Plane Crash
Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
On September 26, 1952 a young man named Jack Tagan from Boston crashed an airplane into the river after departing Miles City. I have been searching for any information regarding the crash, pictures, aircraft registration number, etc. The airplane had been based at Miles City while doing aerial photography work for the government. There were a couple short newspaper articles but no pictures or other information regarding the airplane. The airplane was obviously serviced at the airport and would have been a curiosity since it was an exotic WW2 airplane. The wreckage was returned to Miles City Airport for investigation following the accident. Someone must have taken photographs of it. Would appreciate any help anyone can give me.
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Posted by rhshilling (+83) 2 years ago
Ed, I found you website. Looks like you guys have been very active researching the Aero Services Corporation.

Have you checked with the Montana Historical Society for any info on Mr. Tagan's crash? According to the website, they have a bunch of CAA stuff in the archives. I think they are Box 13 Files 8 through 16.

http://archiveswest.orbis...44/xv56093

I also found that the Pennsylvania Archives has a large collection of negatives from a Virgil Kauffman, who had worked for Aero Services. In their blurb, it says that the family donated the negatives to the States in which they pertain.

I will keep digging. I love a good History hunt!
Rob Shilling

[Edited by rhshilling (9/10/2015 1:46:56 AM)]
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
Go here. There is a picture of the pilot, with other info.

http://www.nsdbproject.co...nJohn.html
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Posted by rhshilling (+83) 2 years ago
Fred,
Ed is associated with that website. I was looking through it last night and saw a bunch of the pictures on the site were provided by him.

[Edited by rhshilling (9/10/2015 8:48:59 PM)]
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
Reply to rhshilling (#361448)
Rob,
Thanks for your interest and reply. There seems to be a good deal of information about plane crashes in the Miles City area but nothing much on this event. We did get reply's from a couple of guys who were kids at the time who saw the crashed plane and a couple people recovered the body from the river in a boat. There was a very brief article in the local paper but no pictures. I have been in close contact with the brother of the pilot but he has no pictures of his brother with the involved airplane. About all I know is that the plane was based at the airport for a time while doing aerial photography. There was a photographer and a mechanic based with it. Apparently the plane was having some kind of mechanical problem and I believe the flight involved was a maintenance test flight. Descriptions sound like an engine failure followed by a flat spin into the river (I believe the Tongue). I was told that the plane was recovered and that it was stored outside the auto shop at the high school for some time. Hard to imagine that someone didn't get pictures. Even harder to imagine that the FAA (CAA at the time) lost the investigative records although we know the name of the investigator who came over from Billings. Someone who took auto shop in the 52/53 year certainly should have seen this plane since school must have just started when it crashed (Sept 26, 1952). The Virgil Kauffman photos are on file with the Library Company of Philadelphia some of which are on my web site but none of this plane. Thanks so much for your help.
Ed
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
Reply to Fred South (#361449)
Fred,
Thanks so much for your interest. I was glad that you were able to find my website. At least I know that the search engines are getting there. As far as we know there is only one airplane missing from the list of aircraft and that is the P-38 that crashed in Miles City. The pilot had only been with the company for a couple months when he was sent to Miles City to take over the operation of this plane from another Aero pilot. There was a brief memorial to the pilot in one of the Aero Service company publications and that is about all. The pilot was single so the only family involved was his brother and sister in Boston who I have been in contact with.
Unfortunately everyone alive at the time of this incident is either old (like me) or deceased so getting information is really problematic. How and why the FAA lost the investigation records is unbelievable but they maintain that is what happened.
I appreciate your time and efforts. Thank you. Regards
Ed
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
Reply to rhshilling (#361448)
Rob,
I sent an inquiry to the Hist Society. Will see what turns up there. Just FYI I found the newspaper article which states that there were four witnesses:
Ms. Hugh Gookin
Albert Johnson
Harold Thompson
Jim Artsdale

I think these were distant witnesses and they would obviously be in their 70's now, I suppose; still it would be fun to talk to them if they are still around.

Thanks again for the help.
Regards,
ed
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
The Montana historical society say that have nothing on this incident so that book is closed I guess.
ed
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
I was taking shop class at CCHS when the P-38 crashed into the Yellowstone River near the mouth of the Tongue River. A large pile of twisted aluminum was brought to the school and piled near the shop. Having a large interest in airplanes, I remember standing by that pile and noticing tubing, etc, all twisted and smashed together. I imagine it was melted down and used in various shop projects. I cast an aluminum candle holder, but am not sure if the aluminum from the crashed P-38 was what we used. Too long ago.
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
Reply to Fred South (#361513)
Very cool Fred. Somewhere in that pile of junk was probably the data plate that would have identified the plane but it is possible that the CAA investigator may have taken it. We are presently considering having someone dig through the records in Helena to see if they can come up with anything that may be hidden, even though we have been told there is nothing there. This thing is like an itch that won't go away since it is the only plane operated by the company that we have not been able to identify. Many thanks for your input......I don't suppose there is even a shop at the high school any more. The high school that I went to in Illinois long ago gave up on the various shops. A loss I think but there is no longer an auto, wood or welding shop.
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Posted by Phil Shifley (+102) 2 years ago
According to what information is available, that P38 crash was near Custer. Even though it was operating out of Miles City it crashed 100 miles from here which for that plane could have easily been few minutes.
There have been a surprising number of crashes in the Miles City area back in the day, are you guys sure that was a P38 at the mouth?
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
Nope, not near Custer, the P-38 took off from the MC airport and crashed into the Yellowstone River, about where the Tongue runs into the Yellowstone. A number of people saw it happen.
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Posted by Phil Shifley (+102) 2 years ago
Just asking, since the report says Custer Montana. So anyhow, folks in the neighborhood that would have taken special interest at the time would be:
Jim Michels
Frank Stoltz
Bill Champion
There was mention of a spare Allison engine for that plane still in the wrap setting in the hanger for many years after this incident. Noone knows what ever became of it.
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moderator
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Posted by David Schott (+12188) 2 years ago
I think the table in that link that Fred South provided above needs to be corrected to say "Custer County, Montana" not "Custer, Montana".
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Posted by edstewart (+19) 2 years ago
Reply to Phil Shifley (#361548)
I believe the company was obligated to bring in another P-38 N34993 to fulfill their contract. I presume it was based in Miles City but the records show it in Montana in November. I would presume that all spares including the spare engine would have been returned to Philadelphia. Are the names you mentioned folks who are still around or would have been connected with the airport in those days. Many thanks.
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Posted by Phil Shifley (+102) 2 years ago
Yes they are still around, all in the phone book. Jim didn't know much about it, only the engine details and that was all.
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
This is from The Prop Wash newsletter, October-November 1952. It was published by Keystone Aerial Surveys
Areo Service Corp, Philadelphia

"Aero Service mourns the death of John F. Tagan, one of the Company's mapping pilots, who was killed in an aircraft accident at Miles City, Montana, on September 26. Preliminary CAA reports show that there were no mechanical defects in the P-38, and that the plane was inadvertently stalled and spun in from an altitude of about 4,000 feet. Though John Tagan had been with us only a few months, he was well liked and respected as a man and a pilot. He will be missed. His death was the Company's first fatality in 33 years of flight operations all over the world."
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banned
Posted by ZZZzz (-559) 2 years ago
It puzzles me why they would use a plane that hot for mapping? Anyone know why?
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Posted by Oddjob (+131) 2 years ago
They were probably set up with the camera mounts from WWII.
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
After the war one could purchase surplus military planes for very little money and some were barely used. Also, the P-38 had two engines and could fly well on only one, if the pilot knew what to do. I have always wondered if this plane lost an engine on takeoff, because if that was not handled right, the plane would end up in the river. If an engine quit, the running engine would turn the plane into the dead engine. Unless the right steps were taken to prevent it, the plane would crash. Our local vet was a P-38 pilot in WWII. He told me that if an engine quit on takeoff, you had to pull back the power on the running engine or a disaster would happen. And, he said, you never tried to go around on a dead engine. A number of guys in his group tried it. One survived, barely. It was a wild ride, he said.

This particular plane flew over my house quite often. It had a thing hanging down underneath it that looked something like a small wing tank. In that must have been what was needed to do the mapping.
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Posted by Oddjob (+131) 2 years ago
That sounds more like air-mag. It's a common geophysical tool for measuring variation in the near surface magnetic field. The data can help you map structure and physical properties of the rocks within the grid flown.
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banned
Posted by ZZZzz (-559) 2 years ago
The P-38s were not cheap after the war.They were worth quite a bit as scrap and that is where they went.I believe you would have had to pay in excess of $2600 and be lucky to get one.I do not know about the flying on one engine thing.They were a difficult plane to manage and (far) more of them were lost on the ground than in the air during the war.They even served in the Korean war I believe,as BlackWidows.I spoke with a person that was on the first expedition to find and salvage,what is now the GlacierGirl.He noticed my favorite shirt that had a P-38 on it,partially covered by my jacket and made his way through a huge crowd to talk to me.They were unsuccessful.I think about 10 years later they found the airplanes.They had moved over 3 miles under the ice.There are something like 8 P-38s I think left flying in the world.Magnificent airplane.
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Posted by Fred South (+143) 2 years ago
Sorry, but the P-38 and the Black Widow were 2 different airplanes. The Black Widow was a night fighter--a P-61, made by a different company. The P-38 was a Lockheed plane. The Black Widow was a Northrup plane.
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Posted by ZZZzz (-559) 2 years ago
I am so glad that you are sorry.I was mistaken with the name and do not remember what it was called.The second man sat behind the pilot facing the Fork Tailed Devil`s tails.He had a hood over himself or covering himself in the extremely cramped tight uncomfortable rear quarters.
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