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Operations at Newark

 

Following the trans-Atlantic crossing, the H.M.S. Reaper moored at Newark, New Jersey.  The aircraft were then lifted by crane from the carrier deck onto barges.  These were towed along a canal that bordered Newark Army Airfield where another large crane lifted each aircraft to the hardstand. 

Once placed on the taxiway, the jets, they were towed to nearby hangars.  Several ground crews from Freeman Field were already on hand to receive the jets, and Watson's crew chiefs set about supervising the refurbishment of the aircraft for flight.

Roy Brown, Fred Hillis and Ken Dahlstrom were eligible for discharge upon their return, and all three left the project shortly after arrival in the States.

    

The majority of the original team returned to civilian life soon thereafter, and only Watson and Holt remained with the project long-term.  Watson eventually returned to Wright Field while Holt was stationed at Freeman Field as the chief pilot for the 262 flight test program.

In consideration for their assistance in securing the British flattop, five of the Me 262 aircraft were parceled out to the Navy for their own evaluations.  (The Navy conducted relatively few tests in the months to come.)  Five Me 262s remained in the hands of the AAF, and were ultimately flown to a remote airfield known as Freeman Field, Indiana where the flight test program could be conducted with relative secrecy.

One of the Me 262s on Newark AAF, after unloading from the H.M.S. Reaper

A rare color view of the Whizzers paint scheme at Newark.

  

On 19 August, two Me 262s were prepared for a ferry flight to Freeman Field via Pittsburgh. Ken Holt was to fly Cookie VII (# 666), accompanied by Col. Watson in Pick II (# 444). They departed Newark at around three in the afternoon, and planned to make a refueling stop at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport en route to Freeman Field.

The flight arrived over the Pittsburgh Airport about an hour later. The tower had previously been notified that the aircraft were not radio equipped and communicated with the jets using light-gun signals. The two aircraft circled the field twice, losing speed and altitude in the process.

Colonel Watson was in the lead aircraft, and he landed first at 1606 hours.  After a short roll, smoke was observed coming from the front wheel. The control tower immediately notified the crash equipment to proceed to the Me 262. Watson turned right, off the active runway on to the grass and cut across to a nearby taxi strip.

Meanwhile, Holt turned onto his final approach which was observed to be fast, but otherwise normal.   When he was approximately 20 feet over and one-third down the runway he was given a red light to go around.  Holt was already committed to the landing, and the aircraft touched down just south of the main intersection at a high rate of speed.  The tower then advised the crash equipment on the field to proceed after the second Me 262.   Holt was observed to roll a short distance, then went off of the runway into grass.   The jet continued on this track, paralleling the runway, until it dropped out out sight and burst into flames.

Holt's description on the landing belies the true danger of this incident:

I came into land and used up about 500 feet of runway before I touched down. When I applied the brakes several times there were none. If I had brakes there would have been no problem. When no braking action occurred, I immediately looked out ahead . It appeared the runway slope upwards from its end into a corn field. This was the first time I had been into this aerodrome. I did not know there was a 30 foot drop off the end until I finally reached the end of that runway. Luckily I had enough speed to hurtle over and hold the aircraft steady.

When I hit the upward-sloping field, the impact tore off the landing gear and both engines, and broke the fuselage just behind the cockpit before the aircraft slid to a halt. I immediately exited, with my parachute attached, until some 30 or 40 yards from the aircraft. When I looked back, it was a pall of smoke and dust. My shoes were wet with fuel. The billowing cloud hid me from the fire trucks and they thought for sure I had not survived.

The airplane was a total loss.  Salvageable components were fished from the wreckage, and the airframe was abandoned behind the airport fire station.  Years later, it was covered and buried along with other aircraft wrecks.

 


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