Manchester, Nov. 3 --(Special)--
While his wife was watching from the Chance Vought Corporation plant in East Hartford this afternoon, Lieutenant Carl B. Harper, retired Navy pilot, of Falls Church, Va., leaped with a parachute from an airplane he was testing as one wing broke from the plane, and dropped to the ground, breaking one ankle as he struck. The plane crashed into the ground half a mile away and was demolished.
Lieutenant Harper was in Manchester Memorial Hospital tonight where surgeons had set the fracture of his left ankle.
Structural Defect Blamed.
President Eugene E. Wilson of the Chance Vought Corporation said tonight that from reports he had received a structural
defect in the airplane wing apparently was responsible for the accident. The plane was entirely experimental, he said. with
all-metal wings as a particularly experimental feature. It was a two-place observation biplane built in the East Hartford
factory from deigns drawn in conjunction with the Navy. The single motor was a Pratt & Whitney Wasp.
Lieutenant Harper, an expert test pilot, was engaged by Chance Vought to test the plane and had been putting it through severe strains yesterday and today was being tested in power dives. The wing loosened as Lieutenant Harper was driving the ship toward the earth from a height of 10,000 feet. His speed was roughly estimated by observers at 200 miles an hour.
Not much information, Mr. Wilson said, is available about the all-metal wing construction, and such tests as Lieutenant Harper was conducting are for the purpose of securing such data. There will be little or no salvage from the wrecked airplane, he said.
What A Falling Man Thinks Of.
Lieutenant Harper at the hospital tonight described his thoughts and feelings as he saw the airplane breaking apart and
jumped for his life. It was the first time he had ever "bailed out" in an emergency.
The plane, Lieutenant Harper said, was supposed to stand a dive at 230 miles an hour. He took it to an altitude of 10,000 feet and started down. At 7,000 feet he felt the upper left wing begin to flutter. As he attempted to slow the speed of the plane and gain control the wing broke off. The ship off balance, went into a spin, he loosened his safety belt and tried to jump.
With the plane spinning as it fell he had to make four attempts before he could push himself away from the machine. Then the spinning motion of the ship imparted a similar motion to his body. As he pulled the parachute cord the parachute spun too hard and refused to open.
At 4,000 feet the 'chute spread. The pilot landed on his feet in Woodland Street, missing an open lot at the intersection of Main Street. The hard ground caused the fracture of his ankle.
What Lindbergh Did.
On the way down with his parachute refusing to open, Lieutenant Harper said, he saw the iron ring that releases the
parachute falling through the air beside him. Then he remembered that he was supposed to hold onto the ring so that it
would not fall on anybody underneath, and he remembered asking Colonel Lindbergh if he had hung onto the ring the four
times he had to jump from a falling plane.
"Slim" Lindbergh told him, the lieutenant said, that twice he had held onto the ring and twice he had let it fall. Dropping toward the ground he thought of other pilots who had jumped and others who had failed to jump and been killed. He wondered why these latter had not jumped and realized, then, what would have happened if he had stayed in the airplane. Then he was on the ground.
Clayton Massey and William Taft of Manchester who were first to reach Lieutenant Harper said his first words were, "I hope I didn't hit a house." He meant the airplane, which he had seen fall.
Meanwhile Mrs. Harper, watching with Pratt & Whitney and Chance Vought officials on the ground, saw the plane plunge, but failed to see her husband jump. Others who had caught a glimpse of the parachute assured her that he was safe and she drove her automobile herself to Manchester. She found her husband at the hospital where Massey and Taft had taken him.
The airplane partly buried itself in the ground in an empty lot next to the home of Barney T. Kolokski, of 18 Hawthorne
Street near West Middle Turnpike. The fuselage and the remaining wing telescoped on top of the motor. Officials of the
Chance Vought Corporation who reached the wreck soon after expressed surprise at the completeness of the destruction and
small amount of space in which the airplane body had been flattened. The plane dug a three-foot hole in the soft ground.
The roar of the plane as it descended attracted the attention of many people, most of whom either saw the plane or the parachute as they dropped and the vacant lot where the plane crashed was soon packed with a large crowd of spectators. The wreckage was guarded by a squad of policemen until the Chance Vought employees took charge of it. It is believed to be the first time that an airplane ever crashed in Manchester. Test pilots of the Chance Vought and Pratt & Whitney companies fly over Manchester several times a day while testing the planes and engines.
Lieutenant Harper is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was in the Naval Air Service during the war. About 10 years ago he was badly injured in a crash at Cleveland when he was thrown through the fuselage of a plane in which he was a passenger as it landed, injuring his back. He was retired from the Naval service after that mishap.
Aviation Commissioner Charles Lester Morris was at the scene of the crash and visited the hospital afterwards. It is understood that his department will investigate and make a report.