Detroit, MI Air Show Accident, Aug 1952

KOREAN JET ACE KILLED AS PLANE FALLS APART AT DETROIT SHOW.

FOUR OF 51,000 SPECTATORS INJURED AS DEBRIS SHOWERS EXPOSITION AREA.

Detroit, Aug. 30 (AP) -- An Air Force F-89 Scorpion tore itself apart above 51,000 spectators and carried its pilot, a Korean jet ace, and his radar observer to their deaths at the International Aviation Exposition here today.
Four spectators were hurt, none serious, although at first one was believed to have been killed. Five cars were wrecked or damaged by falling debris. Several spectators had narrow, almost miraculous escapes.
Killed were Maj. DONALD ADAMS, 31, of Mt. Clemens, Mich., the pilot, and Capt. ED KELLY, 34, of New York City, the radar observer in the all-weather jet fighter.
ADAMS, father of three, returned home only June 16 from Korea, where he bagged 6 1/2 Communist MIGs and became the nation's 13th jet fighter ace. Both he and KELLY were members of the 61st Fighter Squadron stationed at Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, N.Y.
As ADAMS and KELLY came screaming over the field at 200 feet with another F-89 for a demonstration of high-speed climbing, a wing flew off their plane. It spun crazily upward. The plane's tail flew off and the remainder, carrying the doomed men, splattered into an ammunition storage shed and exploded.
Exploding small-arms bullets from the storage supply of the Michigan National Guard endangered spectators who flocked to the scene.
The second Scorpion, carrying Maj. John Recher, 31, of Miamisburg, Ohio, and Capt. Thomas Myslicki, 29, of Minneapolis, landed safely and undamaged.
Among the spectators were Air Force Secretary Finletter and Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Force chief of staff. Both rushed to the crash scene, ignoring the exploding bullets as they attempted to aid in futile rescue attempt.
Vandenberg said the accident probably was caused by the force updrafts and downdrafts encountered in pulling up in a sharp climb with afterburners adding scores of horsepower to the plane's jet power plant.
(Afterburners convert exhaust gases into additional energy and are used to add speed and climb.)
"Close to the ground," Vandenberg said, "you get these updrafts and downdrafts and when the afterburner gives you that extra speed it is like a boat in the roughest sea."

Zanesville Signal Ohio 1952-08-31

Comments

My father and I were crossing

My father and I were crossing the parking lot when we heard the 2 jets heading for the grandstands....I remember looking up amazed by their speed and noise...and then the wing just separated from the plane....I don't recall the actual crash....but we saw an engine hit and explode....I remember cars burning and my dad telling me we had to get out of there as we made a mad dash for our car....I was 6 years old....To this day I stop to watch jets....holding my breath...half expecting to see that wing float free....Marcia Moir

Detroit Air Crash August 1952

I was also five years old and was there for the crash. I recall the show, the flyby, the mishap, and then pandemonium. My father grabbed my four year old brother and I by the hands and the next thing I recall was the parking lot, headed for our car. My feet never touched the ground that I can recall during that frantic dash.

I remember a lot of rushing people and cars in the parking lot, some smoke and the popping sounds of ammunition going off. From 1952 until now I wondered why that aircraft was armed. Researching this crash a few minutes ago I learned an ammunition bunker had been hit by the crashing aircraft. That clearly explains away my misunderstanding.

This sad event still lingers in my memory, though I do not feel traumatized. It was much like seeing the space-shuttle Challenger disaster unfold. Evidently the human mind may not fully grasp the magnitude of tragedy unless it is personal

I was there

I was 9, enjoying the air-show with my family. The F-89s were flying straight and level when the wing just tore off Major Adams' aircraft. I saw no evidence of any maneuver that could explain the failure.

A few years later I examined an F-89 on ground at March AFB in California. I was struck by the extraordinary thinness of the Scorpion's wing, even at its root, and suspect its structure was borderline for the available material technology of the day, particularly given the huge fuel tank or rocket pod that was hung on the tip.

AIR SHOW ACCIDENT, 8/30/52.

I WAS 5 YRS., OLD ON THAT DAY. I REMEMBER MY FATHER " SAYING HERE THEY COME RIGHT OVER OUR HEADS'. AS I WAS LOOKING UP THE WING OF THE JET BURST INTO FLAMES & SEPARATED FROM THE PLANE. I REMEMBER THE
WING SPINNING IN THE AIR DIRECTLY OVER THE TOP OF ME. MY FATHER THEN GRABBED MY HAND AND SAID " LETS RUN'. MY HEART WAS RACING AS I RAN WITH MY FATHER HOLDING MY HAND. I THEN TRIPPED RUNNING THROUGH A
DEPRESSION IN THE GROUND. AT THAT TIME MY FATHER LOST HIS GRIP OF MY HAND & WE WERE SEPARATED. I WAS CRYING WHILE ON THE GROUND, PEOPLE WERE RUNNING & SCREAMING IN A PANIC TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM
THE FALLING & BURNING PARTS OF THE PLANE. AT THAT POINT I COULD FEEL THE HEAT OF A BURNING WING WHICH LANDED ON THE GROUND OFF TO THE SIDE OF ME. MY FATHER THEN FOUND ME IN THE CROWD & PICKED ME UP.
I REMEMBER SEEING A WOMAN PASSED OUT ON THE GROUND NEAR ME, A MILITARY MAN WAS HELPING HER. AS MY FATHER CARRIED ME TO THE PARKING LOT, I COULD HEAR THE SOUNDS OF SIRENS. DURING MY DRIVE HOME I WAS
SHAKING WITH FRIGHT. MY DAD KEPT SAYING THINGS TO COMFORT ME.

Crash of F-89

The aircraft involved in this crash were from the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron stationed at Griffis AFB in Rome, NY Not the 61st as stated. I I was in the Squadron at the time, and worked on these planes!

F-89 crash in Detroit,MI 1952

The F-89s involved in the crash at air show were from Griffis AFB. But the squadron they belonged to was the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, not the 61st. I was in the squadron at the time.