's only hold one guy, but Bong was a little guy, and I guess Ducas was too), five fighters were to fly over the field in single-file formation, led by Capt. William C. Glasgow, 28, of Niagara Falls, NY. Glasgow was a combat veteran who had been shot down over Germany, taken prisoner and escaped. He held the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and an Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters. He was flying the XP-55 Ascender (commonly referred to as the "Ass-Ender" or "Flying Goose")

"After completing the pass across the field, we were to make a slow roll and then continue the direction of flight," Ducas wrote in an account published by the papers. Glasgow made his roll, and then the plane "seemed to wobble to the right and left, almost completing a second roll." Bong began his pass, then suddenly turned away. Bong gestured toward the ground; Dugan looked down and saw "a mass of red flames and then a second later the inferno was engulfed by black smoke." According to other witnesses, Glasgow's plane "swooped close to the ground and tore off 150 feet of fence" near Airway Road. The plane "burst into flames and began falling apart."

At that moment, local resident Wesley Roehm was turning his car around on Airway to take his family and a friend to the show. The XP-55 "sideswiped" the car and splashed gasoline on it before breaking into pieces and crashing into a ditch across the road. The gasoline ignited, engulfing the car and its occupants in flames. Roehm and a friend, Kathleen Eyre, died; Roehm's wife Susan and their two children were critically burned.

This XP-55 was the third of only three built, according to Wikipedia. The first crashed in 1943 when it flipped over in a stall test and went into an uncontrolled, inverted spin. The pilot was able to bail out, but the plane was destroyed. After Glasgow's crash, the Army apparently lost interest in the last remaining Ascender; it eventually became the property of the National Air and Space Museum, which displayed it for many years before loaning it to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Michigan, where it was restored and remains on display. One very interesting thing I noticed; the XP-55 had a lever in the cockpit that the pilot could use to jettison the propeller in case of a bail-out; it looks like that idea saved at leads one guy's butt !


Curtis Wright XP-55 Ascender ( commonly known as "Ass-Ender" or "Flying Goose"



Artist's Rendering of XP-55 Ascender


The above eye witness account by Captain Ducas is very close, but he being in Bong's plane, and from my vantage point on the ground, this is what I remember; the XP-55 actually impacted the ground briefly, (kinda like a flat stone skipping across a pond"), then bounced back up, ( by now a fireball), continued maybe 75 to 100 feet towards the perimeter fence, which it only partially cleared, and by now only 20 or so feet high, traveled across Airway Road, directly over the car driven by Wesley Roehm, then finally coming to rest in a ditch on the far side of the road. There really is no way of describing the sheer pandemonium of a crowd that big, after such a horrible spectacle; suffice to say, it creates an indelible impression on one's memory.

Then, the next day when I returned home I found this out; My Mom rented an upstairs apt. to a young couple; The fellow was an Ohio Highway Patrolman, (Cpl. Charles "Charlie" Brown) (we all called him "Brownie); Brownie had been on traffic duty at the Air Show on a motor cycle; for a few minutes just before the plane crash, he had been sitting on his MC, then just SECONDS before, he had spotted a motorist doing something, had just climbed off the MC, and was less than 100 feet away from it when the burning plane came flying over the road, and a HUGE burning chunk of wreckage had landed on the MC, literally pulverizing it ! After missing certain death by "inches and seconds", he then had to "deal" with the car with five people in it, two who died instantly, and the other three succumbed to their burns over the next few months. ( And I'm 13 years old and hearing all this from the guy who lived upstairs !) It's probably why I remember it so well..........

Charley

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: N14AZ
Posted 2012-12-06 13:27:23 and read 9453 times.

Quoting Geezer (Thread starter):
he then had to "deal" with the car with five people in it, two who died instantly, and the other three succumbed to their burns over the next few months.

Pheeew, that's not easy to overcome. May they all rest in peace, especially the two children.

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: fridgmus
Posted 2012-12-07 23:46:08 and read 9087 times.

What a horrible loss, to lose a whole family and a brave pilot. May they all Rest in Peace.

And what a beautiful aircraft as well.

Thanks for posting Charley,

F

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: RIXrat
Posted 2012-12-08 00:05:07 and read 9084 times.

Charley,

Your memory of events is incredible. I once was a witness to a car fire where all four occupants were incinerated. Not pleasant. I really liked your full description of the planes and events as they happened.

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: Geezer
Posted 2012-12-13 21:12:02 and read 8677 times.

Quoting RIXrat (Reply 3):
Your memory of events is incredible.

Thank you Emil ! You know. I have never ceased to, be amazed at how memory seems to "work"; For some mundane, trivial things, I sometime feel like my memory is terrible; but for other things, like the time I almost killed myself when I was forced to go over a hill with a tank truck full of 8,000 gallons of gasoline, it seems like I remember it as well today, as I did in the 1960's when it happened.

We had seen that funny looking plane almost on a daly basis for 4 or 5 months, and it just looked so "different" from all the other war planes of that era, everyone would always say, "there goes the flying goose again" ! We just kinda felt "attached" to it because we saw it so often; but for 67 years now, I never was able to find out who the pilot was that flew it; when I read the story last week, and read about his incredible war record, it made me as sad as if I had lost a brother.

Charley

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: avnut43
Posted 2013-03-10 18:27:11 and read 6155 times.

For more information about the XP-55, see the book "American Secret Pusher Fighters of WWII: XP-54, XP-55, and XP-56" by Gerald H. Balzer.

http://www.amazon.com/American-Secre...r1&keywords=curtis+pusher+fighters

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: Aesma
Posted 2013-03-10 21:23:25 and read 6123 times.

I didn't know of that plane. It makes me think of the crazy planes in the videogame Crimson Skies :





Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: Geezer
Posted 2013-03-20 18:08:46 and read 5571 times.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 6):
I didn't know of that plane. It makes me think of the crazy planes in the videogame Crimson Skies :

That plane on the very bottom looks like the developers of that game must have seen photos of the Curtiss Wright Acender and copied it.

BTW; I was reading some more about the XP-55, and during it's development, one of the key things the engineers were concerned about, was if the pilot was face with an emergency and had to "step out", he would almost certainly be killed by the rear mounted propeller; in order to negate this possibility, in case of an emergency requiring the pilot to exit the A/C, they designed a system that would jettison the propeller prior to the pilot leaving the A/C.

I can just envision a scenario where some farmer is driving his tractor and a huge propeller comes flying out of the sky in front of him !

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: checksixx
Posted 2013-03-21 01:27:45 and read 5524 times.

It is in excellent condition!!! @ Kalamazoo AirZoo

http://www.airzoo.org/images/aircraft/curtiss_xp-55_ascender_lg.jpg

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: Geezer
Posted 2013-03-23 23:23:28 and read 5251 times.

Quoting checksixx (Reply 8):
It is in excellent condition!!! @ Kalamazoo AirZoo

That's the only one in existence too. I must have seen the one that crashed, flying around about 300 times, but that's the first time I've ever seen the thing up close; It looks like it sits quite a bit higher than I would have imagined.

I did see what was left of the other one a couple of days after the accident; it looked more like the piles of scrap metal you see in junk yards than it did like an airplane; very sad sight.

Topic: RE: Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field
Username: checksixx
Posted 2013-03-24 20:48:38 and read 5190 times.

They have several 'one of a kind' aircraft there...its an awesome museum if you ever get the chance to pop in there.


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