The Iredell County Historical Society held a special program titled, The 1959 Navy A3D-1 Sky Warrior Crash in Iredell on May 16, 2018 at the Lake Norman State Park in the Kingfisher Shelter. The program featured a slide show and provided information about the crash of the Twin-Jet bomber and the East Monbo Textile Mill. The program was part of the Society’s Road Show programs focusing on historical events and places throughout communities in Iredell County. The park is located at 759 State Park Rd, Troutman, N.C. 28166. State Park Rd. #1321 is about 11 miles outside of Statesville off St. Johns Rd.
The crash of a Navy A3D-1 Sky Warrior twin-jet bomber on Aug. 26, 1959 took the life of Commander and Pilot Lt. Cmdr. John B. Sangster. Two other crewmen, Navigator and Electrician 3-C William G. Mitchell, Jr., and Photographer 1-C E.R. Wilson parachuted into a thunderstorm to safety before the crash which occurred one mile northeast of the East Monbo community. There have been other notable aviation incidents in Iredell County over the years.
The first fatal airplane crash in Iredell County, took place on July 15, 1930, in the Bells Cross Roads area in the Davidson Township about six miles from Mooresville. Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Frances “Frank” Tyndall was killed at about 9 p.m. on the 15th after crashing into some woods. The Landmark reported that “Lt. Tyndall was traveling from Langley Field, Va., to Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, and had been following the New York to Atlanta air mail pilots’ route when he became disoriented” in clouds and mists over the Catawba River. The plane was an open-cockpit biplane fighter, or “pursuit” plane, as they were called at that time and was produced through 1929 with a 440 horsepower engine. Witnesses in Mooresville heard the plane circling for a time before the engine stopped and it crashed after apparently running out of fuel. Lt. Tyndall, 35, received a Silver Start for service in World War I commanding the 22 Aero Squadron and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
On Dec. 23, 1945, two airplanes flying from Camden, S.C. to Hickory became lost in the clouds on a Sunday night over Statesville. Realizing that the planes circling above were lost the Statesville Fire Department rushed the city’s flood light equipment to the Statesville Airport in hopes of guiding the planes in. The planes disappeared though with one crashing near New Sterling Church west of Statesville on the farm of Chase Morrison. The pilot, Sam George, parachuted safely to the ground before the crash while the other pilot managed to safely land at the Hickory airport. Both planes were Army trainers that had been purchased at a government property sale.
The Statesville Airport had its first fatality on Aug. 13, 1965, when N8595A, Beechcraft A-35, crashed nose-first beside one of its runways killing pilot William E. Evans of Greensboro. Evans had landed safely in the single-engine airplane at the airport and was attempting to take off again when the plane went into a stall during its climb and crashed. On April 10, 1971, stunt pilot Robert Gordon Hailey, 33, of Fairburn, Ga., was killed when his Champion 7ECA, N6320N, plane clipped some treetops as he practiced rolling maneuvers for the Easter Sunday Air Show in Mooresville. The crash occurred on a Saturday in a wooded area just west of Mooresville near the Perth Church Rd.
Two men were drowned on Feb, 29, 1976 when their Piper Colt PA-22 N5634Z plane crashed into Lake Norman near the Iredell County shoreline in the Mooresville area. Brothers Jerry and John Ross from Lincolnton had taken off from Lake Norman Airport off Perth Church Rd. Witnesses said the plane was observed flying low over the lake possibly “buzzing” boaters when a wing touched the water causing the red and white craft to nose-dive into the lake. An autopsy report showed both men were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Oct. 2, 1979, James Lee Miller Jr. of Mooresville, was killed when his N12JW Piper PA-23 Aztec six-passenger plane fell in a pasture a mile southwest of the airport just off London Lake Rd. five miles east of Mooresville. Miller, who was owner-operator of Miller’s Airport, was killed just after 6 a.m. when his twin engine craft crashed and burned shortly after takeoff. Miller had owned and operated Miller’s Airport near his home since 1947 and was the only passenger on the plane at the time of the accident.
A Bellanca 7KCAB, N1644G, single engine Cessna crashed on August 10, 1980 into a backyard 250 yards from the Lake Norman Airport killing both occupants. Byron Hayden Hartmann, 29, of Mooresville, and Philip Ward Kincaid, 23, of Kannapolis had rented a two-seat Cessna 150 airplane from the Lake Norman Flight School for a Sunday afternoon ride when the accident occurred. Witnesses said the tandem-seated plane took off, stalled, and attempted to turn to return to the airport when they crashed near a house in the flight path of the runway they had taken off from.
A scene right out of the movies occurred over Statesville on Feb. 22, 1981, when a passenger was forced to land single-engine Piper PA-28 Warrior N2552U at the Statesville Airport. Judy Norton of Lexington was forced to take over the controls of the plane when her husband, Charles Benjamin Newton suffered a fatal heart attack while flying from Morganton. The Statesville Record and Landmark reported on Feb. 23, 1981 that fixed base operator Phil Hazel said, “We went up to try and find the woman after hearing scanner traffic between Atlanta Control Center and a Republic airliner about a woman who was frantically trying to find an airport.” Hazel and Bill Meadows in a Cessna 172 located the woman over Statesville and successfully “talked” her back to the Statesville Airport where she was able to land following their instructions.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “A look at Iredell’s aviation tragedies, near misses” on May 14, 2018