Saturday, April 04, 2015

40 years ago... Pilot's death ruled a suicide: North American SNJ-3 Texan, N66233

Police Chief Paul Lynch (l) in his Sunday attire surveys the scene at the plane crash in the front yard Michael and Joan O'Donoghue. The family had just gone inside from a cookout that afternoon. The pilot, Alexander Dyko, committed suicide with the crash, but no other injuries or deaths occurred. 
Town Crier File Photo 

40 years ago...

“August 3 is a good day to die.”

That was the suicide note found in the shirt pocket of Alexander Dyko, whose plane crashed in North Wilmington on that day in 1975.

The WWII vintage AT-6 “Texan” trainer came down on a Sunday afternoon at the corner of Lawrence Street and Shady Lane Drive. There were no injuries other than the pilot, who was killed.

Based on that note, medical examiner Dr. Thomas Devlin ruled his death a suicide.

The restored AT-6 was a familiar sight to aircraft watchers in Eastern Massachusetts. It was a two-seat, single-engine plane with a 42-ft. wingspan. Dyko flew out of the Bedford airport.

The Burlington police logged several complaints about the low-flying plane that afternoon.

 The last log entry at 3:50 p.m. said the plane was headed into Wilmington, and the Wilmington Police Department was notified.

Several Wilmington residents saw the plane and heard it sputtering before the crash. It was seen over Chestnut Street, Town Park, Butters Row and Glen Road before it came down at the end of Lawrence Street.

The plane clipped an oak tree at 69 Lawrence St. and then a large pine tree.

Mario Crescitelli at 65 Lawrence St. said he saw the plane over trees near Sprucewood Road. The motor was erratic. Then it revved up and climbed, heading toward Glen Road. Then it turned to the right, and flew along the Wildcat railroad track, banked, with its left wing high. He said the plane was sputtering, obviously in trouble. Crescitelli said he thought the pilot was attempting to land on the tracks.

“It looked to me like the guy was in trouble, serious trouble, and it looked like he was trying to get out of it,” said Crescitelli.

When the plane was behind Crescitelli’s house, it started to level off but then the engine cut out with a loud noise and the plane clipped two trees.

It then hit a swimming pool at 45 Shady Lane Dr., bounced across the street, flipped over and landed upside down in the yard of Michael and Joan O’Donoghue, where it demolished two cars. There was a brief fireball, but the house did not catch fire.

If there were any angels at work that afternoon, they were probably in charge of timing. The O’Donoghues had just finished an outdoor cookout, and John Collins had vacated his poolside cot 15 seconds before the plane hit.

A week after the crash, freelance writer Jim Ross submitted an article to the Town Crier, delving into Dyko’s record.

Two years earlier, in May 1973, Dyko had his license suspended for careless and reckless operation, flying below 1500 feet, flying below 500 feet and performing acrobatics in a control zone.

Then in July 1974, he was questioned by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after a fatal plane crash in Newburyport. Witnesses said that two planes had been performing a series of loops, rolls and dives at low altitudes. Donald Ackerman’s plane was in the backside of a loop, flying upside down, when it dove into a marsh, about two miles from the Plum Island airport.

When questioned, Dyko, in obscene language, charged the eyewitnesses with jumping to conclusions and confusing motions with acrobatic maneuvers.

He said he saw the other plane in trouble and flew alongside it. He lowered his landing gear and pointed down, trying to get the other pilot to land. He said he then flew ahead and left the area. He said he did not see the other plane crash.

Dyko’s AT-6 was the only other plane in the area at the time. The NTSB did not cite him for any responsibility for the crash of the other plane.

Story and photo:

NTSB Identification: NYC76AN019
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: N.AMERICAN SNJ-3, registration: N66233
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-3666   75/8/3    WILMINGTON,MA       N.AMERICAN SNJ-3    CR-  1  0  0  NONCOMMERCIAL             PRIVATE, AGE 45, 450
        TIME - 1555                    N66233              PX-  0  0  0  PLEASURE/PERSONAL TRANSP  TOTAL HOURS, 400 IN TYPE,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            NOT INSTRUMENT RATED.
          BEDFORD,MA                  LOCAL
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION
           COLLIDED WITH: TREES                                     IN FLIGHT: ACROBATICS


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