SUMMARY:  Naval Aviation Cadet John Woodland departed Safford Municipal Airport on a routine solo flight. He decided to fly to the top of the 11,000 foot Pinaleno Mountains and circle the peak. Just as he completed a full circle, his engine cut out. When he attempted to dive the stalled aircraft down a canyon, a wind gust caught him and thrust the plane against the canyon wall, where the plane crashed and he was knocked unconscious.

The forest ranger and his 13 year old son who witnessed the crash hiked down to where they thought the plane had crashed and found the unconscious pilot, bruised and bleeding profusely. He was still strapped to his seat so they undid his harness and painstakingly carried him back to their cabin and laid him in a bed, where he awoke a few hours later. They called the Navy depot in Thatcher and an ambulance was dispatched to pick up cadet Woodland.

After a 2009 visit, I was able to track down the forest ranger's 13 year old son who is now 77 years old. He still remembers that day vividly. He was playing when the yellow plane that was circling him caught his attention. The engine cut out, and he watched as the plane dove into the canyon below. A few days afterwards, navy personnel spent a week at the crash disassembling and salvaging parts they could reuse.


The impact point. Aircraft aluminum and engine mount. The aluminum still retains the original yellow paint. Engine cowling. Wing part. Top side of same part.

 

yellow pains still remains after six decades. The bottom side of the cockpit section. The open cockpit section. The cockpit. floor. The control stick would have come through the hole in the floor. Note the shoe wear marks from years of use.

 

Tail section. The horizontal stabilizers. The exhaust manifold. The Naval Aircraft Factory engine manifold data plate. It is dated August 18, 1941.

 

Tail section. The names of the 13 year old son and his sister were scratched into this piece of wreckage a few days after the crash in 1944.

 

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