Plane Crashes on Montague's First Airfield

Jul 15, 2014

 The first landing strip at Montague, Calif., was an open field south of Little Shasta Road. It had a large board with a white-canvass cross that guided pilots to safe landings. 

The Forest Patrol was the primary user of the crude airfield. Eugene M. French, who grew up nearby, often accompanied his father, the city marshal, fueled the planes and served as the “pull man” to crank the propeller. One afternoon he observed a dozen planes crash land, although no one was injured. The planes were dismantled and hauled to the railroad station to be shipped off for repair. Less fortunate was No. 24 of the Forest Patrol that crashed on Sept. 8, 1921.  It was taking off for a lap over the Klamath Forest, when it suddenly nose-dived and plunged to the ground.  Eugene and his father raced their old Model T across the field to the crash site, where they found the pilot, Robert Noelp, and his observer, T.J. Whissiel, laying side by side near the burning plane.  They burned to death before the Frenches could reach them. After that, Eugene’s father refused to fuel or crank another plane again. 

  Source: French, Eugene M. "Montague's First Airfield and Tragic Air Crash." Centennial Montague 1887 - 1987. Montague: E.M. French, 1987. 72-74. Print.