Monthly Archives: January 2011

Canfield Plane Crash, 1948 (Part 3 of 4)

Because the Air Force found pilot error to be the basic cause of the Canfield plane crash of 1948, I have chosen to use pseudonyms instead of actual names in referring to the deceased crew.

The pilot-instructor was LT. THOMAS.  He became a navigator on January 23, 1943, and flew 50 combat missions in the southwest Pacific during World War II.  He became a pilot on August 27, 1946.  He was issued a white instrument card on August 13, 1947.

There were two cadet-student pilots on the plane.  CADET HILLMAN and CADET CONNOR.  The crew chief on the plane was an enlisted man, SSGT HERMAN.

And, finally, there was a third person involved in the investigation of the crash, CADET HARRIS, who was not on the plane on the day it crashed, but who had flown with Lt. Thomas on the previous day, and who gave crucial testimony as to what might have occurred at the time of the crash.  Cadet Harris gave sworn testimony to the investigation board at Barksdale on April 27, 1948, four days after the crash. Excerpts of the testimony of Cadet Harris follow:

“Q.  What date did your last flight with Lt. Thomas as instructor occur?

A.  22 April.

Q.  Do you recall what the mission was on that day, transition or instrument training?

A.  Instrument training.

Q.  Did Lt. Thomas ever place students in abnormal or violent unusual positions?

A.  He once placed Cadet Hillman in an exaggerated position in which he had more than a 90 degree bank at the time he gave it to the student to recover.

Q.  On basic instruments, including unusual positions, did Lt. Thomas usually cage the gyro instrument or did he cover [it] then with colored glass?

A.  He usually covered them with a map he carried in his pocket except during unusual positions.  He usually caged [it] then during unusual positions.

Q.  From the grade slip I noticed that Cadet Hillman had given an unsatisfactory ride on  the 22 of April, were you along on that flight?

A.  Yes, I was.

Q.  On his recovery from unusual positions, did he seem abrupt on recoveries?

A.  Somewhat, yes.

Q.  Is there anything else you would like to add that you think would be of interest in the investigation?

A.  Before the flight that morning, Lt. Thomas had talked to Cadet Hillman quite a bit about instrument rides and also mentioned his landing the day before.

Q.  Did you observe Lt. Thomas and Cadet Hillman entering the airplane that morning?

A.  No, I did not.

Q.  In other words, you don’t know if he was actually flying the airplane at that time?

A.  No, I wouldn’t.”

(To be continued.)