Cudmore: Two died in 1946 plane crash

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A demonstration flight from Carpet City Airport near Amsterdam went terribly wrong on an October Sunday in 1946 killing a flight instructor and a man interested in buying the plane.

Willis E. “Slip” Slater, 33, 401 Locust Avenue in Amsterdam was demonstrating the two-seater plane to Edward Rytel, 20, of Perth.  They were 12 minutes into the flight when, according to witnesses, the aircraft went into a spin and plummeted to the ground in one of  farmer Joseph Migut’s fields off Midline Road.


It was not known which of them was piloting the plane.  The aircraft was an Aeronca two seater.  That Ohio airplane manufacturer, linked to Senator Robert Taft, was known for manufacturing general aviation aircraft.

The Recorder wrote, “Observers at the airport saw the plane complete the first turn of the fields after the take off and start the second turn at a height of approximately 700 feet (estimated) when it appeared to go into a spin.  It was certain to the trained observers below that no stunting was attempted.”

The first people who reached the wreckage found Slater dead and Rytel badly injured.

Flight instructor Slater, a longtime pilot and Army Air Corps veteran, was a relief flying instructor at the airport.  He died on impact.  His wife, the former Marcella Flaherty, had given birth to their son eight days before the airplane tragedy.

Prospective buyer Rytel, a wounded veteran and student of aviation, survived for about three hours, dying at St. Mary’s Hospital.

The Aeronca was owned by Ray A. Shaver of 88 Forest Street in Gloversville.  Shaver had left the plane at Carpet City Airport for a possible sale.

The airfield was located at Hills Corners at the junction of Midline Road and Route 107, the Perth-Galway Road.  The facility was near Perth and often called Perth Airport although the land was in the town of Broadalbin.

Historian Kenneth Shaw wrote that Art Ruback and Al Wright, both from Amsterdam, began using the Midline Road location as a landing strip in 1936.  Wright had learned to fly a biplane at the airstrip George Verkleir owned just outside the city of Amsterdam, on the south side of Route 67. 

There are stories that bootleggers used the Route 67 airfield during Prohibition to fly liquor in from Canada.  The landings sometimes took place at night when lighted barrels guided the plane with its alcoholic cargo to a safe landing.

Real estate records show the Amsterdam Flying Club bought the Midline Road airstrip from Myrtal Eddy in 1939.  George Verkleir was one of the principals.  Sometimes the operation was called Carpet City Flying Club and Carpet City Airport was painted on the roof of a barn.  The operation was also known as Amsterdam Flying Services. 

Shaw wrote the side of a barn was removed to allow storage of two planes, “A 1,500 foot east-west runway was built and later a 2,500 foot north-south runway was added.”

A large hangar was constructed about 1940, according to Shaw, who said about 25 airplanes were stored at the airfield in its heyday.

When World War II broke out, private airports across the nation were shut down.  However, the government in 1942 allowed the private airports to reopen to teach people to fly under the Civilian Pilot Training program.

Shaw wrote that the airport prospered right after the war as returning soldiers learned to fly under the G.I. bill.  But the boom was short lived and the airfield was sold to a construction company.

Real estate records show the hangars, office building, shop and land were sold to American Construction in 1951.

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