April 27, 1967




OTIS AIR FORCE BASE-April 27--It was his duty as wing commander. He had to do it and there wasn’t any question about it. Thus it was a somber, but calm, Colonel James P. Lyle, who slowly read off the names of crew members of the EC-121H that crashed Nov. 11 last year.

It seemed rather strange to newsmen Tuesday night that the wing commander wasn’t present during the long wait for developments on the crash.

It didn’t take long to determine the reason. Although base officials wouldn’t comment on it at the time, there was only one other place that the skipper would be under the circumstances...and that was on the ill-fated Connie.

CAREER OFFICER - The Texas-born career officer was a stout defender of the EC-121s. Although, in interviews, he anxiously anticipated the arrival of the new radar jets that are to replace the EC-121s, he refuted claims after the last crash that the Connies were over the hill or in bad shape.

"They’re well-maintained and adequately equipped" for their mission, he said, citing what he called their "defendable record."

He admittedly was "a four-engine " man in preference to jet fighter piloting.

James Perkins Lyle was born in Springtown, Texas, Dec. 21, 1919. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from North Texas State College, he entered the aviation cadet program shortly before World War II and later completed training in flying B-24s.

HAD COMMAND IN ITALY - In 1944, he was assigned to the Mediterranean Theater as commander of the 827th Bomb Squadron in Italy from where he flew 35 combat missions for a total of 246 combat hours.

He was sent to Japan in 1948 where he later became wing inspector general for the 8th Fighter- Bomber Wing. During the Korean War, Colonel Lyle flew 12 combat missions and 37 combat hours.

He served in a variety of duties in the next few years in Washington, Honduras and McClellan Air Force Base, Cal., where he assumed command of the 552nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing in October 1963. From there he was assigned to Air Defense Command Headquarters at Ent AFB in Colorado as director of officer personnel.

In June of 1965 he became assistant deputy chief of staff, Personnel, ADC, the position he held until assuming command of the Otis Wing in July of last year.

DECORATIONS LISTED - Colonel Lyle was a command pilot. Among his decorations are the 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.

Colonel Lyle married Juanita Musgrave of Denton, Texas. They have two children, a son, James L., 21, and a daughter, Jana, 14.

Mrs. Louis Musgrave of Denton, Texas, the wife of Colonel Lyle’s brother-in-law, said he had three years to go to retire and hoped to reach a promotion to brigadier general rank before then. He graduated from North Texas State University at the age of 19, went immediately into the Air Force and served so well that he was decorated by the U.S., French and Korean Governments.

Although a man of medium stature, Colonel Lyle was an active man unaccustomed to sitting still, Mrs. Musgrave said.

"He even helped with services at the churches on Base, she said.





May 1, 1967





OTIS AIR FORCE BASE--The vast stretches of Atlantic Ocean of the Eastern Seaboard usually patrolled round-the-clock by Otis Air Force Base’s EC-121H radar Constellations are not being left unprotected with the temporary suspension of their flights.

Emphasizing this point and clarifying the difference between the terminology "suspension" and "grounding" yesterday was the new commander of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing here, Colonel John M. Konosky.

"During the interim period, all other Air Defense Command early warning and control systems throughout the United States still are in operation," he said.

"These include land based radars, fighter interceptor squadrons, and Bomarc missiles along the entire East Coast." Colonel Konosky also indicated other classified defense systems he is not at liberty to divulge are in operation.

The new wing commander’s remarks were made at a hastily-called press conference yesterday at the wing command post.

Colonel Konosky said the decision to temporarily suspend the ED-121H flights was made by him after consultation with 1st Air Force officials.

"The significant point is that the aircraft are available and ready to fly in a matter of minutes if they are needed. We would not hesitate to fly them if the situation warranted it," Colonel Konosky stated.

"However, as a precautionary measure we are thoroughly inspecting each aircraft at the base," he added. The move was made by the Air Force after last Tuesday’s Connie crash, the third in the last 21 months. Fifteen men were killed in the mishap.

The wing commander said each of the 27 "H" model Connies at Otis are being taken apart one by one by maintenance crews.

"We have crews working 24 hours a day," he said, adding "the first plane should be completed today." The over-all project is expected to take "several days" the colonel explained.

"The planes will be placed back on normal flying status as their inspections are satisfactorily completed," colonel Konosky added.

"This is a total inspection of the entire aircraft, more thorough than any periodic maintenance checks they undergo."

The suspension of the surveillance flights of the EC-121H aircraft marks the first time since the 551st Wing arrived at Otis 12 years ago the planes have not fulfilled their mission.

Not affected by the flight suspension are the TC-121-C and C-121-G models of the Constellations assigned to Otis.

"These aircraft are continuing to meet their flying programs in support of the wing’s mission,’ the colonel explained.





Cape cod standard times

May 1, 1967







Cape Cod Standard Times Writer


OTIS AIR FORCE BASE--The lone survivor of the most recent tragedy involving an Otis based EC-121H Warning Star says he has "no compunctions" about flying once again in the radar picket planes or any other aircraft.

Lieutenant Joseph L. H. Guenet said that, despite the fact that three of the picket planes have crashed within the last 21 months he believes the Connies "are not obsolete or unsafe."


"I feel they are basically a sound aircraft" Lieutenant Guenet told a battery of news men, radio and television cameramen yesterday in his first public appearance since he miraculously escaped from the doomed Connie.

ONLY SURVIVOR - The 29 year old navigator is the only member of the 16 man crew that survived the fire and explosion that wracked the aircraft last Tuesday as it attempted to ditch in the Atlantic one mile south of Nantucket.

Asked how he managed to escape with only minor injuries from the fire that engulfed the aircraft, Lieutenant Guenet said, "I don’t know . . . I don’t understand how I cleared the aircraft if it exploded."

Lieutenant Guenet was remarkably composed at yesterday’s press briefing at the Otis Air Force Base Hospital considering the fact that the ordeal he survived was just five days ago.

Although his face showed the effects of burns suffered from the fire that ensued after the crash the only other visible sign of his brush with death was his left arm which was in a sling underneath his pajamas and robe.

ROUTINE MISSION - Lieutenant Guenet said it was a routine Air Defense Command mission until the crew felt what appeared to be "a small explosion" as the aircraft was climbing for altitude over Nantucket.

"The entire crew immediately assumed their ditching positions and prepared for an emergency landing," he said.

The Canadian-born navigator explained that the plane went into a dive soon after the explosion, but was pulled out of by the pilot, former commander of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing, Colonel James P. Lyle."

He revealed that the crew had "between 5 and 10 minutes" warning of the impending crash and that "everyone donned their rubberized exposure suits."

VERY ORDERLY - Questioned s to what those final minutes in the air were like, he firmly said "orderly, very orderly, Captain Frank R. Ferguson 2nd, the other navigator and myself both gave the orders to get to the ditching stations and prepared for a crash.

"Everyone was helping everyone else, there was no panic or confusion," he said. The lieutenant vividly remembered a new crew member aboard the Connie being helped by three other veteran airmen.

"There was smoke in the aircraft that ranged from light to heavy. It considerably slowed down our preparations for the ditching" he stated.

Lieutenant Guenet also said he "did not know" if Commander Lyle had purposely avoided an attempted landing on Nantucket so as not to endanger the residents of the island.

NO TIME - "Colonel Lyle had no time to issue any orders as such or converse with the crew. He was too busy flying the aircraft and we were too busy preparing for the ditching to look out the window at the scenery," he averred.

Had the fire extinguishing apparatus each engine is equipped with worked when the fire broke out? "I have no idea," Lieutenant Guenet answered. "This procedure is done from the cockpit."

Asked if the three recent crashes that claimed 50 lives could be related in any way, he said that if a major problem should occur it logically would come when the Connies are near Nantucket.

"The planes are fully-loaded with fuel and working their hardest to attain altitude. This is the most likely time that an emergency will occur," he said.

A COINCIDENCE - Continuing, the lieutenant added, "To lose this number of planes (three in 21 months) does not indicate they are obsolete, I feel it is more of a coincidence."

Lieutenant Guenet said, "I remember the plane hitting something" as it attempted the Atlantic ditching. "The next thing I knew, I was swimming below a surface fire in the water. It took me some time to clear the fire," he stated.

The two-year veteran of Connie flying said he thinks he was in the water"for about 45 minutes" before being picked up by a Navy helicopter.

"I floated on my back for a while and then climbed on a piece of debris. I could see the lights and antennas on the beach. I was angry at everyone that rowed a boat as nobody was coming to pick me up," he continued.


NO CRIES FOR HELP - At no time while bobbing on the three to five foot swells did Lieutenant Guenet see any portion of the plane floating or hear cries for help from the other crew members. "There was just wreckage and fire," he declared.

The only happy moment of the ordeal came when the sling was lowered to Guenet by the helicopter that picked him up. "I remember thanking God at the time," he reflected.

As for the present investigation by the Air Force’s board of inquiry and a pending Congressional probe. Lieutenant Guenet says he can make no recommendation to suspend or ground the aircraft.

"I’m a navigator. I guide, not fly the Connies, but from what I know they are a sound plane."

WILL BE ALL RIGHT - Lieutenant Guenet admitted he still "is a little rough around the edges. However, I’m sure I’ll be all right soon," he said.

It was obvious the lieutenant meant what he said when he stated earlier he means to return to flying soon. "I like to fly" is the way he summed it up.






April 26, 1967






OTIS AIR FORCE BASE - April 26 - Colonel James P. Lyle had only assumed his new duties as commander of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing for a few months when he was called upon to perform a tragic mission last November.

It was with heart-felt emotion that he conducted the memorial service for the 19-member crew downed in the radar picket crash off Nantucket last Veterans Day.

Those who attended the service in the Otis transient alert hangar will never forge this words of quiet understanding, deep compassion and sympathy for each widow of that crew of 19.

And now, hardly more than five months later, Colonel Lyle himself is listed as missing in another EC-121H aircraft crash off Nantucket.

Stark reality strikes again at Otis Air Force Base — and Cape Cod.






April 26, 1967




WOODS HOLE, April 26 - Weather conditions at the site of the tragic crash were ideal as an armada of surface vessels and aircraft combed the Atlantic Ocean for survivors and traces of wreckage from the plane.

Coast Guardsmen at the scene reported unlimited visibility, a 15 knot southwest wind with waves of between three and five feet high.

Temperature was a nippy 43 while the water temperature was listed at 41 degrees - an ominous threat to any of the possible survivors who might not have had time to don their exposure suits before hitting the water.

"The search is being concentrated in an area five miles in diameter." Coast Guard Lieutenant Maurice R. Dumas told newsmen who remained on vigil throughout the night at the base public information office.

Lieutenant Dumas drove from Boston early last night to act as a liaison man with the Air Force officials who huddled behind closed doors in the base command center.

He said seven Coast Guard cutters, a fixed-wing aircraft and seven Coast Guard and Navy helicopters "are conducting an intensive search of the area. The site of the search area may be increased as the hunt continues," he admitted.

Lieutenant Dumas said the 210-foot cutter Active of Newcastle, N.H., was directing the operation. Captain of this vessel is Commander W. G. Dick.

Queried as to what the planes and ships were using to illuminate the off-shore waters, he said ‘parachute flares dropped from the helicopters and amphibious aircraft."

Lieutenant Dumas was accompanied to Otis by Lieutenant Al Smith, Senior controller of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Center at Salem, Lieutenant Dumas is assigned to First District Headquarters in Boston.

Both men were forced to drive to Otis as all available aircraft had been diverted from the search and rescue center before their departure.







April 28, 1967




OTIS AIR FORCE BASE--April 28-A special subcommittee of the house Armed Services Committee will arrive at Otis Air Force Base Monday to investigate the three recent crashes of EC-121H radar Constellations based here.

The subcommittee was named soon after Tuesday’s fiery crash that killed 15 of the 16 crew members aboard the picket plane that went down in flames a mile south of Nantucket Island.

The Air Force’s special board of inquiry meanwhile, reconvened today as it pressed its investigation of the tragedy.

TALK TO SURVIVOR - The eight-man board met with the lone survivor of the crash yesterday and later flew to Nantucket where eye-witnesses to the crash were interviewed.

Heading the special Congressional subcommittee that will delve into the three separate crashes is Representative Richard Ichord (D. Mo.). The other member is Representative William L. Dickinson-(R. Ala.).

Representative Mendell Rivers (D. S.C.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, armed the special subcommittee and directed it to report back its findings.

">Meanwhile, attempts to recover 13 missing bodies and the doomed aircraft itself have been temporarily thwarted by a violent northeast storm.

Coast Guard officials at Nantucket reported early today that winds were gusting up to 70 miles an hour with turbulent seas creating waves of up to 15 feet.

SALVAGE TRY EYED - Air Force officials said the Navy Bureau of Salvage has retained a private salvage firm to attempt the salvage and recovery operation.

A base spokesman also reported today that contrary to some reports, the Connies of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing "are not grounded."

This corroborates a statement made early Wednesday morning by Colonel John M. Konosky, wing vice-commander, that the mission of Otis was being carried on despite the crash.

Colonel Konosky, who made the announcement shortly after disclosing that colonel James P. Lyle, wing commander, was the pilot of the downed aircraft, automatically becomes wing commander with Colonel Lyle’s death.

INTERVIEW SOUGHT - It still had not been determined as of early today whether the press will be allowed to interview Lieutenant Joseph L.H. Guenet, the plane’s navigator and sole survivor of the crash.

Lieutenant Guenet miraculously escaped from the plane after it exploded and perhaps holds the key to what caused the engine fire that led up to the explosion.

Base officials said yesterday afternoon he was under sedation at the Otis Hospital after being interviewed by the board of inquiry.

It is at the discretion of Colonel Albert Evans, Commander of the 21st Air Division at Maguire Air Force Base, whether the press will be allowed to talk with Guenet.

Colonel Evans is the president of the military investigating group.

IS SATISFACTORY - Guenet, meanwhile, is reported in satisfactory condition by Otis officials.

Colonel Evans has made no announcements regarding the inquiry and none are expected for some time, a spokesman said.

A special retreat ceremony is scheduled at 4 p.m. today for the lost airmen at the Memorial Rotary Circle at Otis.

Memorial services will be held at two base chapels at 10 a.m. tomorrow for the 15 men. Cape civilian population will be represented by the Otis Air Force Base Advisory Commission.

In Nantucket Thursday; the Chamber of Commerce sent flowers for a memorial service at the Cape Cod air base with a card reading "With humility before your bravery. Our prayers go with you."

A chamber spokesman said "It seems a fact as clear as facts ever are" that the pilot tried to avoid the town.





April 27, 1967




OTIS AIR FORCE BASE--April 27--The Air Force major pointed to an illuminated switch, pushed it and remarked with a smile, "this...hopefully...puts out the fire."

Major Howard N. Franklin of Buzzards Bay was demonstrating to a reporter last week with the use of a flight simulator how engine fires in Otis ED-121H aircraft are extinguished.

The mock drill became stark reality Tuesday night for Major Franklin, first pilot, and the 15 other crew members of the downed "Connie" as the plane reported an engine fire prior to crashing.

Only one survived who may know whether or not the illuminated switch on the "Connie’s" control panel worked Tuesday night. It was not Major Franklin.

He is one of those listed as dead in the crash.






April 27, 1967




By A. Winfield Schley

Cape Cod Standard-Times Staff Writer

OTIS AIR FORCE BASE, April 27--While an Air Force Board of inquiry was questioning the lone survivor of Tuesday night’s fiery EC-121H crash the missing 15 members of the crew have been officially declared dead.

Air and sea search operations off Nantucket were suspended late last night for the lost airmen.

Meanwhile, the two recovered bodies were brought to the Woods Hole Coast Guard Base yesterday afternoon aboard the buoy tender Hornbeam. They were taken to Otis and later transferred to the Chelsea Naval Hospital where autopsies will be performed to determine the cause of death.

TWO IDENTIFIED - The two men have been identified by Air Force officials as Master Sergeant Frank W. Garner Jr., 38, flight engineer, and Airman 1st Class Theodore E. LaPointe Jr., 25, the radio operator.

The official declaration that the missing crewmen are dead brings to 15 the total number of airmen killed in the latest tragedy involving radar planes operated by the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing.

Among those killed Tuesday was colonel James P. Lyle, 37, wing commander. He was the command pilot aboard the ill-fated craft.

The lone survivor of the engine fire and subsequent explosion that racked the plane in the attempted ditching one mile south of Nantucket was being interviewed this forenoon by the especially appointed investigative board.

The eight-man board, headed by Colonel Albert Evans, commander of the 21st Air Division at Maguire Air Force Base, New Jersey, hopefully will be able to glean from Guenet the events leading up to the third air disaster to strike the 551st Wing within two years.

50 LOST - A total of 50 airmen now have been lost in the separate crashes.

Although results of military investigations are rarely made public, a special subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee has asked for a full report of the investigation.

Otis officials are expected to announce later today whether the press will be able to interview Lieutenant Guenet.

The survivor was flown to Otis shortly before noon yesterday from Nantucket Cottage Hospital in a C-47 transport. He was whisked to the base hospital where he was listed in satisfactory condition.

Lieutenant Guenet spent Tuesday night in the Nantucket Hospital after he was plucked from the frigid Atlantic waters soon after the crash by a Navy helicopter from Quonset Point, R.I.

He apparently was thrown from the huge Connie when it exploded on impact in the attempted ditching.

The board of inquiry had hoped to talk with him yesterday, but base officials said he fell asleep soon after arriving at the hospital.

RECORDS IMPOUNDED - Meanwhile, all maintenance and pilot records of the aircraft have been impounded at Otis for use by the investigative body.

In other developments, it was announced today that memorial services for the lost 15 airmen will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Simultaneous services will be held at Protestant and Catholic Chapels on the base, a spokesman said.

At 4 p.m. tomorrow a special retreat ceremony will be held at the memorial rotary circle adjacent to the wing headquarters.. . .

BACKGROUND TOLD -The base public information office also released today the first extensive background information on Lieutenant Guenet.

He first entered the Air Force in November, 1955 and served as an enlisted man until January, 1964. He entered officers training school the same month and received his commission on March 31, 1964.

Lieutenant Guenet attended navigator training school at James Connally Air Force Base, Texas, and was assigned to Otis in June, 1965. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Lyndon State College in Vermont.

He is a native of Montreal, Que., and makes his home at Otis with his wife, Hannah Jane, and one child.







May 2, 1967






NANTUCKET - The fuselage of the four-engine Super Constellation, which went down in flames and exploded in the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket Island a week ago tonight, was located Monday in about 35 feet of water.

Fifteen crewmen died in the crash while one survived.

"According to reports, the fuselage is pretty well intact," Rep. Richard H. Ichord (D. Mo.), said at a news conference before he flew back to Washington. Ichord was part of a congressional team investigating the crashes which have claimed 50 lives in 21 months.

"When we recover the plane, we have a good chance of determining the cause of the crash," he said.

Attempt to recover the craft is slated Thursday, weather permitting.

"The other two planes were never recovered," Ichord said.

"We can salvage this plane and we hope to pinpoint the cause...we will hold hearings as the circumstances warrant."

At the same time, maintenance checks continued on 27 planes which flew the radar missions as part of the nation’s Distance Early Warning (DEW) air defense system. They are packed with more than $5,000,000 in ultra-sophisticated radar gear.

Air Force officials said it was expected the "temporary suspension" of radar missions would be resumed within a day or two.

Ichord said there was little danger to the nation’s security because "we are in a period of very low tension."

He said the planes could be airborne within minutes if necessary.




May 2, 1967




By A. Winfield Schley

Cape Cod Standard-Times Staff Writer


OTIS AIR FORCE BASE - The two-man Congressional subcommittee appointed to investigate the three recent crashes at Otis base EC-121H radar Constellations said here yesterday the incidents "warrant serious consideration of both Congress and the military."

Although admitting"it’s too early to make a determination of the latest crash," Representative Richard H. Ichord (D. Mo.) Said the group will "try at all costs to determine its cause."

We will follow this matter very closely and hopefully make certain the causes of all three accidents are pin-pointed," the congressman pledged.

AWARE OF BOARD - The Democratic legislator also said his subcommittee "is aware that an Air Force Board of Inquiry has been appointed and we’ll follow its progress very closely."

Representative Ichord and Representative William L. Dickinson (R. Ala.) Make up the specially appointed subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that arrived here Monday.

The congressmen were directed by representative Mendell Rivers (D. SC.), chairman of the committee, to investigate the three recent crashes--the latest of which claimed 15 lives last Tuesday off Nantucket.

The subcommittee has been ordered to report its findings to the House Armed Services Committee.

COUNSEL, LIAISON - Accompanying the two congressmen on heir flight to Otis were Ralph Marshall, a staff counsel for the committee, and Air Force Liaison officer Lieutenant - Colonel Burke.

In addition to conferring with top level Otis officials, the legislators talked with Colonel Albert Evans, commander of the 21st Air Division at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.

Colonel Evans is heading the 8-man military board of inquiry which is investigating last week’s Connie crash.

"The facts speak for themselves as to why we are here," Representative Ichord explained at a press briefing held in the wing command post.

COMMITTEE ALARMED - He indicated the Armed Services Committee is alarmed at the three, rapid-fire tragedies to strike Otis ‘s 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing within 21 months.


"When 50 airmen and three air planes, each valued at some $7,000,000 are lost within such a short period, such conditions warrant the serious consideration of both congress and the military," Representative Ichord stated.







April 27, 1967






(Cape Cod Standard-Times Washington Bureau)


WASHINGTON--April 27--Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) and Representative Hastings Keith (R.-Mass) each called on the Air Force Wednesday to determine whether Super Constellation aircraft flying radar missions from Otis Air Force Base should be grounded.

The requests came after the crash Tuesday night of a Constellation from Otis which went down off the coast of Nantucket Island killing 15 of the 16 men aboard.

It was the third fatal crash of an Otis radar picket plane in the last two years.

A special subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee has been appointed to go to the Cape to look into the circumstances of the crash.

Representative Philip Philbin (D.-Mass), ranking Democrat on the committee, said that Chairman Mendel Rivers (D.-S.C.) Designated the special investigative panel at the request of Massachusetts lawmakers.

Philbin said he did not know who would be making the trip to Otis or when the group would arrive.

Philbin also disclosed that the Air Force is preparing a special report on the crash at the request of Air Force Secretary Harold Brown who was said by Philbin to have raised some questions when he heard the news.

The exact nature of Brown’s inquiries could not be determined but Philbin said he had been promised a copy of the special report when it is submitted to the secretary.

Representative Keith mourned the loss of a personal friend, colonel James P. Lyle, who was piloting the doomed aircraft.

"His heroic efforts in turning the plane to sea and avoiding a populated area of Nantucket were in the finest tradition of the U.S. Air Force," Keith said.

The Congressman also extended his "heartfelt sympathies" to the families of all the men lost.

"Because this is the third crash within two years of an Air Force Constellation-type aircraft flying out of Otis, I am demanding that the air Force and the house Armed Services Committee investigate not only the cause of this crash but also the question of whether these aircraft are perhaps dangerously obsolete," Keith said.

NOT PHASING OUT - The Congressman noted, "While the commercial airlines are phasing their aging Constellations out of service, the military is still using these planes on a continuous duty basis."

He said their use "might be justified by cost analysis at the Pentagon. However, cost analysis is "no justification for the use of dangerously obsolete equipment by our Air Force."

Senator Kennedy sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Brown, specifically requesting a broad enough inquiry to determine whether the three crashes of Otis aircraft were related.

He said the Air Force has this responsibility to the crews flying these planes.

An Air Force spokesman would not comment on the safety of the Constellation aircraft while the Tuesday night crash is still under investigation.

He did indicate that data from investigations of the previous two accidents, in the summer of 1965 and the Fall of 1966, would be used in the current probe.






April 26, 1967





An Editorial




The sympathy of the entire Cape Cod Community goes out to Otis Air Force Base and the families of flyers missing in last night’s plane crash off Nantucket.

The decisiveness of last night’s tragedy made the details all the harder to hear. Almost from the moment of the first news from Nantucket of a flaming plane diving into the sea there was little hope for survivors in large numbers.

Loss of the third radar plane, coming after a decade of operation without a loss of life from 1955 to 1965, puzzles the public. The planes first came to Otis Air Force Base in 1955 and until July of 1965 operated with the regularity of a night patrolman making his rounds in the Cape town.

Then 16 men were killed in a crash July 11, 1965, 19 died in an accident Nov. 10, 1966 and 15 more apparently perished last night. A total of 50 have gone down on the picket planes in less than two years.

Not in a spirit of finger-pointing, but with real concern the Cape hopes the cause of the sudden reversal of the safety record will be probed deeply so as to eliminate further accidents, if possible.

If the planes are growing obsolete in service, then it is imperative that upper echelon decisions be made to eliminate the possibility of further decimation of the ranks of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing.

Cape Cod is anxious to see a thorough investigation because it has become a matter of losing good neighbors every time the crash alert is sounded.

The wing personnel have taken an active part in the life of their community. And loss of a civil leader in a village, the loss of a father of 11 children, yes, the loss of the Wing Commander hits Cape Codders in terrible fashion.

It may be well that any investigation should be wide ranging enough to cover all three crashes since that fateful day in July, 1965 when the series started in an attempt to access the 10-year accident-free record against that of the last 21 months.






April 26, 1967



OTIS AIR FORCE BASE-April 26-A remarkable twist of fate occurred at daybreak today when a second body was reported by base officials to have been picked up approximately one mile south of Nantucket by the fishing vessel Steven R of New Bedford.

The 70 foot dragger is the same craft that was an eye witness to the Nov. 11 Constellation crash that claimed 19 airmen’s lives.

At that time Gene R. Connors, Captain of the vessel, notified Otis that he saw the stricken Connie "rollover about two miles past the vessel, nose into the water and burst into flames on impact."

It was not immediately known if Captain Connors was aboard the dragger last night.

Otis officials said the body of the unidentified airman was transferred to the New Bedford- stationed cutter Cape George, which earlier plucked the first body from the Atlantic.

In conjunction with the announcement, base officials said search operations at the scene "were being intensified" at dawn today.

Participating in the stepped-up hunt were five Cost Guard cutters, two smaller unidentified vessels and three Navy and Coast Guard helicopte






April 26, 1967




There were several eye-witnesses to yesterday’s fiery Otis-based radar picket aircraft crash off Nantucket.

A private flier saw the Warning Star loop away and come back in the air. Residents of Nantucket saw the aircraft steered away from homes on the beachfront and a mother putting her son in bed actually saw the crash a quarter of a mile off shore.

Michael O. Lamb, 36, a Nantucket general contractor, has been flying a private plane for 20 years.

SAW BRIGHT LIGHT - Tuesday night, as he was coming in for a landing at Nantucket Airport with two passengers, he noticed a "bright light."

The veteran pilot suddenly found himself trying to help out in an emergency situation.

The Nantucket airport tower asked Lamb if he could keep an eye on the radar picket plane.

Lamb said the Air Force Plane flew in a straight line parallel to Nantucket Sound, made a long loop away and from the airport then came back as if to make another approach.

AT THE SAME LEVEL - At this point, Lamb was less than a quarter of a mile from the EC- 121H... at the same level.

"He was descending rapidly," Lamb said. "He crossed Maddaket and headed toward the Atlantic.

It was at this point Lamb and his passengers said they saw the glare of the fire in the water.

"It hit in a ball of flame and the flames spread out for 200 yards. You could see the flame and the silhouette of the airplane."

AIRCRAFT DISAPPEARED - Lamb said the plane stayed up for less than a minute and then disappeared. He said he flew several passes over the area, some as low as 25 feet, "but all we cold see was the burning debris."

Rene Orleans, 49, a flight instructor was flying with another man off Dionnes Beach when he saw the plane burst into flames and its engine drop.

His wife, who witnessed the crash from her home, said she heard the explosion, saw the fire, and watched the engine and other parts fall.

PLUCKED FROM SEA - The crewman was plucked out of the water by a helicopter dropped off at Nantucket Airport and rushed by ambulance to Cottage Hospital.

An emergency landing area was set up at the municipal airport in the event more survivors were brought in.

Albert I. Manning, a member of the Nantucket Airport commission, lives near the crash scene. He said the pilot made a desperate effort to swing away from homes and in the direction of the airport.

"He was following Maddaket Road toward the airport and losing altitude rapidly. About a mile from Maddaket Beach, the planes altitude had dropped to 100 feet. The vibration was so great, it shook our house, rattled the dishes and moved the furniture.

RUSHED TO DOOR - Manning rushed to the door and looked up to see the entire right wing in flames.

Manning’s wife rant to the front door and looked out. "My God," she exclaimed, "It’s on fire. . . it’s a huge plane."

"It was right at 7 p.m.," said Mrs. Sidney Mancovsky of Maddaket. "I was putting my son to bed-and you know how that is-and that’s when I heard this tremendous noise, a horrible roar of engines."

Mrs. Mancovsky, 29, said she rushed to the nearby window. "Then I ran outside. I saw flames coming out of the bottom of the plane between the wings. I somehow knew it was going to crash and it did."

Burned for 10 minutes - "The plane burned for about 10 minutes and then there was nothing but a column of smoke," said George Hamblin, Nantucket’s assistant fire chief.

He and 200 others kept looking into the darkness for signs of life.

Maxwell Ryder of Nantucket said, "While we were fishing in the Nantucket section we saw this aircraft off the Dionnes Beach coming to the south and we thought, Ralph Hardy was fishing with me, that we saw a flare at first, but then there was this ball of fire that seemed to drop from the plane and down to the ground.

"The plane kept on coming directly towards us losing altitude all the time and went directly over us. I would say about 400 feet above us and the inboard engine on it, or where the inboard engine was, the fuselage was all exposed and it was all afire. When the plane was directly over the pilot seemed to ‘rev’ the engine a little like he was trying to get clear of the Maddaket houses. He looked like he might have been trying to put it down on the water there but he started to descend quite rapidly and when he hit the water it exploded on impact. All we could see was about 100 square yard area of nothing but debris and flame on the water.

Mrs. Anthony Ostrowski of Nantucket said - "We were sitting in our living room when we heard the plane coming over and we thought it was going to hit the house, it was so low. We ran out the back door and looked up and the plane was all aflame underneath and then it just circled and went down.

"We thought it was going to land on the shore but it landed bout a mile out in the water. We jumped in the jeep and ran up there to see if there was anything we could do but it was so far out that we just had to sit there and watch the plane burn. It was all lit up from stem to stern and the lights inside showed all windows and there was no one coming out of it.

Art Orleans - a Nantucket flight instructor said: I had a student and we had been shooting landings and were at the Nantucket Airport. We were ordered to clear the area for an emergency, which we proceeded to do with all dispatch and I was proceeding out on a north-northwest heading about 1,000 feet and I noticed this fire heading over me, maybe six miles to the north. The aircraft obviously was in bad trouble.

"The fire developed rapidly, and suddenly erupted in a fire ball - tremendous burst of flames and much smoke, parts flying and it looked somewhat like an engine parted company and fell away from the wing. The aircraft proceeded almost in a 180-degree turn, proceeded westward along what we call the north shore of the Island and passed over a section of Nantucket called Maddaket.

"Proceeding west to an easterly-south east heading bout a mile off shore and contacted the water which looked like a regular ditching procedure. When the aircraft contacted the water, it burst into flames, tremendous flames and it proceeded along the surface for about 4,000 feet. That was the end of the procedure and we saw nothing of any wreckage that bobbed up out of the water. From that time that we saw the original fireball north of the island at about 6,000 feet and after that big burst of flame and the parts falling, there were no further signs of fire until the aircraft contacted the water."