I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life. I grew up in a quiet, somewhat isolated part of the county, with low crime and friendly neighbors. Nothing big usually happens there. And likewise, despite the professional and travel experiences I’ve been privileged to have, I’ve stayed out of the way of major events. They say we remember bad/intense experiences better than most because the adrenaline burns them into our memory. 28 years later, I can still remember this very vividly.
Flash back to May 25th, 1986. Every year, the local airport, Berlin Municipal Airport (KBML) had an airshow. The runway way long enough that they could host some fairly large and interesting planes, military and private.
That year, one of the performers was the Flying Farmer – Bob Weymouth of Dresden, ME (pictured above). Typical stunt pilot in an older model fixed wing, single prop plane. In this case it was a 1946 Piper J3C-65, doing the typical dips, climbs, rolls and other common maneuvers. Weymouth was apparently a very experienced pilot with decades of stunt shows in this plane on his resume.
During the performance, I walked with my grandfather over to an area closer to the mid point of the runway. The plane shot up, cut power, rotated to point down, and began a steep dive, from which he was expected to recover, as part of the routine. Well, he didn’t. He went straight into the pavement.
There we stood about 150 yards from the wreckage. Grandfather said, “Well, that’s not good,” as the emergency crews rushed towards the smoldering heap of metal. He turned me around and gently nudged me in the opposite direction, back towards the main buildings.
Weymouth was transferred to the local hospital, but succumbed to his injuries. (Link to news clip)
I don’t recall if the airshow continued that day. I do remember that if that wasn’t the last year of the airshow, it was one of the last years. A memorial stone, commemorating the life of the pilot, still stands at the airport, near the windsock closest to the road, last I knew.
NTSB Identification: NYC86FNC03.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 33654.
Accident occurred Sunday, May 25, 1986 in MILAN, NH
Aircraft: PIPER J-3, registration: N6498H
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.THE PILOT WAS FLYING A ‘DRUNKEN FARMER’ ROUTINE AT A AIRSHOW. HE WAS OBSERVED IN THE AIR TO BEGIN A DESCENT FROM WHICH HE DID NOT RECOVER. THE PILOT WAS FATALLY INJURED IN THE CRASH AND THE AIRCRAFT DESTROYED. NO MECHANICAL OR PHYSICAL REASON FOR THE CRASH WAS DETERMINED.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
REASON FOR OCCURRENCE UNDETERMINED