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Little Joe Richardson Jr.'s Ercoupe Crash

As told by his son, J.C. Richardson III

  • Plane Pulled From River After Mishap

    Plane Pulled From River After Mishap

    News story April 30, 1951

  • A Safe Landing Also Is One You Ride a Boat Away From

    A Safe Landing Also Is One You Ride a Boat Away From

    Airmen usually insist that say landing is a safe landing if you can walk away from it. Well, there are two local men who say it's a safe landing even if you ride a boat away -- as long as you're all in one piece. The men are Joe Richardson and Boyce Cagle. Their plane landed in Dan River above Union Street dam yesterday after the tip of a propeller broke off. They are shown above standing in the river beside the overturned plane -- waiting for help. The damaged craft was pulled out of the river last night (lower photo).

  • Little Joe's 'Coupe After the Crash

    Little Joe's 'Coupe After the Crash

  • Little Joe Richardson, Jr.

    Little Joe Richardson, Jr.

  • Map of the Crash Site

    Map of the Crash Site

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J.C. Richardson III sent me this story about his dad, Little Joe Richardson, Jr.

I was surfing the net and looking up Ercoupe's and saw your page. The reason I was looking at Ercoupe's is my dad owned an Ercoupe when I was just a little guy. That was back in around 1950. I was about 2 years old.

Here's how my dad got his Ercoupe. My dad would go over to the Danville [VA] Regional Airport and hang around. He would talk to Paul Rembold Sr., who did the Aviation fuel and flight school. That was in 1950. One day he was with Paul Sr. refueling a plane that just stopped to fuel up. The plane was a Ercoupe. Dad started talking to the owner who was telling dad he had just bought the Ercoupe and it was for sale. My dad had just bought a new Chrysler New Yorker Convertible. At that time it was a very expensive car, $3,000.00 plus. Well the guy drove away with dad's Chrysler New Yorker Convertible and dad had his new Ercoupe. The only problem was, dad had never flown before. I think mom just about kicked him out then. (Just kidding.)

Well, Paul Sr. taught dad how to fly his new Ercoupe and dad loved it. My dad's dad owned a big junk yard here in Danville on Riverside Dr. The junk yard was between Riverside Dr and the river. There was a lot of land around the junk yard and dad made a airstrip next to the river. One day in 1951 dad was going to take a friend and his daughter up for a ride in his Ercoupe. The guy told dad he wanted to go up first so he could see what it was like before dad took his daughter up. They took off and went over the river. They had only been climbing a few minutes when about a six inch piece of the wooden propeller broke off. The plane started to vibrate and dad had to shut the engine down to stop the vibration. He looked for the airstrip but it was on the other side of the river. They were dropping fast and dad made it over the trees on one side but couldn't make it over the trees on the other side, so he turn and went up the river. He said when he hit the water the Ercoupe flipped upside down but they both got out without a scratch.

They had crashed in about four feet of water pretty close to the junk yard. Dad's brother got one of the junkyard cranes and moved it to where he could pull on the plane. Once they got it close to the bank, dad's brother tied a chain around the tail to get it out of the river. They almost pulled the tail off. Dad said if not for that, the only thing messed up was the canopy. There were people on both sides of the river and on the bridge below where they were pulling the plane out. Dad said that more people came to see the airplane pulled out of the river than went to the Danville Fair! He said if everyone watching had given him a quarter he could have bought a new Ercoupe.

Dad never flew again.

J.C. still lives in Danville VA. He is retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. after 27 years.