Remembering two York, Pa.-area airplane crashes, one deadly

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This scene of a fatal plane crash comes from Winter’s Airstrip in West York, Pa., in July 1937. The pilot, William Winter died. His passenger survived. The airstrip was one of more than 50 that have operated in York County since 1925. Also of interest: Where was York County’s earliest documented airstrip? and Just try to resist this memory-tugging aerial photograph of York Whitehull Airport and York Valley Inn and Playland and … and First York Airport’s administration building stands today

A former York County resident now living elsewhere in Pennsylvania recently emailed with a question:

Was there a plane crash at the old York Airport along Roosevelt Ave. in about 1953-1957? My family lived on Parkway Blvd. across from Lincoln Park at the time, and I have a vague memory of seeing flames and/or smoke and my mother telling me there had been a plane crash. That’s all I recall, and sometimes I wonder if I imagined it (I would have been between 3 and 7 at the time). Maybe one of your readers remembers and can provide details, if it happened.

I called the expert on York County Airports, John F. M. Wolfe about this.
He recalled a crash at that airport, which he placed in 1949, in which a Charles Frew, flying for Campbell Chain, lost an engine on takeoff… .


His takeoff was unusual, heading toward the city, toward Lincoln Park, Wolfe said.
But he got her back on the runway, and he escaped without injuries.
The plane caught fire and melted.
That was the only crash Wolfe could recall at that airstrip, now occupied by a U-Haul rental company and other businesses on the west side of Roosevelt Avenue. (See photo here.)
That incident did not make it into Wolfe’s comprehensive “Profile of Aviation,” a survey of York County airports between 1925 and 1998. (Available at the York County Heritage Trust bookstore.)
But he described another crash in “Profiles,” a deadly one.
It happened on the Winter Airstrip, operating in West York between 1935 and 1939.
Charles “Mel,” Vaughn and William Winter ran the 1,200-foot grass airfield located parallel to Orange Street, close to Adams Street and Martin-Parry Field.
William Winter and a passenger, Leroy Shepp, climbed into the plane for a Sunday ride in 1937.
On the takeoff, the plane’s engine failed and Herr Eaglet-brand machine crashed.
William was transported to the hospital near the York Fairgrounds, where he died. Fortunately, Shepp survived.
“When their father (Winter) arrived on the scene, he threw a match to the damaged plane and it was completely destroyed,” Wolfe wrote.
Later, at the graveside service at nearby Greenmount Cemetery, three airplanes flew overhead as a tribute to William.
Kurvin Dennis, a friend of William, recalled to Wolfe that his sister was next in line to ride with William in the Eaglet.
Photo courtesy of John F. M. Wolfe’s “Profiles in Aviation.”

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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