Asheville Archives: Army plane makes emergency landing in West Asheville, 1949

AIRSHIP DOWN: In 1949, a military plane made an emergency landing in West Asheville. The craft remained grounded for five weeks before the Army produced the necessary resources for a successful takeoff. This image was taken at an earlier period, circa 1928. Photo from the Michael Reid Collection, courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, Asheville

On May 1, 1949, lost and low on gas, Lt. Doyle M. Kizzire of the 106th Light Bombardment Squadron of Birmingham, Ala., had to think fast. Should he and his passenger parachute out of the two-engine, 4,400-horsepower Douglas B-26 plane, or should he attempt to land the craft on the small field below?

Choosing the latter, Kizzire reduced the ship’s speed and “circled at an extremely low altitude in the vicinity of Carrier Field for several minutes before landing,” The Asheville Citizen reported in the following day’s paper. The plane, the paper continued, “came to a stop about 20 feet from the [French Broad] river.”

Within minutes of its emergency landing, the article added, “hundreds of people appeared at the field.”

On May 3, The Asheville Citizen reported that the plane would remain grounded for at least a week. Multiple factors played into the decision. The top concern involved the location itself. Carrier Field (today’s Carrier Park) didn’t offer much in terms of a runway, making a safe takeoff a logistical nightmare. Recent rain also left the ground too soggy to use.

Ultimately, the plane stayed grounded at Carrier Field for over a month. Then on June 10, the big day finally arrived.

“Several thousand persons stood in suspense late yesterday afternoon as the Army’s noted speed record holder, Col. Albert Boyd, a native of Buncombe County, used his jet flight experience to rescue … [the] Douglas B-26,”, The Asheville Citizen wrote in the following day’s paper.

“For normal take-off a B-26 requires 3,500 to 4,000 feet of runway,” The Asheville Citizen continued. “Carrier field has less than two-thirds this distance.”

To remedy the mathematical dilemma, the Army installed four, 1,000-pound jet-assisted takeoff, or JATO, units to the plane’s wing bomb racks — “first ever to be made on a B-26,” the paper declared. These units ran for approximately eight seconds, increasing the plane’s total horsepower to ensure the craft’s successful departure from Carrier Field.

Once airborne, Boyd didn’t travel far. He landed the bird at the Asheville-Hendersonville Airport (located at the Baldwin Farm, one-half mile east of Fletcher), where a member of the 106th squadron waited to fly it home.

Of course, the flight’s distance didn’t matter to those who anxiously watched the plane’s initial takeoff.

“Although Col. Boyd could not hear it above the noise of the engines and JATO units, he received a well deserved cheer from the crowd,” the paper wrote. “They had been amazed at the simplicity of the operation and the speed with which the plane gained altitude.”

Editor’s note: Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation are preserved from the original documents. Special thanks to J. Harry Varmer for bringing this story to our attention.

UPDATE: The article has been updated to accurately reflect where the former Asheville-Hendersonville Airport was located. 

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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11 thoughts on “Asheville Archives: Army plane makes emergency landing in West Asheville, 1949

      • Thomas Calder

        It certainly is not. As the caption notes, the photo was taken at an earlier period, circa 1928 — long before the Douglas B-26 came about.

  1. PHILLIP WILLIAMS

    I don’t remember Carrier Field personally, but I think it was located in that narrow strip of land between the River and Amboy Road….there was also another small airfield off Emma Road, and unless it has been recently torn down, one of the original buildings of the old airfield is still there.

    • Orphie Lovin

      I’m pushing 80 and remember many of the old airfields — Emma, Carrier, that field that ran parallel with US 70 just east of Oteen (decommissioned when BGEA bought the land), Avery Creek (C. M. Owenby’s gorgeous sod runway), Cane Creek, Moody International, and a few more secret ones. So many of them have been malevolently obliterated. Such as big X’s painted on Avery Creek almost the day after C. M. Owenby flew out into eternity in his beautiful Aeronca Sedan.

  2. Orphie Lovin

    The aircraft in the weeds looks like a single-place Stits experimental. The wing struts and tiny single engine on the nose –approx 65 HP and 4 cylinders — suggest the airplane is probably not a B-26 Widowmaker.

    • Orville W.

      The Martin B-26 Marauder (a/k/a Widowmaker) was withdrawn from service by 1947. The Douglas A-26 was promoted to the new B-26.

  3. Orville W.

    The old Asheville Airport was indeed in Fletcher, and was in use until the current facility opened in 1961. On the old airport today is Wilsonart, and before that Steelcase and the Asheville Industrial Park. To get there you go south on US 25 from Asheville and turn left on Old Airport Road, in Fletcher. The field was on the left after you pass Cane Creek Road.

    • Orphie Lovin

      There’s a 3,500′ sod field down by the creek and a few hangars. I used to fly in there every week or so when my old friend, Warren H. “Red” Hunnicutt kept his fleet of taildraggers there — Luscombe, Citabria, Marquardt Charger, Hobo, Breezy, Range Rider, and a pistol in case any tic tac UFO whizzed through and made trouble. Warren died a few weeks ago at 94 and all of us old bush pilots are in mourning. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the airfield now that Warren has passed away.
      How the mighty have fallen! — L. A. White, Oscar Meyer, Nick Jones, Jefferson Souza, Jim Paine, Ed Shaffer, and now Red Hunnicutt.

        • Orphie Lovin

          His son Mike now runs things afaik. L. A. owned much of the land in the vicinity, including the land the airstrip is on. I think the name of their business is White Transfer and Storage. Wilsonart was at the entrance and L. A.’s business was out at the end of the road, abeam of the airport.
          I really enjoyed flying in and out of that strip, especially since there was always a little turbulence close to touchdown which kept you working the rudder pedals and gave you a jolt just before touchdown. Tailwheel landing, of course. Dig it in!

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