On July 20, 1919, at 1:30 p.m., local residents looked skyward and for the first time saw a plane hovering over Gardner at a height of about 800 feet.
Ironically, this flight took place exactly 50 years before man first landed on the moon. The plane was on a flight between Philadelphia and Cushing Academy at Ashburnham, where this was to be a feature of the early drills.
The theft was organized by an Ashburnham resident who was a member of Cushing’s board of directors. Prior notice had been given so that everyone in the area could take a look at the plane. When he appeared above Gardner, whistles sounded in many factories.
The history of the flight at Gardner dates back to November 17, 1928, when the Gardner Municipal Airport was officially opened.
The plan for the establishment of a municipal airstrip was originally recommended by the Chamber Aviation Committee in 1927. The land chosen was the Plains District in the southeastern part of Templeton, near the Gardner Line on the old Brochu farm.
More in the series from yesterday and today:The Gardner News not only covers the story, it also covered it.
More in the series from yesterday and today:How the iconic Gardner American Legion rises from the ashes
At the time, the only access to the property from West Gardner was through the old Pail factory near East Templeton. The land was once called the “horse cemetery” because farmers frequently used a field to bury their dead horses.
In the fall of 1928, Northeast Aircraft Co. leased the land and arranged passenger flights in October and November at a cost of $ 3 to $ 5. Young people under 15 could fly for a dollar.
In addition, parachute demonstrations were held on Saturday and “dead stick” landings were performed by Ray Ahearn, one of the first pilots in the field.
The popularity of flying at the local level quickly caught on when an ad on the front page of The Gardner News read, “Passenger Airplane Flights: Exhibits, Parachute Jumps; Rogers Field near Stumble Inn, Winchendon Rd.
Gardner’s very first plane crash actually happened two months before the airport opened on September 20, 1928. The plane piloted by George Haven from Lowell Airport is said to have “cracked” at Crouch. Landing off West Broadway.
Haven attempted to land on the soggy ground which was soggy from recent rains and not in the best conditions. The aircraft nosed down and the propeller broke, but the pilot escaped unscathed. Hugo Uppgard, a licensed pilot, took Haven to North Grafton Airport where he borrowed a propeller and took off later the next morning.
Sadly, the Greater Gardner region has seen more than its share of plane crashes. Some have resulted in fatalities, while others have resulted in minor injuries. But in any case, they were treated as news items in The Gardner News.
History of plane crashes in north-central Massachusetts
?? July 14, 1930: Gardner resident Bronislaw Czehatowski, 30, was the first plane crash in the area as he was killed while trying to land at Orange-Athol airport.
?? November 25, 1941: Two members of the Gardner Flying Club were killed when their plane crashed at Old Center, Winchendon, following a flight from Maine.
?? September 14, 1943: Two Connecticut men died in a plane crash in East Templeton near the Templeton Fish and Game Club.
?? April 4, 1947: Two veterans of the Fitchburg area army died when their small plane rented from Bolton airfield crashed into Mount Wachusett.
?? April 20, 1947: An abnormal 5-inch snowstorm forced two men from Milford, NH, to crash their plane on Brack Farm in the Whitmanville section of Westminster, causing minor injuries to both men.
?? May 10, 1948: A student pilot was killed when his plane crashed in a pasture near Kallinen Farm on Jewell Hill Road in Ashburnham.
?? October 17, 1948: Two Rowley men were injured in a plane crash in East Gardner near Rouisse Farm off Betty Spring Road.
?? October 19, 1959: Two Westover Air Force Base pilots were killed when their F-104B jet crashed during a training mission in the Brooks Village section of Templeton.
?? June 14, 1960: A jet fighter crashed at Phillipston, causing fatal injuries to the pilot.
?? November 28, 1963: Four students (none from the region) were killed in a plane crash on Mount Wachusett.
?? July 28, 1966: A jet fighter exploded and crashed into Jackson Hill in South Gardner, but the pilot was dropped to safety in a nearby swamp on Route 2A in Westminster. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported in the densely populated area of Kendall Street and West Broadway.
?? January 13, 1968: A pilot was killed when his plane crashed on the shore of Noyes Pond off Lanes Road in Westminster.
?? July 10, 1968: A pilot and his passenger from San Diego and St. Louis, respectively, were killed when their plane crashed off Neale Road in Royalston.
?? November 5, 1972: A Fitchburg National Guard helicopter pilot was killed in a Templeton helicopter crash near Walter E. Fernald School in Templeton.
?? January 10, 1979: Two small planes collided over East Templeton and crashed into a swamp off Turner Lane near Gardner Municipal Airport, killing five.
?? April 26, 1981: A female Brookline pilot was uninjured when her plane overshot the runway and crashed into a swamp near Gardner Municipal Airport.
?? January 22, 1983: Two from the Boston area were unharmed after a plane crash in Hubbardston off Mt. Jefferson Road.
?? February 10, 1984: Four people were found dead in a plane that crashed off South Main Street in a remote part of East Templeton, near Gardner Municipal Airport. The plane was reported missing on January 28 from Mansfield Airport. The crash site was close to that of the East Templeton crash in 1979.
?? July 16, 1984: A Piper J4 attempting to take off at Gardner Municipal Airport crashed, killing a woman from Phillipston.
?? October 13, 1987: Two Fitchburg brothers died in a plane crash on the PACC beach.
JJune 12, 1989: A Maine man and his dog were killed in a plane crash off Mt. Jefferson Road in Hubbardston.
?? January 8, 2001: An Athol pilot pulled away from a plane crash on Snake Pond near Gardner Airport.
Comments and suggestions for Then and Now can be sent to Mike Richard at [email protected] or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Road, Sandwich, MA 02563.