In July of 1980, CASC member Jim Collings captured the images you see here. This was a Chance Vought built F4U-4 that was brought back to Stratford by Joseph Bellantoni from Portchester, NY. She appears in her original Honduras Air Force paint.
Her Bu# was 97288 and carried a civilian tail number of N4907M.
Copyright © JCollins / ThistleGroup.
On Sunday June, 7th 1981 FAH 612 crashed at KBDR during the AIR TRANSAT 81 race.
OLD CORSAIR CRASHES; PILOT CRITICALLY INJURED
By GARY J.M. McTROTTES
An old war bird died Sunday in the salt marshes of Stratford, 37 years after she had rolled off the assembly line at Chance Vought Aircraft Inc. of Stratford, about three miles from her final resting place.
Pilot Joseph Bellantoni, 51, of Port Chester, N.Y., the owner of the vintage World War II F4U Corsair, was critically injured Sunday at 11:15 a.m. when the aircraft he had spent over a year restoring crashed into the Great Meadows adjacent to Sikorsky Memorial Airport, Stratford.
Bellantoni was taken to Bridgeport Hospital by Ace Ambulance Service of Fairfield. He is in critical condition in the neuro-intensive care unit with massive head injuries.
Bellantoni, in an earlier interview with the Bridgeport Post, said: “I was very lucky to find a Corsair that was made Chance Vought Aircraft in such good condition; I wanted to return it to where she was built . . . where she will be taken care of.
Bellantoni had found the aircraft in Honduras, Central America. Several witnesses of Bellantoni’s take off said the aircraft was running smoothly when it taxied down the runway and began to climb.
The. plane was about 75 feet off the ground when it apparently banked to the left and appeared to circle back towards the airport. The landing gear reportedly was still down when the aircraft dove into the tidal marshes near Lordship Boulevard, and broke apart.
Bellantoni, his helmet ripped from his head, was found lying face down strapped
into his seat. Dr. Edward Luchansky of Fairfield, a senior medical examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration, was one of the first to reach Bellantoni. Luchansky and a crew from Ace Ambulance Service of Fairfield were on standby as part of a medical team for AIR TRANSAT 81, the Paris-to-Bridgeport-to-Paris air race over the weekend.
The crash wasn’t connected with the AIR TRANSAT 81 race.
Jeff Zelany, emergency medical technician and the owner of Ace Ambulance Service of Fairfield, and his wife, Doreen, also an emergency medical technician, along with Luchansky responded to the crash site. Rescue crews had to struggle through knee-deep mud to get to the scene.Bridgeport firefighters under the command of Acting Assistant Fire Chief Ercole Spinelli lifted Bellantoni on to a portable stretcher.
Members of the Stratford Eagle’s Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, on duty for the AIR TRANSAT 81, provided security at the crash site along with Stratford police.
Nicholas Mainiero, airport manager, said this was the first crash of an aircraft on the “clean zone” of the airport since World War II.
Bellantoni has been a pilot for 13 years, but apparently had been certified to fly the Corsair for less then a year.
Bellantoni’s plane was a collector’s item. The 400-mile-an-hour fighter is regarded as one of the most beautiful planes of its time. It was one of only 10 to 12 Corsairs in flying condition in the country.
Reprinted from the Bridgeport Post June, 8th 1981.