Barstow, CA Test Pilots Die in Air Crash, Jan 1958

Test Pilots Die in Fiery Crash Jan 1958

Two Douglas Test Pilots Die in Crash

Two Douglas Aircraft Co. test fliers were killed just after noon yesterday in the unexplained crash of a Navy A-3D twin jet attack bomber eight miles west of Barstow.

The victims were identified as the pilot, Thomas C. Kilgariff, 33, of 1326 Kettering St. Lancaster, and Dale A. Benethum, 29, 1029 West Ave., Lancaster, flight test and research engineer.

Routine Report

The small jet bomber took off from Edwards Air Force Base at 11:45 a.m. on a engineering evaluation flight and radioed a routine report five minutes later without any indication of trouble.

Witnesses said the plane exploded in midair. Wreckage in midair. Wreckage was strewn across two miles of brushland in the Hinkley area.

Leave Families

One of the crewmen, it was reported, attempted to parachute from the plummeting, flaming aircraft, but struck the ground just as his chute was opening.

Douglas records showed Kilgariff leaves his widow Mary, and two children. Benethum leaves his widow Virginia.

Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA 29 Jan 1958


2 Die When Bomber Crashes on Desert

Two Douglas Aircraft Co. employees were killed yesterday when a Navy A3D twin jet attack bomber exploded in air and crashed on the Mojave Desert.

Dead are the pilot, Thomas George Kilgariff, 33, of 13266 Kettering St., Lancaster, and Flight Engineer Dale Albert Benethum, 29, of 1029 West Avenue, Lancaster.

The plane, a swept wing medium bomber capable of 450 miles an hour, was being flown by a Douglas Aircraft Co. crew out of Edwards Air Force Base.

The plane took off at 11:15 a.m. and five minutes later made a routine radio report. No trouble was indicated at that time.

The bodies of Kilgariff and Benethum were recovered from the wreckage near the Hinkley Cutoff about 12 miles west of Barstow.

Witnesses reported that the plane apparently exploded in the air and that the tail section flew off.

The wreckage was sighted by search planes flying over the area early yesterday afternoon.

Officials calculate that crash occurred at 11:53 a.m. as that was the time Benethum's watch was stopped.

The plane was on an experimental flight out of Edwards, according to Warner S. Lowe, a Douglas engineer. Lowe said the crash probably was caused by a structural failure in the tail assembly.

David H. Stedman, an eye-witness from Barstow, said the engineer apparently attempted to bail out just before the plane hit the ground.

Main portion of the fuselage crashed about 600 feet north of Community Blvd. and 200 feet east of Dixie Rd. The tail landed about a half mile northwest of the main impact.

San Bernardino County Sun, 29 Jan 1958