June 20, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Donald A. Innis, after whom Innis Road at
Harvey Field is named, was over the Salton Sea in Southern
California on a rocket firing flight when a rocket body
exploded prematurely on his starboard wing. His F6F-3 Hellcat
fighter (BuNo 40860) which was in a 14-degree dive at the time went into
a slow spin and crashed into the sea.
June 25, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Douglas
J. Walthall and U.S. Navy Aviation Radioman 2nd
class Wilson M. Keller of Composite Squadron
82, a torpedo bomber unit attached to the Air Facility temporarily
for rocket training, lost their lives when their TBM-1C Torpedo
Bomber (BuNo 46185) crashed during a rocket firing test on the B-2 range.
A five-inch rocket exploded as it was fired, blowing off
eight feet of Lt. Walthall's starboard wing. A board of
inquiry found the rocket was improperly assembled and that
the propellant had ignited the warhead.
August 21, 1944 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant John "Jack" Armitage lost his life
when his SB2C Helldiver, (BuNo 18248), crashed at NOTS Inyokern.
Immediately after he fired an 11.75" Tiny Tim in a 20-degree
dive at a range of 1500 yards his plane nosed over, passed
through the rocket's blast cone and crashed. The board of
inquiry found the firing had forced an outboard elevator
tab up, keeping his plane in the dive and that passing
through the blast cone had increased the effect. China Lake's
Armitage Field is named for Lt. Armitage.
August 29, 1944 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Robert A. Dibb, after whom Dibb
Road on the Station is named, was killed when a five-inch
AR rocket with a dummy head, fired for a rocket night calibration,
ricocheted 500 feet into the air and took off one wing of
his F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo 58818.)
January 21, 1948 - U.S. Navy
Chief Torpedoman Wilber K. Smith lost his
life when an air compressor exploded on "G" Range, Area
September 06, 1948 - Civil
Service physicist H. W. Baldwin lost his life
when he jumped from a burning B-29 Superfortress while on
leave from NOTS, in transit for assignment to Institute
of Nuclear Sciences.
February 03, 1949 - U.S. Navy
Commander A. Minvielle (pilot), U.S. Navy
Reserve Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles Matus
(co-pilot), Civil Service Dr. J. K. L. McDonald,
Civil Service Dr. John McKinley, Civil Service
employee Mr. Myron G. Kellogg, Civil Service
employee Mr. Rodney Morrin and Civil Service
employee Mr. Joseph Vargus lost their lives
when their JRB-4 Expeditor (BuNo 90550) crashed in the Sierras.
The wreckage was found 21 April 1949 near Owens Peak.
February 04, 1949 - U.S. Air
Force Captain Robert M. Madison lost his life
when his airplane crashed into Lake Ponchatrain, New Orleans,
Louisiana. Capt. Madison was returning to his home at China
Lake when the accident occurred. Capt. Madison came to NOTS
in 1946 and was a B-29 pilot assigned to the upper air research
project. Robert was survived by his wife and two children,
a son age 5 and a daughter age 3. Captain Madison also was
the pilot of the China Lake based B-29 that crashed into
Lake Mead, NV.
July 10, 1952 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Commander John E. Darden lost his life when
his F2H-2 Banshee (BuNo 125503) lost a wing in flight and
crashed. This was the first flight test death at NAF since
October 09, 1952 - U.S. Navy
Aviation Boatswains mate Airman Raymond J. Irons
lost his life during a catapult gear test.
February 15, 1956 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles Arthur Duffy
lost his life when his F2H-2 Banshee (BuNo 123350) crashed
during routine training while simulating an emergency.
June 20, 1956 - Ralph
Boal, civilian, lost his life at the Oakland Naval
Hospital from injuries sustained in a May 1956 accident.
Ralph was stationed behind a concrete barricade three feet
thick, 12 feet high and 24 feet wide which was located 57
feet east of track and 1,800 feet down track from launching
point. Primary cause of the accident was improper assembly
of motors on the pusher sled permitting two rounds to become
detached. Secondary cause appeared to be the failure of
Ralph to take position entirely behind the barricade resulting
in the loss of his right leg above the knee.
October 10, 1956 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Bennett W. Hooks, VX-5 Project Officer and
pilot, lost his life when his A4D-1 Skyhawk (BuNo 139926)
crashed 5 miles south of Inyokern. According to Henry White
(VX-5 Feb.1956 - Oct. 1957) it was determined that he was
trying to bring his A4D in on the deserted runway
at Inyokern during an in-flight fire. The autopsy indicated
he had inhaled the hot flames and probably died before impact.
It was also said that the papers for his advancement to
LCdr. were on his desk unsigned. The whole Squadron attended
the funeral and he was buried at the Military Cemetery in
San Diego with full military honors. Bennett was 33 years
old and was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
June 06, 1957 - Civil Service
employee Mr. William Earl Bowles lost his
life from multiple injuries received when powder in a screw
extruder machine ignited at the China Lake Pilot Plant.
March 25, 1958 - USMC Private
Jerald V. Roberts was killed by the accidental
discharge of a .45 caliber automatic pistol Tuesday morning
while on Sentry Duty at the South Gate.
June 24, 1958 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Commander Richard M. Hopfinger lost his life
when his FJ-4B Fury (BuNo 139551) crashed during a refueling
exercise off the coast of Monterey, CA. Operations were
being conducted from the USS Bon Homme Richard.
April 13, 1960 - Public Works
employee Mr. Jesse Ariel Thomas lost his life
in a SNORT Track incident.
September 22, 1960 - U.S. Marine
Corps Captain Howard O. Casada Jr. lost his
life when his Navy F-104A Starfighter (56-0740) crashed
near the junction of Mt. Wilson and Palmdale Roads in the
Angeles Natl. Forest during a routine Sidewinder test flight.
The cause of the crash was thought to be oxygen depletion
at altitude. Howard was 29 years old and was survived by
his wife, infant son and his father.
October 21, 1960 - U.S. Navy
Reserve Lieutenant Jan M. Graves lost his
life when his F4D-1 Skyray (130745) crashed on runway 21.
From an altitude of about 100 feet the Ford seemed to go
over in slow motion and then careened down the runway coming
to rest just to the right of runway 21, about 6,000 ft from
the numbers. The cause was determined to have been a broken
wire on the rudder system positioning feed back servo. The
servo wire had excess solder 'wicked' up into it which made
it stiff and brittle resulting in it breaking due to vibration
which caused the rudder to fully deflect just after lift-off.
Jan was 36 years old. ~ Related by Lou Spencer, Mike Kott
who witnessed the crash and from Bruce Saiger who was on
scene moments after the crash.
December 13, 1960 - Civil Service
employees Mr. Robert B. Hughes of Code 3081,
Test Department, and Mr. Hubert J. Stanfill
of Code 3081, Test Department, lost their lives at San Clemente
Island when a rocket motor ignited prematurely.
April 28, 1961 - U.S. Marine
Corps Captain David L. Hess lost his life
from injuries sustained on April 7th when his F-104A
Starfighter (56-0757) crashed on takeoff from George AFB
on a return flight to China Lake. The cause was determined
to be a failure of the George AFB flight line personnel
to activate all of the circuit breakers which prevented
the after burners from firing during the take-off. The afterburner
not firing affected the F-104's take-off performance into
a quartering headwind. Capt. Hess was survived by his parents.
September 17, 1962 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Fred J. Wilson lost his life when
his F9F-6K Cougar drone (127273) crashed. An eyewitness
was T. Herold who recalls that when he and the other F9F
Plane Captains heard the returning flight on the radio they
went out to watch them land. Wilson was #2 in a three plane
Cougar drone formation that was coming out of the north
to the south, and broke center field midway between the
line shack and the drone hangar. The first one went well,
but Lt. Wilson did a sharp bank to the left (almost a 90
degree turn) at about 800' alt. and almost immediately (it
was that fast) his uncontrolled F9F plowed into the ground
at about 200 knots and at a 90° plus angle. Pure chance
that he missed the fuel farm and impacted between it and
the gate. A very rusty ten inch water pump pliers was found
in the debris field. It cast suspicion on Maintenance, but
the rusty condition of the pliers indicated that they may
have been missed during pre-flight and somehow locked up
the flight controls.
November 1962 - Civil Service
employee Mr. Jonothan E. Rice died of propellant
burns suffered in an accident on 20 November.
March 31, 1964 - U.S. Air Force
Major Thomas R. Brock (VX-5 pilot) & passengers
AN Hobart C. Hale, AMSAN Edward L. Taylor
and AMSAN Clarence E. Yates (all VX-5) lost
their lives when the VX-5 UC-45J "Bugsmasher" (BuNo 29581),
was blown off course in a storm and hit 3-4 feet from the
top of Mt. Lancaster. The flight went missing while returning
to NAF China Lake from NAS Lemoore and wasn't found for
May 16, 1964 - U.S. Navy Aviation
Electrician 3rd Class (AE-3) Donald R.
Baker lost his life in a skydiving accident during
a demonstration for Armed Forces Day.
June 11, 1965 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Douglas S. Mayfield lost his life on when
his A-4C Skyhawk (BuNo 148524) was struck by target debris
while on a photo mission over "B" Range. Within seconds
of the Walleye striking the intended radar trailer target,
Lt. Mayfield's Skyhawk was struck in the starboard wing
by debris (a wheel) from the target. The Skyhawk pitched
slightly nose up and yawed left and almost immediately the
starboard wing broke off. The wounded Skyhawk rolled 360
degrees in the direction of the missing wing and impacted
the ground. The entire accident took about 4 to 5 seconds
from debris becoming visible in the flight path to the ensuing
fireball and large scorch mark on the "B" Range desert surface.
When the smoke and dust cleared the only recognizable wreckage
was the wing that broke off. Doug was 33 years old and was
survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.
July 25, 1966 - John S.
Agnew died at the Station Hospital Monday
afternoon, July 25, of a cerebral thrombosis following an
accident that occurred Friday, July 22, at "C" Range where
he was loading inert bombs to be moved to a salvage area.
March 15, 1967 - U.S. Navy
Commander William L. "Mike" Reardon, U.S.
Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert R. Kornegay
and USN Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class (ADJ-1)
Vernon K. Whipkey lost their lives when their
A-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 138952) came to earth eight miles
short of the runway during a GCA approach to Lockbourne
AFB, Columbus, OH. They were on their way to Quonset Point,
RI to pick up a weapon that had been brought there a month
August 1, 1967 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Commander Tom Ewell (VX-5) and
three civilians lost their lives when VX-5
A-7A Corsair II (BuNo 152674), doing passive Shrike runs,
collided with the civilian Cessna 210B (N9771X) over Owens
December 1, 1967 Mr.
Richard L. Kiliz lost his life in an oven incident
at Salt Wells.
March 1970 - Alvin “Mike”
Rector, civilian, Code 4543, Pyrotechnics Branch,
at CT facility lost his life from injuries sustained in
a previous accident while assembling an experimental piece
of hardware which ignited directly in front of him causing
severe burns over 40% of his body.
April 2, 1970 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
Gerald L. Hall was killed when his TA-4F Skyhawk
(BuNo 153503) rolled inverted and crashed west of the runway
during a landing at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Belton,
MO. ADJ-2 Leroy Neville, the backseater, survived after
ejecting sideways and hitting the ground after a single
swing of his chute. Lt. Hall had a drop tank on the center
line and a 'special' camera on 2 or 4. The blivot
was on the opposite hard point (2 or 4) and Lt. Hall was
in the 'break' for a 360 overhead when the blivot peeled
jamming the flight controls. Gerald was 29 years old and
was survived by his wife and two sons.
December 13, 1972 - Propulsion
Development Department Civil Service employees Mr.
Walter E. LaDassor (Explosives Branch) and Mr.
Richard Plauson (Explosives Branch) lost their
lives in an industrial accident involving explosives in
a remote area of NWC. Walter was 47 years old and Richard
was 36 years old.
June 25, 1974 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant
John P. Esposito lost his life when his A-7E
Corsair II (BuNo 158023) crashed while validating a new
computerized weapons delivery system. John was 27 years
September 14, 1975 - U.S. Navy
Seabee Michael Richard Glodo (Navy Self Help
Program Office) lost his life from injuries sustained after
his semi trailer left the road while he was transporting
a bulldozer back from a job at Junction Ranch. Michael was
22 years old.
May 21, 1976 - U.S. Navy Explosive
Ordnance Detachment 67 Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-4)
Charles D. Alderman, EOD-67 U.S. Navy Electricians
Mate 1st Class (EM-1) Ralph E. Laux, Jr.
and Civil Service employee Mr. Joseph A. Holman
lost their lives in an Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE) accident
on one of the Ranges. Charles was 46 years old, Ralph was
38 years old and Joseph was 45 years old.
January 17, 1977 - Civil Service
employee Mr. Larry D. Kreie lost his life
when his military jeep overturned on a dry lake. Larry was
employed in the Operations Support Group of the Range Department,
Range Operation Division and was 20 years old.
April 05, 1979 - U.S. Army
Chief Warrant Officer Donald Monk and U.S.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Mooring
lost their lives when their OV-1D Mohawk (69-17000) crashed
while operating out of NWC China Lake. They were conducting
a test when their Mohawk went into a high speed stall at
low altitude and crashed. Both were from Ft. Rucker, Alabama.
Donald was 42 years old and Michael was 31 years old.
August 13, 1979 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Commander Theodore "Ted" Faller
lost his life when his QF-86F Sabre (s/n 55-5073) suffered
an engine failure moments after takeoff. Ted managed to
bring the stricken aircraft down in a vacant lot 600 yards
south of the Ridgecrest Heights Elementary School, later
renamed Faller Elementary. His chase plane/wingman was Lt.
Rosemary Conatser whom was also flying a QF-86 Sabre and
was just getting airborne as Faller began to lose power.
She circled overhead for a short time and returned to the
NWC line shortly after rescue personal began to arrive on
the scene. The first on scene was off-duty NWC Armitage
Airfield civilian firefighter Cory Collins. He said that
when he got there, Faller was conscious and alert, but couldn't
get out of his harness. The gear was still retracted and
Cory easily jumped up on the aircraft and attempted to release
him as fire was engulfing the plane from the engine moving
forward. By then Ridgecrest units and another NWC off-duty
firefighter arrived, but weren't equipped to douse aviation
fuel fires and by the time someone finally arrived with
a knife, the rescuers, mainly civilians, were driven back
by the intense heat and several were badly burned. Ted's
wife was presented with a posthumous Distinguished Flying
Cross. Ted Faller was 36 years old. ~ from AMH Jim McCann,
VX-5 A-7 PC, Airframes Mech., and Intermediate Hydraulics
November 21, 1979 - U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Commander Peter "Pete" Luem and
U.S. Navy Ensign Steven D. Herning lost their
lives when their VX-5 TA-7C Corsair II (BuNo 156748, XE-08)
crashed while simulating close air support for troops in
field training at Ft. Irwin. The chase plane/wingman was
VX-5 C.O. Capt. Paul D. Stephenson flying VX-5 A-7E, XE-06,
BuNo 160724. According to Capt. Stephenson and the accident
investigation team XE-08 was about 100 ft. off the deck
at 360 knots. when the plane suffered a catastrophic engine
failure and exploded in mid air, so fast that the wing-tips
blew off and the plane inverted scattering wreckage and
debris over a mile with the engine continuing another several
hundred feet beyond the debris field. This incident was
significant as it was determined that the combustion wall
area of the TF-30A engine had worn thin and suffered complete
material failure leading to the explosion. The investigation
of this accident prompted the Chief of Naval Operations
and Chief of Naval Aviation Safety to "down" all fleet TA-7C's
until a Power Plant A/F change could be made... thus the
TF-30 "B" model engine was born. Peter was 37 years old
and Steven was 22 years old. ~ from AMH Jim McCann, VX-5,
A-7 PC, Airframes Mech, and Intermediate Hydraulics Tech.
September 30, 1980 - U.S. Navy
Commander Dennis E. Becker lost his life in
an accident involving a Mitchell Wing B-10 powered Ultralight
during a familiarization flight for a
technology demonstration and utilization project being conducted
for the Navy Science Assistance Program.
The crash occurred at Mirror Lake (dry). Dennis was 40 years