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Crash Of Curtis Wright XP-55 At Wright Field  
User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Posted (1 year 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 9093 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


Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
10 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineN14AZ From Germany, joined Feb 2007, 2695 posts, RR: 25
Reply 1, posted (1 year 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 9076 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.


User currently offlinefridgmus From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 1442 posts, RR: 11
Reply 2, posted (1 year 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 8710 times:
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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



The Lockheed Super Constellation, the REAL Queen of the Skies!
User currently offlineRIXrat From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 786 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (1 year 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 8707 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.


User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 8300 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



Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
User currently offlineavnut43 From United States of America, joined Apr 2012, 20 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (1 year 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 5778 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


User currently offlineAesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 6534 posts, RR: 9
Reply 6, posted (1 year 4 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 5746 times:

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








New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (1 year 4 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 5194 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 !



Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
User currently offlinechecksixx From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1079 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (1 year 4 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 5147 times:

It is in excellent condition!!! @ Kalamazoo AirZoo

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


User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (1 year 4 months 1 week 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4874 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.



Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
User currently offlinechecksixx From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1079 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (1 year 4 months 1 week 2 days ago) and read 4813 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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