Researching historic aviation accidents and locating crash sites in the Peak District & throughout the British Isles
Cessna UC-78A Bobcat 42-58513 of Base Air Depot No.2, USAAF, crashed on Craigton Hill near Milngavie on the 24th May 1944
Robert L. Nickerson
Pliny R. Blodgett
Paul Johnson Jr
Engineer / Passenger
The aircraft, baseed at Warton in Lancashire, was being used for an administrative flight. It had taken off from Dyce near Aberdeen at 16:20 for a flight to Renfrew before proceeding onwards eventually returning to Warton.
During the afternoon of the 27th May the wreckage of the aircraft was discovered by a shepherd close to Craigton Loch near Milngavie, which is about 4 1/2 miles off the direct track from Dyce to Renfrew and only 6 1/2 miles away from the airfield. Inquiries found that during the early evening of the 24th that the cloud base in the Milngavie and Renfrew area was approxiamtely 1,000ft with visibility of less than 100 yards in the cloud. No-one had witnessed or heard the crash but it was determined that the pilots had lost control of the aircraft which had then dived into what at the time was open moorland. 1st Lt Nickerson only had 169hr 45min flying time and had been off flying duties for the seven months before the 9th May as well as not having an instrument rating. It was felt that this inexperience coupled with finding themselves in instrument flying conditions which contributed to the crash.
The aircraft was built almost entirely of wood, and this structure had been almost completely destroyed by the crash with the heavier items having buried themselves in the soft ground. What surface wreckage remained was recovered or burnt onsite after the recovery of the three victims and the site left. Since the crash the moorland where it occurred was planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission.
In early 2013 the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum received a licence to excavate the crash site, negotiations of the details of how this would happen and availability of people meant that their recovery efforts could not being until the very end of October 2013. Over a series of weekends running until February 2014 the site was painstakingly excavated in sometimes very difficult working conditions.
The three victims of the crash were all initially buried in the UK but two were repatriated to the USA after the end of the war, only 1st Lieutenant Nickerson is buried in the UK, at Cambridge American Military Cemetery.