Here's an Idea: Hike to a Plane Crash Site
by Dan Crawford
Why not combine hiking with a little aeronautic history? For a complete list of New Hampshire crash sites, see PlaneCrashMap.com
Mount Success, Milan (Coös County)
1954: Northeast Airlines Wreckage
Milan is the location for Berlin Municipal Airport, and the starting point of your journey. You will be hiking in Success, NH - a vast, empty area between Berlin to the southwest and the Maine border to the east. The story is a sad one, of course. On November 30, 1954, Northeast Airlines Flight 656, originating in New York City made a stop in Laconia. In the time between the plane's takeoff in Laconia and its planned landing, Berlin Municipal Airport had closed its runway, due to a snow squall. Low on fuel, and unable to see through the storm, the pilot turned off the electrical system - avoiding an explosion, but dooming the plane to crash into the southern face of Mount Success in Milan.
The co-pilot and a flight inspector, completing a random safety check, were killed. A flight attendant, the only woman aboard, and three passengers survived. The pilot was the most seriously injured survivor. Overnight, they built a fire and braved the elements until they were rescued by a search party. They were rescued, thanks to their construction of a signal flag from a combination of reflective aluminum strips and blue upholstery from the seats. This was highly visible against the snowy mountain.
Northeast Airlines served many New England cities, including Berlin, Hanover, Laconia, Concord and Boston. The airline operated from 1933 until 1971, when it merged with Delta Airlines. It was plagued with a number of terrible crashes, one which resulted in 32 deaths at the Hanover airport in 1968.
Today, the intact fuselage is covered with graffiti-with hikers making their presence known to posterity. The wreckage is amazingly intact-creating the ultimate photo opportunity.
The main wreckage lies just south of the southern summit of Mount Success along the eastern boundary of the Appalachian Trail corridor-and you can follow breaks in the trees to find the remaining debris.
To get to the trail use Route 16 North, then take the Route 16 "truck route" on the east side of Berlin which becomes Unity Street. This will become Coös Street, then Hutchins Street. Take a right on Success Pond Road. Follow this dirt road for around five miles a small sign will be on the right for Success Trail, a logging road at this point. Parking is tolerated here-although not officially sanctioned.
This is considered a moderate hike, although fairly easy, it is steep.
Mount Waternomee, Woodstock, NH (Grafton County)
1942: Military Bomber Wreckage
On January 14, 1942, a Douglas B-18 Bolo Bomber returning to Westover Air Force Base in western Massachusetts from a patrol over the North Atlantic Ocean on the lookout for German submarines crashed into the south side of Mount Waternomee in Woodstock.
How the mission got so far north and east remains a mystery. The pilot was able to raise the nose just before impact, delaying an explosion-allowing five of the seven member crew to survive. Finding the site was not difficult, as the huge fireball could be witnessed for miles around.
The Bolo Bomber, the Ford Edsel of its day, was lacking horsepower, couldn't carry enough artillery, and because of this, most were refitted as cargo planes after World War II. A large number of Bolos were lost in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
You can access the trail from Walker Brook Road, near the intersections of Routes 122 and 118. There is a gate to prohibit vehicle traffic just beyond this point, so park your car here. You will arrive at a clearing, and stay to the right on the small trail. There is a small river to cross, but this is easy, depending on the season. Follow this river upstream about a half mile, and you will begin to find debris near a waterfall, and first hikers see the engines, then the wings, and then the remainder of the wreckage.
This is a short but very difficult hike-the 4.6 miles will take you a good three hours to complete.
Blood Mountain, Newbury, NH (Merrimack County)
1949: Single Engine Military Wreckage
This plane crashed on Nov 20, 1949 while piloted by John Moses, the sole occupant, while flying from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Boston. Somehow he became lost in the low clouds and crashed just short of the summit of Blood Mountain. The Rockwell AT-6, the same plane used by the famed Tuskegee Airmen, was a two-seater, single engine craft.
The cause of the crash was the pilot's failure to maintain an altitude high enough to clear the peak, and certainly the poor weather was a contributing factor. The plane's remains are only about 30 yards from the tree line of the mountain.
The Newport Airport manager discovered the wreckage the day afterward. Search parties reported the difficult in finding a plane, as snow-covered ledges resembled what they thought were airplane wings.
Landing gear, portions of the nose and wing parts remain. Metal still remains wedged into trees.
The hike is about 1.25 miles, and should take around an hour each way. Hikers can park at an area to the left, just before Blood Brook Bridge. You will cross a logging staging area, and follow the log road uphill to find the site.