Registered: 1176069570 Posts: 435
While on vacation in Cleveland, Ohio, I visited the crash sites of two Fisher Eagle XP-75's which crashed a few months apart in 1944. Although there was nothing left at either site (though there may have been, I wasn't detecting/digging) the same amount of research was put in to pin down both locations, which involved old property maps, old aerial photographs, current Google Earth aerial imagery and street views, and in the case of the fatal crash, the death certificate of the pilot. The XP-75, like the P-39, had the engine mounted in the middle of the aircraft, behind the pilot, with twin three bladed counter rotating propellers mounted up front being driven by a driveshaft running forward underneath the pilot. It was to be armed with several wing mounted .50 caliber M2 Browning Machine Guns.
On April 8th, 1944 a General Motors/Fisher "Eagle" XP-75, tail number 44-32163, experimental fighter, suffered in flight damage to it's tail section and crashed into a farmer's field in Brook Park, Ohio, south of Cleveland, killing the civilian test pilot John Hamilton Wagner. He as only 30 years old at the time of his death. The events leading up to the crash were witnessed by over a dozen people, including several Fisher Employees and a Brook Park Police Officer, and it was apparent that pieces of the empennage departed the aircraft prior to the aircraft crashing. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sixbyfire/albums/72157709564752457 On August 25th, 1944 a General Motors/Fisher “Eagle” XP-75, (possibly upgraded to an XP-75A at the time of the crash) tail number 44-32161, suffered an in flight fire and explosion, which happened around the airplane’s engine, causing the pilot, Russel Stuart Weeks, to bail out at about 7,000 feet. As soon as he bailed out the aircraft started breaking apart and came to rest in Fairview Village, now Fairview Park, west of Cleveland. The fire was believed to be caused by a broken fuel line. Photographs of the tail section were widely circulated and the location of the crash was published in the media as being at West 192nd and Lorain Road, however, none of the houses or buildings match up in any of the photographs when compared to today, as it turned out the tail section came to rest separate from the fuselage and engine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sixbyfire/albums/72157709567095422 Again, there aren't any photographs of any remains of either of the aircraft, but there are a few news stories on each Flickr Page along with some current and comparison photos of each crash site as it appears today. After the second fatal crash on October 19th, 1944 which killed the pilot, Harry R. Bolster, flying P-75, tail number 44-44549, in Florida near Defuniak Springs, the XP-75/P-75 program was officially cancelled. Jeff
Registered: 1167597086 Posts: 2,594
Have you hunted any air race crash sites in that area?
Registered: 1176069570 Posts: 435
I have researched the locations of most of the Cleveland Air Races crashes, but I believe only one or two may have something worth searching for that have the ever so slight chance that something of the aircraft is left to find. Nearly all others were built over from what I can tell, some by housing, others by freeway/roads.
This year while in Cleveland on vacation I took a trip to the Western Reserve Historical Society's Research Library to look at the 1938 USDA aerial imagery of Cuyahoga County. It is not in a digitized form anywhere online so you have to go in person, fill out a bunch of paperwork, and they dig out the item you've requested and you then can view the actual photographic images at one of several dedicated tables for researchers. I was hoping the 1938 aerial imagery would narrow down Doug Davis' 1934 air races crash in North Olmsted, but if anything, it only added more confusion since the barn/house visible in the overhead photos of his crash appears in 1951 imagery but not in 1938 imagery. I am guessing that maybe he didn't crash exactly where I thought he did and/or the barn/house aren't the same ones I thought they were, which is probably more likely and/or the photo I am using isn't really of his crash or if it is, it was reprinted from a negative/slide but reversed. Some of where he crashed is built over, but other parts aren't which is why I was looking to pin down the actual location. One of the Cleveland Air Races crashes was on the same property as the April 8th, 1944 XP-75 crash, but that pilot bailed out and survived and the entire area was later built over. Other crashes that are built over now happened in Rocky River in a pear orchard, in Fairview Park near West 226th/227th and Westwood, on Eastland Road 150' from the W. A. Waddups home, two crashes near Grayton and Rocky River in Cleveland, one in what is now the Norfolk Southern's Rockport Train Yard in Cleveland just north of I-480, and one in the actual Rocky River itself north of the Brookpark Road bridge which is likely washed away by now. Now there may be something to find, maybe at one of these, but it's really a long shot with the home grading and construction boom that happened, including airport expansion and new freeways/roads that were built in the area. I think that the 1947 Anthony Jannazo crash in Strongsville might have something left since I believe part of that long and spread out crash site is still a field today. I also think that a full site survey would reveal something from the more well known 1949 Berea crash which killed three people, including the pilot and a young mother and child, however, that's not a site I am really interested in. Maybe it's just a little too tragic for me, I don't know. Regardless that crash sealed the fate of the Cleveland Air Races and they weren't held there again. Jeff