Sky-12 - Nyle Leatham Story, B-50, 1985
T2 The Arizona Has Nyle Leatham 'Special lor the Republic David Leatham, left, Tom Kollenborn and 'Doc' Case inspect airplane wreckage in the Superstitions. State's rough terrain harbors remains of downed metal birds By NYLE LEATHAM Special lor The Republic Hits and pieces of broken airplanes are scattered across the Arizona landscape. The old chamber of commerce boast of Arizona's "320 days of perfect flying weather a year," coupled with great distances, led to a natural love affair with flying. The flip side is that when an airplane does go down, the wreck is extremely hard to find and next to impossible to remove because the country is so rugged. Military aviation has contributed its share of mishaps. British student pilots at Falcon Field in World War II used to crack up their PT-17s with some regularity on the slopes of Four Peaks. More recently it has been a H-r2 rash up north in Monument Valley or one of those strange, slow-flying counterinsurgency jets missing a turn in a canyon on the l'apago Reservation. The Indians do not like this a bit. Airplane crashes usually are tragic. There are exceptions. In a 19M0-, publicity stunt. Martin -len- Arizona camera sen took off from Hollywood with the MOM lion aboard in a specially built glass cage. The airplane had insufficient power to clear the Mogollon Rim above Payson and ended up in the pine trees along Tor.to Creek. Neither Jensen nor Leo was hurt. Many a hunter or hiker ha wondered at bent and scorched aluminum debris underfoot. Sometimes the Civil Air Patrol is able to answer questions. It has tried to keep known crash sites marked on locator maps to avoid confusion during searches. Hut mysteries remain. Wrecks are found and never identified; airplanes are missing and never found. There is a story about a flight of five Air Force P-51 fighters that ran out of gas over the Superstitions; the pilots supposedly bailed out safely and let the airplanes go in. Unsolved is the fate of a missing H-2"i bomber. It was spotted at treetop level by fishermen at Oilles-pie Dam on the Oila River, fighting its way under heavy clouds. It was never seen again. Richard Johnson of Mesa is an outdoors type with a non-stop' curiosity about such things. He has been researching the 19"0 crash of a R-50 bomber out of Tucson in the Oaliuro Mountains. He has been puzzled to learn from the Air Force that parts of the tile on the incident of 3o year?, ago still are classified. Some time back, I was with Tom Kollenborn high in the Superstition Mountains where a canyon plunges to the desert. A thousand feet below we saw shiny metal. A week later, we rode up into Monument Canyon from below and found the crash site. Several hours of investigation led to some conclusions. The airplane had hit a ridge, scattering its remains for several hundred yards in parallel canyons. From nameplates and identifiable tail parts, we decided the airplane was an AT-6 trainer. We never learned the fate of the occupants.