Wright-Patterson AFB

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has long been a center of research and development. For years, the base was the center of both theoretical research and flight test for the Air Force. Even though flight testing is today conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in California, much research and experimentation continue to take place here in Dayton.  However, with this research and development there is an ever-present risk of failure. As a result of being a center of experimental aviation as well as simply being a frequently visited military airfield, the Dayton area has seen quite a few accidents over the years. Oftentimes these accidents have had tragic consequences for those living in the surrounding area.

The Dayton Daily News Archive has quite a few folders full of material about the base and the activities that take place there. As Dayton’s main newspaper, it has had up-close access to some experiments that are not generally visible to the public. The newspaper has also covered many of the accidents that have occurred in the region. The following two groups of photographs come from these folders, and really aid in telling Wright-Patterson’s history.

The first group of photographs display some the experiments that took place from the 1940s up through the early 1970s. These experiments range from aerodynamic testing to tests involving human subjects.

According to the caption on the back of this photograph, this human centrifuge was the first built in the United States. The centrifuge was located in a balloon hangar on the flight line of Wright Field, and was constructed by Capt. Harry Armstrong and Dr. John W. Heim. Human centrifuges were designed to test the resistance of the human body to g-forces, a force commonly felt by pilots. Armstrong, who is pictured sitting on the table to the left, eventually became one of the leading minds in aerospace medicine, and would also serve as Surgeon General of the United States. Interestingly, the centrifuge in this picture has the human subject lying on his or her side. Today’s centrifuges generally have the subject seated in an upright position.

This photograph was taken in 1943 in the midst of the Second World War. The caption on the back of the photograph claims that Wright-Patterson was the site of the first pickup by a flying aircraft of a man on the ground. Presumably the experiment was undertaken to find ways of extracting downed airmen on the ground. The aircraft being used in this experiment is a UC-47 Norseman, a Canadian built aircraft used by the US Army Air Forces as a utility aircraft.

This picture shows the then new anechoic chamber at Wright-Patterson AFB which was built to test the radar signatures of aircraft. The caption says that, “The walls are covered with spikes of rubber-like material impregnated with carbon to absorb, rather than reflect, radar signals.” This means that models of aircraft can have their radar signatures measured without the radar waves being reflected off the surface of walls. The aircraft model in the left of the picture is that of an X-15, a research aircraft that flew during the 1950s and 1960s that was one of the fastest and highest-flying aircraft ever built.

This picture is unfortunately not dated, but it shows what appears to be several scientists inspecting a rocket engine. This engine appears to be one that uses a type of rocket fuel that is very corrosive to human tissue, as evidenced by the chemical suits worn by the scientists.

This picture shows an experiment with a water tunnel used for flight dynamics testing. The tunnel was in the Flight Dynamics Laboratory of the Aeronautical Systems Division. The technician, Carl Shoffstall, is monitoring the flow of the colored water over the wings and fuselage. The purpose of this testing is to help engineers observe airflow across the shapes of new aircraft designs.

This picture shows another type of test involving propulsion. This one involves testing types of propellers under adverse conditions, such as inducing gyrations into the structure of the propeller. These tests were to determine the failing point of propeller types.

This picture has no caption aside from the words “Aero Med Lab.” and the date “May 1, 1958” written on the back, but it appears to show a water tank being spun around a centrifuge. It seems possible that the water tank was used to simulate some degree of pressure.

The man in this photograph, Air Force Captain Brian Woodson, is a volunteer for an experiment researching the affects of ejection seats on humans. According to an article that goes with the picture, these experiments came about as a result of fatal accidents occurring during ejections from aircraft. The goal of this project was to provide data that could produce a “smart” ejection seat that would steer itself with the use of a built-in computer. Woodson was one of ten volunteers, who sat in the “impulse accelerator”, which stops the chair with a force of around 30Gs, or thirty times the force of gravity. This photograph was taken on December 18th, 1984.

This is an F-86 from the 97th Fighter Squadron, based out of Wright Field. This squadron was a part of Air Defense Command.

The next group of photographs show some of the many aircraft accidents that occurred in and around Dayton over the years.

This picture was taken on March 6th, 1945, when a C-60 transport crashed into the No.4 hangar at Wright Field and exploded, setting fire to both the hangar and several aircraft inside.

This is the wreckage of a B-17 that crashed three miles north of Patterson Field. The three crew members were killed when the bomber crashed.

Here is another picture of the 1947 B-17 crash. In this picture you can see several oxygen tanks, part of the landing gear, and what appears to be a seat.

This crash occurred on May 22, 1947 and involved a C-97 cargo plane which crashed near Wright Field. Five crew members on board were killed.

This accident occurred on September 24, 1957 and involved a B-26, a World War II-era medium bomber. The bomber crashed into a house on Tuttle Avenue in East Dayton. Both of the pilots were killed, as were two people who were in the house at the time of the crash.

This is what remains of an F-104 Starfighter from the 56th Fighter Squadron that crashed near Valley pike. This crash caused an investigation to be launched, because the pilot, Lt. Col. Alston L. Brown (CO of the 56th FS), ejected from his disabled aircraft but did not survive. According to an article on the event, the automatic release that should have separated him from the seat did not engage, so he could not open his parachute. Brown’s body was found still in the seat about a quarter of a mile from the crash site.

This is the wreckage of an F-101B Voodoo that crashed near Springfield on February 9th, 1960. Fortunately, in this case, the pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft and survived.

This engine was part of a jet fighter the crashed on June 12th, 1965. The caption on the back of the picture does not say what kind of aircraft it was that crashed.

This was a somewhat strange accident which occurred on October 14th, 1959. A T-33 jet trainer began having engine problems. In an effort to make it back to Wright-Patterson, the pilot tried to jettison the wing-tip fuel tanks to lighten the aircraft. One of the fuel tanks, weighing some 1400 pounds with fuel, happened to fall on the Lanning residence. The tank went through several walls and killed the family dog, Puddles.

This is a T-33 trainer that crashed landed near Haddix Rd. in Clark Co. Judging by the hole in the side of the fuselage, it looks as if the aircraft might have had engine problems.

This is a B-52 from the Strategic Air Command that crashed on May 30, 1974. All seven crew members survived the crash without serious injury.


-Seth Marshall

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47 Responses to Wright-Patterson AFB

  1. Miriam McQuain Looker says:

    Concerning your photo of the C=60 that crashed at Wright Field in 1945: I was there that day. I was a young Engineering Aide working in the Parachute Branch at Wright Field. The C-60 was carrying parachutes on rubber dummies to be drop tested on the field. It was taking off on the runway parallel to the hangars.

    I was in that hangar at the front where the plane crashed. We ran as fast as we could to the back of the hangar and were not injured. Five men died in the crash.

    I just thought you might be interested in a long-delayed first hand account.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks so much for your comments, Miriam, and for sharing that first-hand account! That must have been quite a scary day!

    • Bill Scudder says:

      I was a crew member on a B-29 at Wright-Patterson 1955-1957. One of our planes that I could have been on that day crashed in Dayton. I think it was 1957 but maybe 1956. Everyone on Board was killed. I think it crashed off of Wilmington Pike. I never did know if they were able to find out why it crashed. We flew over the wreckage a few minutes after in went down. You could not recognize it as a B-29. It had blown up.

      Does anyone known where I could find the report and any pictures on line? Thank you. Please send any info to (email address redacted).

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bill. We’ll see what we can find, and we will email you. If you have future questions, you can always send them through our Research Request form at http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/research/request/, or email us at archives(at)www.libraries.wright.edu.

        • Bill Scudder says:

          Thank you for another reply I received today that mentioned a B-26 but it was a B-29 not a B-26. Could you please do more research? There has to be something recorded.

      • Barry Kiefaber says:

        Hi Bill. I saw that airplane crash after it happened. My Mom and I drove over there on Wilmington Ave after School was out. 3:00PM maybe. I think it was a XB-50, which was a modified B-29. I remember seeing parts of the aluminum skin hanging from the trees. It crashed into a field with a treeline about 100 yards off Wilmington Pike. I believe the property belong to a family with the last name of Dille. We came by a couple days later and you couldn’t tell there was a crash there. I hear the AirForce cleaned it up in record time due to the airplane’s mission was classified as Secret. I would love to get a picture, if they’re even available. Did you ever get any responses from your original post ? Barry Kiefaber

  2. Philip A. Mitchell says:

    Do you have any data on T-33 tail # (last 3 #) AF 369, pilot Capt Todd, killed in crash Wright Patterson AFB. Home base Brookley AFB, MOAMA, Mobil, Ala.
    I participated in many test flight at Brookley AFB with Capt. Todd. Todd was promotable to Major. I never received any data on the crash. Some rumor Tod may have had a heart problem.

  3. Joe Brenner says:

    Referring to Mr Mitchells T33 question. I was stationed there and worked as a mech 1978 to 1986 and I remember a T33 crash,ran out of fuel north and east of Fairborn, and the remains of the aircraft was stored in the Fuel Tanker repair facility on Skeel ave, directly across from the tarmac north side of orig Air Frt terminal. This bldg was orig built for eng tests, and had numerous cells, that this T33 was stored. It is prob not the same T33 as it was damaged much more severely than this pic shows.I came on here wanting some info of this and also the Bomber crash , south of WPAFB, near Lebanon. I read in the newspaper 5 yrs ago about this bomber was loaded with live bombs and produced a crater of massive sive. Do you have any info on this?

  4. Joe Brenner says:

    Just realized I have the type aircraft wron , it was a T-37 not a T-33. Thx J. Brenner

  5. PJ Geiser says:

    I have researched the crash of September 24,1957 numerous times. This is the first time I have found something. I remember that day so clearly. I was nine years old. Our family lived within a blocks of where the crash took place. I have never flown to this
    day. If you have any other information available I would love to
    read it, not to mention share with my family.

    • Lisa says:

      We’re glad we could help – thank you for taking the time to share your memories with us. We will see what else we may have on that crash, and we will email you.

    • Terry Irving says:

      Dear P.J.
      I too lived one block from that crash sight. I too was nine yrs. old. I lived one block down the hill at the corner of Tuttle and Cosler. I remember people talking about what a close call it was being so close to Kemp school. I remember the plane tried to turn around over a large corn field to the south and the pilot got headed back toward Wright Pat. but had lost topo much altidude. The plane clipped the gable end off of a house diagonally across the street then into the house it destroyed. There was a bus stopped right in front of the house that the plane hit. (You may remember that was the end of the line and if the drivers were ahead of schedule the busses stopped and stayed there a while till the schedule caught up with them.) That bus was driven by the father of another boy about our age, George Phipps. Mr. Phipps saw the plane coming and yelled for everyone to get on the floor and accelerated forward as fast as he could. he got a little more than one house away before the plane cut the trolley lines but everyone on the bus was saved. I remember there were huge crowds that night trying to see the crash. The police and Govt. lines let people look from as close as directly across the street. Could not have been more than 75 ft/ away. Today you couldn’t get within a thousand feet of a crash sight like that.

      • P.J. Geiser says:

        Dear Terry, I remember you. You were in my class one year at school. I didn’t realize how close you lived to the site of the plane crash. I lived on Pollock Rd. Pam Shewman was my name. Thank you for taking the time to write about some more of the details. I so clearly remember the bus being stopped there as well. Strange how that crash created a fear in me to fly. Thank you once again for your response. So thoughtful and kind.

      • Robert Eagle says:

        I was at the corner of Smithville and Linden waiting for a green light when I saw the B-25 glideing East in front of me at eye level at a high angle of attack.
        At the site on Tuttle, the bus driver was holding the downed power lines apart with a piece of broken lumber and warning us away from the live wires.
        One engine was in the street and the other in the alley. Learned later that it was a misfueling accident (JP4 instead of avgas).

  6. Sarah Layton says:

    My grandfather was stationed at WP airforce base and passed away in a plane crash. Must have been around 1957-1958. Do you have any information? His name was Jerry L. Hughes.

  7. Joan Jackson says:

    You missed the June 8, 1951 multi crash of 8 F-84s around Richmond, IN. SACs 12th Fighter Wing. Papers were full of accounts for days afterwards. They had taken off from Wright Patterson.

  8. dean w. calhoun says:

    I am trying to find out about a t33 jet trainer that crashed in the mid 1950s just outside Ashland ohio and both pilots were killed

  9. Glenda Stutts McInnis says:

    I am trying to find information concerning my Uncle, Major Vernon Ray Stutts. He was killed in a plane crash after refueling at Wright-Patterson AFB on or about February 14, 1959. He was editor of Flying Safety Magazine at the time of his death. Any information you could give me would be appreciated.

  10. Suzie Heaton says:

    Do you have any information on a civillian (Alfred Heaton) who was killed in an aircraft accident at Patterson Field , OH in 1944? I’m looking for my grandfather-and think that it may be him.

  11. Bill Scudder says:

    Does anyone have any information about the 1957 or 1956 B-29 crash in Dayton of which I was a crew member of that squadron? Thank you.
    Never did know what caused the crash. Everyone was killed.

  12. Paul S. Grice says:

    B29 crash at what was known as WHITES CORNER.now Rt.725 AND Wilmington Pike.
    The plane had photo equipment on board.
    A film canister caught fire and the acrid smoke over came the crew.
    My uncle was a fireman at the field at the time.

  13. Mike Nussman says:

    Hi,Please excuse the seemingly fine details of my questions, but growing up in the 60s/70s and living on top of the hill of Col Glenn hwy about 3/4 mile from the RWY 27 threshold,the following questions have intrigued me for quite some time now.
    As a kid I remember tinkering with the chassis of an old FM radio to get the tower at Wright Field.You can get FM signals on FM radios if signals are strong and you tune close but off of the frequency.
    Anyway,What was the tower frequency used in the 60s? at Wright?
    Not listed anymore but if someone has an old pilots AIM manual or chart with that info,I’d be gratfeful to get the info!
    Also on the XP-55 crash in May 45- I think. Was that just accross the strreet at the bottom of Airway? And finally, on the B-17 prototype crash in the mid 30s,was that
    on RWYs 5/23 that is now the museum parking lot?
    Thanks in Advance!
    Mike Nussman.

  14. Randy says:

    Looking for info on a F106 based at Wright Patterson in May 1967 that crashed near Frankfort OH….


  15. Dave Peto says:

    Dad was a crew chief in the Fighters Section at Patterson Field from 1948 through 1976. During his time, I can recall a few crashes around the base and one happened right in front of us as we were watching an air show in our front yard.

    In 1958, an F-86 from the “Minute Men”, a Colorado Air National Guard aerial team, crashed due to aileron lock. Chuck Yeager’s autobiography contains a narrative about a problem the F-86’s had in which a linkage bolt would back out causing this problem and I’ve always wondered if it caused this mishap. An account of the crash is in this link:

    Also, on June 12, 1961, an F-105B attached to Wright-Patt’s Test Squadron (my Dad’s group) crashed just north of Sandhill Rd. It was on final for Runway 23R at the base and crashed into the old limestone quarry that supported the cement plants in Fairborn. The pilot, Capt. Robert Straub, died in the crash. Information about this mishap may be found at:

    This is a very interesting site. Thanks for maintaining it.

    • Lisa says:

      You’re welcome, Dave! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • david conley says:

      I went to the F-86 crash site in a friend’s yard just after it happened. There was nothing but a big hole in the ground. It was said that the pilot rode it in to keep from hitting houses. I kept a small hydraulic fitting I found; the tubing was twisted off on both ends. I was about 11 at the time. I seem to remember it was said the engine flamed out.

  16. Robert Holmes says:

    Hello, I am researching the B-50 crash on 27 Feb 1956, with 11 souls on board, no survivors. My uncle was one of the crew, learning this from my mother. Michael Spock Jr was his name and I believe he was a meterologist. I have found 2 small newspaper articles on this and believe it was in the area of Wilmington Pike. If you have any more info on this I surly would be most appreciative so I can share this with mom, who lately keeps bringing up Mikey and where is he.[mom is 90+ so you get the idea] Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Lisa says:

      We’ll see what we can find, and we will email you. If you have future questions, you can always send them through our Research Request form at http://libraries.wright.edu/special/researchers/request, or email us at archives(at)libraries.wright.edu.

      • Carolyn S says:

        I would also be interested in any additional information available on this crash.
        My mother’s first husband was one of the two civilians on board. He was a field engineer for General Electric. I have a couple of the original newspaper articles, one from Dayton and the other from their hometown in NH. His death left my mother a widow with two small children, including a 4 month old.
        The oldest child recently passed away, but I know that my other half brother would be very interested.

    • ken striker says:

      From On-Line
      Dayton Memories > B-50 Airplane Crash On Wilmington Pike

      B-50 Airplane Crash On Wilmington Pike

      71 posts
      Dec 28, 2014
      3:49 PM I was looking for information on this crash from the mid 50’s. I was going to school at Oakview Elementary, and I’m guessing I was in 4th or 5th grade, making it about 1955 or 56. I remember it was in the late fall or winter. When school was out, my Mom picked me up and said we were going to go look at a big airplane that crashed on Wilmington Pike. Back then, most of Wilmington was country. There were houses from Stroop Road and about a mile or two going towards Bellbrook, after that, all woods. The Airplane was an XB-50 trying to make it to WPAFB, but it came down in the woods on the north side of Wilmington Pike. It was probably about a half mile or so north of where 675 is now going towards Stroop Road. I remember pieces of the plane were hanging from the trees and scattered all over the field. The crash was earlier in the day and all 11 or 12 crew members were killed, but all bodies had been removed before we got there. If anybody remembers anything about this, I’d like to hear about it,

      Jan 08, 2015
      6:16 PM trolleyfan, I was sure the plane crash on Wilmington Pike happened on the Dille property close, to where the new Costco stands. When they were building Costco and talking so much about the property, I was looking for some mention of the crash, but never saw anything, so I thought maybe I was wrong about the location. I only know that a neighbor’s husband was one of the crew members who was killed and my neighbor was left a young widow with two small children to raise. She also told me where it happened. I also had a carpenter friend who was working on the roof of a new home somewhere close to Wilmington Pike. He saw the plane go down and talked about it often before he passed away.
      Last Edited by Syxpack on Jan 08, 2015 9:04 PM
      83 posts
      Jan 09, 2015
      4:34 PM Thanks Syxpack. I’m the same way. My Dad knew the details, but he passed on 2009 and the rest of my family who knew of it are also gone. I think your right, that it was either right at or close to the Dille property.

    • Carolyn says:

      My mother’s first husband was one of the two civilians on board. He was a field engineer for General Electric. I have a couple of the original newspaper articles, one from Dayton and the other from their hometown in NH. His death left my mother a widow with two small children, including a 4 month old.

  17. John Knodr says:


    I’m trying to remember what kind of plane it was that we walked into the nose of whenever Dad took our guests and family to Wright Patterson in the 50’s and 60’s. Dad loves his planes. That huge plane was always fun. What was it? Is there a picture?

    John, now 65

    • Francis U. says:

      I believe it was a B-29 that is still on display at the NMUSAF, minus the aft section of the airframe

  18. Noah Andrews says:


    I’m hoping to find some information about a plane crash that occurred in 1943. Two planes crashed into each other during some kind of training mission. The only name I have is a First Lieutenant Edwin Shurman.

    Any information would be great

    Thank you

  19. Andy says:

    Hi, researching a crash that happened on April 3, 1954 just north of Darke-Montgomery County Line Rd just outside Phillipsburg. My great aunt has a newspaper clipping from the Dayton Daily News about it. (It’s her farm). Apparently at least one person ejected and the government came came out to clean it up.

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