Johnstown, PA Commuter Plane Crashes On Landing, Jan 1974


Johnstown, Pa. (AP) -- Authorities say they're at a loss to explain what caused a commuter plane crash here Sunday night that killed 11 and left six others injured.
The aircraft, a twin-engine Air East turboprop, clipped an elevated bank of approach lights on its landing glide to the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, soared over a highway and then slammed into the top of a steep embankment 100 yards short of its assigned runway, officials said.
"It was a matter of five feet, and he would have been clear," WARREN
KRISE, an Air East official, said afterward in reference to the approach lights. "Right now, we have no idea what happened."
The plane, a Beechcraft 99 on a scheduled commuter flight from Pittsburgh, carried 15 passengers and a two-man crew.
The pilot, DAVID BRANNAN, 40, a retired Air Force pilot from nearby Galitzin, was thrown nearly 50 yards from the point of impact still strapped in his seat and was killed outright, authorities said. Copilot GERALD KNOUFF, 24, of Johnstown, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Others killed included MRS. RICHARD H. MAYER, wife of the publisher of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat; their 11-year-old son RICHARD; and a niece of the MAYERS, SUSAN IMHOFF, 13. SUSAN'S twin sister CINDY was critically injured, officials said.
Newsmen said relatives and friends of some of the victims, awaiting the plane's arrival at the terminal, ran across the airfield after learning of the crash and tried to help pull the dead and injured from the wreckage. Some were so overcome they collapsed and were taken to hospitals for treatment of shock.
The crash occurred shortly after dark in 20-degree weather, and visibility at the time was two miles, KRISE said.
There was no hint from the pilot of anything wrong with the aircraft, KRISE added, nor was there any immediate indication of a malfunction with the approach lights.
Newsmen at the scene said the plane hit the last bank of lights before the runway and knocked them out, but added that all the other lights in the approach pattern were on when they arrived.
There was no fire, but the plane practically disintegrated on impact and aviation fuel soaked many of the victims, rescuers said. The nose was thrown 50-75 yards from impact, the wings were nearly shorn from the fuselage and the tail section was severed completely.
The airport sits astride a plateau, and had been the site of two previous crash-landings in recent months, one involving a delegation of congressional dignitaries. There were no deaths or injuries in either of those incidents, however.
Last Thursday, a charter executive jet carrying five Connecticut businessmen nearly plunged off the end of an icy runway at the airport while landing, but the pilot managed to swing the craft onto a grassy area and bring it to a stop.
It was on the same runway two months ago that a U.S. Air Force turboprop crash-landed as it was bringing a number of congressional officials here from Washington, D. C., for the funeral of U.S. Rep. JOHN SAYLOR. A strong cross-current whipped the plane sideways as it was landing, but again the pilot managed to bring the craft under control before any serious damage occurred.
Of the six injured in Sunday night's crash, five were reported in critical condition early today, and some underwent immediate surgery.
One of those hurt, MRS. JENNIFER MOODY of Las Vegas, Nev., was to have attended her mother's funeral here today, officials said.
Four young men on their way home from bowling were first to reach the crash scene. They saw the tail section hanging over the edge of the embankment, 75 feet above the highway they were on, and they scrambled up the embankment to see what was wrong.
The youths said that besides the pilot, at least six others were thrown from the wreckage still strapped in their seats. It was so cold that some of the dead already seemed partially frozen, they added.
They said they found the bottom of the plane ripped out, both engines torn away and the snow soaked with aviation fuel. Some of the victims were pleading for help, and the red beacon atop the tail section still was blinking, they said.
"I thought I was having a dream," said NICHOLAS MAYDAK, on of the four. "I couldn't even scream. I tried to scream, but nothing came out."
Three of the boys began pulling victims clear of the wreckage and covering those alive with jackets and whatever else they could find. The fourth went for help.
DAVID HAMULA said he pulled CINDY IMHOFF from the plane and packed snow around her face to stop some bleeding, then covered her with his own jacket. Then, he said, he huddled against her after everyone else was out to keep her warm until the ambulances arrived.
The National Transportation Board, Civil Aeronautics Board and state police began an investigation, but said it might be weeks before they would have a report.

Johnstown, Pa. (AP) -- Following is a list of those killed or injured in Sunday night's crash of an Air East commuter plane at the Johnstown-Cambria Conuty Airport:
JOACHIM F. BERLINGER, about 60, of New York City.
DANIEL BRANNAN, 40, of Galitzin, Pa., the pilot.
JAMES CREIGHTON, 44, of Mansfield, Ohio, another Air East pilot apparently hitching a ride on the flight.
PAUL FREIDHOFF, 19, of Johnstown.
CHRISTOPHER HARRINGTON, 18, of Philadelphia.
SUSAN IMHOFF, 13, of Johnstown.
ESTHER KIRSCHMANN, no age available, of Johnstown.
MRS. RICHARD H. MAYER, 42, of Johnstown.
RICHARD MAYER, 11, MRS. MAYER'S son, of Johnstown.
JANE SHIKES, 23, of New York State (hometown unspecified).
MRS. LYNN STRAMP, 28, of Ebensburg, Pa.
CAROL BROWN, 18, of Lansdowne, Pa., serious condition at Lee Hospital.
DR. ABRAHAM J. EDELSTEIN, no age available, of Johnstown, in critical condition at Memorial Hospital.
CINDY IMHOFF, 13, of Johnstown, twin sister of SUSAN, in critical condition at Lee Hospital.
JENNIFER MOODY, no age available, of Las Vegas, Nev., in critical condition at Mercy Hospital.
LOUIS J. TESTONI, no age available, of Aston, Pa., in critical condition at Mercy Hospital.

The Evening Standard Uniontown Pennsylvania 1974-01-07


My Dad, My Hero

I have many great memories of my Dad from my early childhood, and many of them involve airplanes, helicopters and airports. I remember him landing a helicopter in our backyard to take me for a ride during his lunch break. I remember going to the Johnstown Airport many times either playing in the hanger while he was working, getting sour cherry candy from the vending machine just before walking up the steps to the top of the air traffic control tower, stopping in the diner for a turkey sandwich, and I even remember stocking Zero candy bars in the executive’s jet’s pantries.

When I was around five years old I started learning more about his services flying for our US Army in the Vietnam War. I remember watching slide shows from his pictures of him and the other pilots helping to save the lives of many troops trapped on the ground. I remember seeing him fortunately arriving and departing a war unharmed. Then, just a little bit older, I learned of this airplane crash. I remember the first time I saw a picture of the crash and wondering how anyone survived. I remember him telling me stories about the crash and how long it took for someone to find them. I remember him saying that being buried in the snow saved his life. I remember him telling me about Vicky; she would be my older sister if it weren’t for the crash. With all the stress and trauma this brought onto my Mom, they lost their firstborn. When I was in high school, my Dad acquired the tapes from the news stations that were there at the hospital after the crash and I remember thinking that he didn’t look alive to me. I later learned that he did die on the table, several times, and it’s a miracle that the surgeons were able to save his live.

My Dad has been a pilot for over fifty years now and he still continues to fly on basically a daily basis. He’s flown tens of thousands of hours around the world keeping us all safe here at home. He’s also been a flight instructor for many years and has taught and certified hundreds of pilots that all have successful careers and/or hobbies being pilots. His adversities has made him the man he is today and I’m proud to say Jerry Knouff is my Dad and my Hero.


A strange set of circumstances and tragedy has put your name in front of me on a computer screen.
My sister Jane Shikes was on the plane that you were the co-pilot of that crashed. She is among the deceased.
I would like to be in contact with you in whatever capacity that you are able to. I don't know if you want to, or are able to discuss this incident. My mother (was also Jane's mother) would be interested in more information this late in her life. Mother is 87 years old now and is finally ready to talk about the crash.


Listed among the deceased is the name Jane Shikes. Jane was my sister. My aim is to find out if anyone can provide additional information regarding the plane crash.
I am interested in ANY tid-bit of information that can be gleaned; be it from survivors, witnesses, news reports, news reporters...anything. Please help.
This is the first time I have ever seen or read this article. Surely there is more information out there.

What Happened To Cindy

I was a student in the same grade as the Imhoff twins. It was Cindy who survived. I remember visiting her at her home 2 or 3 times during her recovery. I remember feeling nervous because I didn't know her very well and I wasn't sure how to be. I remember some of the physical scars as she recovered. During those 2 or 3 visits we never discussed the tragedy at all, not one word about that or about the loss of her twin.

Cindy's personality changed after the crash. I did not know her well before the crash, but I do recall she and Susan had been more quiet and shy, sort of under the radar, and they kept to themselves a bit before the crash.

After the crash and after her many weeks of recovery, Cindy came back to school a gregarious, outgoing, class leader and became extremely popular. She blossomed physically, had lost her excess weight after the crash and stayed fit and active thereafter. She excelled. She did very well academically, but I'd say the real transformation was socially. After the crash and in the years following, Cindy was super cheerful and upbeat, always happy; I remember wondering how on earth she could smile given the tragic loss of her identical twin.

You'd never have known she was ever in this crash or had such a terrible loss at 13. She transformed into an outgoing leader in high school, she was liked by all in a class that was known to be insular and snobbish.

No idea what happened to her after high school, but she no doubt continued her education, as did most of us, and I'm sure she achieved whatever she wanted to in her life. She became the epitome of positivity and cheerfulness with a take-charge, can-do leader spirit after an unimaginable loss.

I was a year ahead of Cindy

I was a year ahead of Cindy in high school, and knew her when I was a junior and senior, starting about a year and a half after the crash. She didn't show any obvious signs of having been injured, so I assume she made a fairly full recovery.


To any and all involved in the January 1974 plane crash at the Johnstown airport..

My name is Jackie. My dad was one of the men who were first on the scene to this tragic accident. After several years him and I were about to contact Jerry Knouff, the co-pilot. After very little thought, we've decided to have some type of reunion(for lack of a better word). If you, or someone you know, was affected by the accident, or have any insight that might aid in finding someone who was, please contact me at, or call/text (814)270-5994.

Date of event to be announced.



I tried your e-mail but you didn't respond I'd like to meet your dad someday.

Plane Crash 1974

I was just doing a little research on the plane crash you were involved in, in January of 1974. I was reading the comment you posted here, and there is one part that I wanted to give you a little more insight on. My dad (John D. Wainwright) was one of the four young men who stumbled upon the crash that night. I was sitting here listening to him recall this heroic event to me and my brother and then took to the internet to try and find some articles. He was telling us about them climbing up over the hill and finding this plane wreckage and passengers laying everywhere. He told us how as soon as he saw this tragic mess, he knew exactly what to do. The first person he ran up to, was the co-pilot (who I believe was YOU), and how the man told him that his feet were cold. My dad took off his jacket and covered the man up.
My eyes were tearing up as I was reading your comment. When I read the part about you not knowing who the men were who saved your life, I knew I had to let you know that one of those men, is my dad!!!
If you have any questions, or want to contact him, please feel free to e-mail me...

Oh, and with today being Memorial Day, I wanted to take another minute and say "Thank You" for your service!!

1974 Johnstown plane crash

Paul Freidhoff and I were engaged. That day was my first taste of widowhood. We were young and incredibly filled with love for each other. I am glad that you were able to heal and go on to a wonderful life. God alone knows His plans for all of us and I have long since ceased asking why this particular tragedy had to happen. I was blessed to have loved Paul for over a year before he was taken from us. I have always prayed that he never knew what happened. God bless you and your family. Sunny

I have missed you every day

I have missed you every day of my life, Paul. I loved you so very much! It was because of the love you gave me that I was able to go on and eventually marry a marvelous man. Without what you taught me, I never could have been ready for a man such as my husband. I will see you again one day in heaven, along with our child. Your Santy