Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pilot Roger Long: Seeks out his father's fatal plane crash from 65 years ago

Bob, Frances and Trudy Long

Bob Long

Roger and his wife Stacey Long

When Roger Long was 2 months old, his dad was killed in a plane crash.

Bob Long was an executive pilot flying for Salem Brosius Co. when the twin engine Piper Apache he was flying iced up over the Allegheny mountains and crashed. He had survived the crash but couldn’t free himself and subsequently died.

He left behind his wife, Trudy, and three children: Frances, Barbara and Roger.

"He was a mythical person in my mind," Roger said. "He would have been 100 this year! I had no clue.

"I never really kept track of his birthdays, except on occasion one of my two sisters would say something like, 'Did you know that today is our dad's birthday?'"

Bob Long crashed on December 29th, 1955, en route from a field near Baltimore to Pittsburgh. The plane ended up about 5 miles east of Normalville on a farm owned by John Henry.

There was one other deadly plane crash that day because of bad weather and the deadly Allegheny Mountains.

Roger, who is now 65, has recently had a renewed interest in learning about his father and his years as a pilot.

"I wanted to know more about my dad, where did the crash occur, what kind of plane he was flying at the time," he said. "No one in my family knew the answer to those questions."

Through the Connellsville Historical Society, Roger connected with Karen Hechler, who put him in touch with a resident who wants to walk him to the suspected crash site.

Roger and his wife, Stacey, will travel to the site in April and would love to meet people from the area and share stories. He can be reached at

"Someone else sent me a tailwheel from what they think was that crash," he said. "All I know is that I have met some very genuinely kind and caring people in this pursuit and my wife and I are eagerly waiting for early spring to come so that we can meet everyone and trek to see if we can indeed find some of those long gone landmarks and indeed find the site."

Through his search, Roger was also able to connect with his father, who he now remembers through other people's memories.

"I have felt a greater affinity of my dad's presence! Old stories of what a joyful, adventuresome and outgoing, kind person he was, have made the journey super exciting to me and opened up and made my dad more real to me than ever," he said.

"He used to pick my mom up in his 1931 Curtiss-Wright Travel Air biplane shortly after getting his private pilot's license in Corvallis, Oregon, where he went to high school and then to Oregon State — my alma mater as well," he said.

"My dad went on to be a flight instructor and commercial rated pilot for the Flying Tiger airlines, taking him to the far east many times over the years and had over 10,000 hours of experience and had just taken a job in Pittsburgh (moving from California) flying executives around for a company in Pittsburgh called Salem Brosius."

Roger also recently picked up flying, despite his fear of small planes. What motivated him was overcoming his fear and reconnecting to his “rightful heritage as a pilot.”

His goal was to some day fly his dad’s old biplane, which is now in the museum of aviation and automobiles in Hood River, Oregon.

This summer, he saw an old Piper Cub, which he had flown in as a child with his step dad. It was a taildragger. His dad was a “Tail Dragger” pilot and he wants to be one too.

After seeing the old Piper Cub with is wife, he started flying three days later near his home on Vashon Island, Washington, in a tail dragger: the Piper J-3 Cub.

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