The Crash of 33-201

p-26c 33-201 crash photo
Actual crash site photo of 33-201.

Updated August 29, 2014 adding witness reports and photo of the crash site.

Interesting note in that Bu No’s 189, 200, 202, and 203 also crashed while operated by the 17 Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, while based at Selfridge during 1936-38. ed note

33-189 (17 PS, 1 PG) crashed 45 mi SW of Kerrville, TX Feb 7, 1938.

33-200 (17 PS, 1 PG) force landed at Youngstown-Bernard’s Airport, OH Feb 7, 1937.  Dropped from records at Selfridge Field, MI Apr 1937

33-201 (17 PS, 1 PG) crashed 1/8 mi E of Lincoln MAP, NE Jul 7, 1936.  Dropped from records at Selfridge Field, MI Sep 1936

33-202 (17 PS, 1 PG) force landed at Melford, OH Jun 28, 1936.

33-203 (17 PS, 1 PG) force landed 2 mi NE of state prison, Jackson, MI Apr 1, 1936.  Was with 47th PS, 15th PG at Wheeler Field on Dec 7, 1941.  To CL-26 Aug 24, 1943.


 About 2nd Lt. Smith

photo of cev smith
Charles Edward V. Smith

Second Lieutenant Charles Edward V. Smith was born in 1912.  He was a member of the 17th Pursuit Squadron based at Selfridge Field in Michigan.  He had 629.45 flight hours at the time of the crash, 336.4 in the P-26.  He also had time in the P-26A, PT-3A, and BT-2B.  He was the Assistant Squadron Supply Officer for the 17th Pursuit Squadron.  Funeral was held in Beaver City, NE.


Lt. Smith was not unfamiliar with aviation and the University of Nebraska officials.  During the previous fall football season, Lt. Smith buzzed the field to the dismay of all, but I’m sure the crowd loved it.  In the accident report, the signing officer, non other that a Lt. Col Carl Spatz, made a statement “in view of the past history of this pilot, information is desired as to what actions have been taken, in the organization to which this pilot belonged, to prevent airplanes being lost while in the unsupervised possession of individual pilots.”  No doubt if Lt. Smith would have lived to fight in World War 2, he would have been an aggressive pilot, in my opinion.  jlk.

About the Airplane

The aircraft was built in 1933 as a P-26C, bu. no. 33-201.  Aircraft total time at time of the accident was 253.15.  The aircraft was a total loss and was trucked to Offutt Field in Omaha, NE.

About the Engine

Engine serial number was 33.347

Total engine hours were 216.30

Time since overhaul was 103.30

Time since oil change was 36


Weather was CAVU, or clear air visibility unlimited.  Winds were SSW at 15 kts.


Time of the accident was 10:13 a.m.

The accident report says the cause not definitely known but eyewitnesses said it appeared to be error in judgement on the part of the pilot.  he spun in from 200 feet altitude after a steep chandelle on takeoff.  Pilot killed instantly.  No damage to private property was incurred.

Report was signed by Y.A. Pitts, Major, Air Corps, Commanding stationed at Offutt Field, Ft. Crook, Nebraska, on July 7, 1936


Eye witnesses said the pilot took off to the south and stayed low along the runway until he reached a fence near the south end of the field.  He then pulled back on the stick and climbed, but stalled the plane and it spun in from 200 feet.  From the one photograph in the accident report it appears the aircraft landed flat.


Carl Goodman, Mechanic, Lincoln Municipal Airport

Elmer Diggins, Jr., Ground School Student, Lincoln Municipal Airport

Joseph J. Macha, Ground School Student, Lincoln Municipal Airport

E.R. Litizzette, Radio Dispatcher, United Air Lines

Operator Edwards, of the United Air Lines


Carl Goodman said “The pilot warmed his plane up and taxied down to the north end of the runway.  The wind was south southwest about 15 MPH.  The pilot took off straight south holding the plane down after the wheels left the ground and until the south fence was reached.  He then pulled up in a steep chandelle turning north.  The plane nosed down slightly as though to pick up speed and then suddenly snapped off in a power spin.  The plane made about two turns and struck the ground.  It was about 10:00 a.m. when the accident occurred.  There was no fire until after the impact.”  Carl Goodman was listed as a mechanic at the Municipal Airport, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Elmer Diggins, Jr. said “I was watching the army plane flown by 2nd Lieut Charles Edward V. Smith on Tuesday July 7, 1936 at about 10:00 a.m. when the Lieutenant taxied down to the north end of the N-S runway.  The plane stopped there and apparently the pilot tested his motor.  The plane then took off south along the N-S runway.  The pilot held the plane down until just about even with the administration building and then pulled it up in a zoom and turned to the left.  When partially through the turn the plane nosed down and started to spin making about two turns before striking the ground a few hundred yards east of the south end of the airport.”  Elmer was listed as a ground school student at the Lincoln Airplane and Flying School, Lincoln Municipal Airport, Lincoln, Nebraska.

 Joseph Macha said “When I first say 2nd Lieutenant Smith he was warming up the army plane he was flying.  He taxied down to the north end of teh N-S runway and warmed the engine some more.  He then took off south and held the plane down until almost to the administration building.  He then pulled the plane up in a steep zoom and banked around to the left.  The plane was in a vertical bank going north when the plane appeared to fall off.  The pilot straightened it up momentarily and then the plane started to spin.”  Joe was listed as a ground school student at the Lincoln Airplane and Flying School, Lincoln Municipal Airport, Lincoln, Nebraska.

 E.R. Litizzette was a radio dispatcher for United Airlines and witnessed the crash.  He was the person who called for an ambulance and notified the police.  He also called United Air Lines in Omaha by radio and asked them to have Fort Crook call him immediately by telephone.

C.W. Goodman said “I was working in the hangar when I noticed a car out front.  It was a little before 10:00 a.m., July 7, 1936.  I went out in front to see who the car belonged to and I noticed that 2nd Lieut. Smith had his plane out and was turning the hand-crank on the plane’s inertia starter preparatory to starting the engine.  I immediately went over to assist him.  I turned the starter while Lt. Smith climbed into the cockpit and started the engine.  I passed a few words with Smith when I handed him the crank.  Lieutenant Smith’s actions and conversation at the time, and later while he was bidding his friends goodbye were normal, and to all appearances he was sober when he climbed into the cockpit to take-off prior to the crash.”  C.W. was listed as Chief Mechanic, Lincoln Airplane and Flying School, Lincoln Municipal Airport, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Body of Lt. Smith was taken to Castle Roper and Matthews Mortuary, 1319 N Street, Lincoln, NE.  Funeral services were July 9 at 10:30 a.m. in Beaver City, NE.

The Lincoln Journal, Tuesday, July 7, 1936