From an Air Crash Report War Department, Chico Army Air
Field, U.S. Army Air Force Report of Air Craft Accident
(1) Place One mile west CAAF, Chico, California
(2) 17, July 1944
(3) Time 2337P
(4) Aircraft Type and model: P-63A-6 EE 010
(5) A. F. No 42-68973
(6) Station: CAAF, Chico; Calif. Organization;
(7) Fourth Air force
(8) 433rd AAF Base Unit Name: Madison, Wallace D. Rated: P Serial
No. Rank: 2nd Lt. Personnel Class: 18 Branch AC Air Force or Command:
FourthResult to Personnel: Fatal, Use of Parachutes: none Nature
of accident: Aircraft crashed into ground while on night flight.
Cause of accident: Opinion- Pilot lost his horizon. Description
1. Narrative: (a) Accident occurred 17-July-1944, 2337 just west
of Chico Army Airfield Trainee Pilot, 2nd Lt. Wallace D. Madison,
was on a routine night transition flight and had been airborne approximately
55 minutes when the accident occurred. Investigation of the demolished
aircraft indicated that the aircraft had hit the ground at a very
steep angle and at a high rate of speed.
(b) The control tower safety pilot states that Lt. Madison had contacted
the control tower approximately 10 minutes before the accident,
and had been instructed that his flight period was not up as yet.
About 5 minutes later the Pilot called the control tower again.
This time he was notified that he would be given landing instructions
shortly, and that there were two other aircraft ahead of him to
land. On both these calls the Pilot acknowledged in the usual manner
and there was no indication that he was in any trouble. Approximately
2 minutes later, a confused and excited transmission was picked
up by the control tower, and a matter of seconds following this
transmission an explosion was noticed on the ground several miles
west of the control tower. The excited transmission referred to
above was heard until the crash occurred. Another pilot flying in
the vicinity of the Field, heard the first two calls and states
that he read the last transmission as being, “I’m in a spin and
going in”, and immediately thereafter saw an explosion on the ground.
(c) Investigation reveals that Lt. Madison had flown one night mission
previous to the accident and that he appeared normal in all respects.
(d)Weather during the evening was CAVU and while some pilots mentioned
that at times it was difficult to see the horizon due to darkness
and haze, other pilots indicated that they had no trouble whatsoever.
(e) Inspection of past records show that there was no indication
of there being anything mechanically wrong with the aircraft.
2. Responsibilities: (a.) This Accident Board feels that it cannot
definitely determine the cause of this accident. It is the opinion
of the Board that the Pilot lost his horizon and thereupon went
into the ground out of a steep spiral. Although another pilot, as
stated in par 1 b, states that he hears Lt. Madison’s radio message
to the effect that he was in a spin, examination of the crash makes
a spin seem unlikely, and in that the aircraft completely buried
itself. It is felt that to do this the aircraft must have been going
at a much higher rate of speed than that which would be encountered
in a spin.
3. Recommendations: None. (signed) Lawrence M. Kirsh Major, Air
Corps Member, Thomas E. Doyle 1st Lt., Air Corps Member, Edler J.
Anderson Captain, Air Corps Aircraft Accident Officer, 21 July 1944.
Stu’s Notes: I’ve had the above story for over 5 years now, along
with close to 50 others a lot like it. The Stories of brave young
men who came to Chico and Oroville to train in Advanced Fighter
Airplanes, flying 300 to 400 miles per hour. The 2nd Lieutenants
flying them were just barely 20 years old. They came from all over
America. Young, high spirited and ready to fight for their country.
They were going to go up against the very best of an enemy that
had been at war along time so they had to be good and to get good
meant a lot of hard work. Hours of training in all conditions imaginable.
The nature of their training was bottom line, dangerous work. Their
life depended on what they learned. Did you ever make a mistake
when you were young, I did many, all on the ground and things happened,
mechanical and human. I’ve done only a few of those 50 some stories,
maybe I will do more. I think the people of Butte County need to
know more about these Brave Men who died here, also we need to get
the word out to the people around our County. Many still don’t know
about our Oroville Veterans Memorial Park for All of Butte County
and how far it has come. So if you know of someone out there spread
the word and let them know that we will honor by name this brave
man. The 40 that died at Chico Army Air Field are listed on a plaque
on the wall of the Chico Air Museum at the Airport. (to be continued)