Crash & Burn - The Ed Methot Story




On Friday December 1st 1961, the pilot of a flaming United States Air Force F-100 Super Sabre jet fighter steered it until the last possible instant to guide it away from residential areas and workmen on a new bridge. The pilot escaped uninjured as his plane plunged out of control into the Niagara River gorge.

The Air Force plane screamed into the Niagara Gorge and exploded, narrowly missing 15 steelworkers on scaffolding located on top of the bridge arch. As many as 40 construction workmen were in the area. The plane crashed near the American end of the Queenston-Lewiston International Bridge.

The jet fighter passed between the framework of the new international bridge and the vertical frame that is to support the roadway. The arch, rising from the bottom of the gorge in bending out over the river, makes a deep “V” with the vertical frame.

“It was like a Finnish steam bath on the spot” said Erke Sarkina, a Finnish carpenter who said the plane past 15 feet over his head as he worked on the bridge project.

The pilot, First Lieutenant Edward M. Methot, age 29 of New York City after ejecting his seat, parachuted to safety on top of the riverbank seconds before the aircraft hit the ground and exploded sending flames several hundred feet into the air. Wreckage was spilled into the river. The impact ripped a huge crater in the riverbank.

Methot’s parachute barely filled-ripping 6 feet along one seam-before he landed on a highway overpass at the top of the gorge. He suffered minor bruises.

The pilot of another single-seated jet had discovered that Methot’s plane was on fire after taking off for a routine flight to Erie Pennsylvania from Niagara Falls Air Force Base 5 miles from the crash scene.

The normal procedure would have been to abandon the burning plane immediately and Air Force statement said. But Methot, a commercial pilot in civilian life, decided to manoeuvre “to an unpopulated area before bailing out”.

The only spot in this heavily industrial area that he could think of was the river below the falls.

The pilot later told a press conference “my primary thought was to get away from the homes and schools and other buildings.”

He said the plane “had the glide angle of a large rock” and he “had to keep rolling the plane over in a descent to get up the airspeed I needed to get me out of the area.”

Methot flew into the gorge and passed the main plant of the new Niagara Power Project. Then, with no effect of control left but the rudder, Methot blasted himself out of the plane.

Methot “did admirably” said Colonel Robert T. Kirsch of the 107th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard.

“The situation called for an ejection, but I just couldn’t justify it with myself. I had no idea where the craft would fall, so I stayed with it.” Methot said.

The fighter was attached to the 136th squadron of the Air National Guard and was on a training flight from the United States Air Force Base at Niagara Falls New York.

The plane took off on a routine navigation flight from Niagara Falls air base, 5 miles from the crash scene. While it was climbing to an altitude of 1,500 feet wing-man Romulo Cochi, in another plane, spotted the fire and alerted Methot.

“I heard an explosion after cutting out the afterburners, and then the cockpit began filling with smoke.” Methot said “My eyes began to water and I knew I had more than control failure. The only control I had was the rudder. I cut out the main engine to eliminate more fire hazards.”

His plane began to lose airspeed rapidly. “I had to keep rolling the plane over in a descent to get up the airspeed I needed to get me out of the area” the flyer said. “My primary thought was to get away from the homes, schools and other buildings.” So, instead of ditching immediately, which is normal procedure in case of fire-Methot, a member of the 135th tactical fighter squadron of the Air National Guard, decided to attempt to manoeuvre the jet to an “unpopulated area.”

He turned away from his westerly course and flew into the gorge through which the Niagara River flows for 5 miles after plunging over Niagara Falls. After passing the main plant of the new Niagara Power Project, he blasted himself out of the seat ejection mechanism which is powered by a 40 mm shell.

“I was tumbling ahead of the chute when it popped”, Methot said. “I landed on my feet in some mud near a highway abutment.”

Asked at a news conference what his thoughts were during the flight, the former United Airlines co-pilot replied “I did experience a little fear-that I would lose all control of the plane before I could get it to a barren area.”

Methot, who was recalled to active duty October 1st 1961, described all of his work as “a routine procedure that any of the pilots in the squadron would’ve performed.”

At the time of this incident, Methot lived at 1545 Union Port Road, the Bronx, New York City and was the father of a 2 year old son.

Following his military career, Methot continue his civilian piloting career with United Airlines where he was later promoted to managing director line operations. His duties included the management of over 9,000 pilots. He worked for United Airlines from 1960-1996.

In 1996, he was appointed Vice-President of Flight Operations for America West Airlines.

From 2000-2004, Methot was Vice-President Customer flight operations at Fairchild Aerospace.

The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a supersonic jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard (ANG) until 1979.

The F100 Super Sabre had a sweep-back wingspan of 11.7 metres (38.6 feet); a length of 14.5 metres (47.8 feet); a height of 4.6 metres (15.3 feet) and weighed 28,971 pounds.

At the time of this incident, Methot was assigned to the 136th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 107th Tactical Fighter Group, New York Air National Guard, Niagara Falls Airport, Niagara Falls, NY






















Date last updated: December 02, 2016





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The Ed Methot Story
Anatomy of a Jet Crash In the Niagara Gorge