Mystery Cloaks Fate of Flier

By Phil Mosher


Jones plane was the Smith plane-- The evidence

View from the crash site

Interactive 360 Panoramic

View of Burgeo, NF

Interactive 360 Panoramic

NY Times coverage
Crash location
Cause of Crash
Airplane specs.


Search for the Plane
Search for Pilot

Newspaper Reports

38 Endurance Flight
Clarksburg Telegraph
Charleston Gazette-99

Expedition 1998
Clarksburg 1999
Expedition 1999
Expedition 2000
Expedition 2001


Smith home in Clarksburg
Smith at 16 years old

Group Flight @ Union
Smith before take-off
The plane in 1939
Hi Res plane photo 
The aircraft in 1941
Aircraft in 1941
Tommy's note 05/28/39
Instrument panel
Monument picture
Marker found

Family tree info

Can you help ?

Other Aviators 1929-39

Other Links

Aviation links




The headline "Mystery Cloaks Fate of Flier" captured my imagination while I was researching a story about the discovery of an abandoned airplane in Newfoundland.

The article, from a 1941 newspaper, described the finding of a crashed airplane in a remote part of south-western Newfoundland. The plane, an Aeronca 65-C, was traced to a young American pilot who attempted to fly the Atlantic in 1939. The article went on to say there was no trace of the pilot, only a note. With that, my quest began.

Found in August of 1941 by the crew of a Canadian
Digby patrol aircraft of the number 10 Bomber squadron. It was apparent from the plane's registration that it was of American origin. The RCAF then turned over the investigation to the USAF 21st Reconnaissance Squadron.. The Americans had to wait two weeks until the weather improved enough to send in a search party. In the meantime, they traced the aircraft's registration number, NX22456, to a Thomas Harvey Smith of 1044 Airway Drive in Glendale, California, formerly of Clarksburg, West Virginia. When they finally arrived at the crash site, miles north of Burgeo, NF, they found no trace of Smith. Inside the plane they found his note. It indicated he was going to walk out and was afraid of freezing while asleep. For an image of the note and transcript, click here. One of the first local people to visit the plane remembers the seat belt was cut and there were no signs that would suggest the pilot was injured from the crash. Veteran pilots who found the plane were absolutely amazed that he was able survive crashing his plane in such a rugged and rocky area. Smith was attempting to fly his "Baby Clipper" from Old Orchard Beach, Maine to the Croydon Airport just outside London, England. He was on what he referred to as a "research flight" to prove that small well-equipped aircraft like his could make the ocean crossing. His flight began on the morning of May 28, 1939, just after low tide, with a crowd of well-wishers cheering him on. His plane roared down the beach for nearly two miles. It left the hard packed sandy beach at 3:47 EST and rose into the dimly lit morning sky.

No trace of Tommy has ever been found.

One of the reasons for placing this information on the Internet was record an event of history. I felt strongly that this story was destined to be lost to time and fading memories.

I have found Tommy Smith to be a most interesting character. Even though he did not succeed in completing his flight, he definitely succeeded in making an impression on the people of his day.
If you have found this page interesting, it is because of all the assistance I have had from others who generously contributed their material and stories to this endeavor. 

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