B-25J-30NC c/n 108-37196, 44-31121
By Paul Lugannaniof The Enquirer StaffFebruary 21, 1963COPILOT JUMPS;LOAD OF SNAKES, ALLIGATORS INTACTA crippled twinengine aircraft, loaded with some 2000 reptiles of a wild animal show, made a spectacular wheelsup landing Wednesday afternoon at Lunken Airport and the pilot walked away. In a thrillpacked 15 minutes, the World War II type B25 plane, came in, one engine dead, the other failing, with the landing gear jammed.The copilot had bailed out minutes before, after Leonard McGee Downe, Calif., the pilot assessed the hazards compounded by a 24mph cross wind. Roy Hurst 25, Meridian, Miss., the copilot, suffered scratches and head cuts when he parachuted from 3000 feet and landed in a tree near Newtown. He was taken to General Hospital.The plane, Wild Cargo, is a World War II medium bomber of the type used in the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo. It was converted into a transport by its owner, Arthur Jones, Sildell, La., television performer and producer of an animal show scheduled to open Saturday at Music Hall. Mr. Jones later said the show will go on. The passenger list included four alligators.The pilot was minutes out of Lunken, en route from Sildell, when he radioed the control tower that his airplanes right engine was dead and the landing gear inoperable. As he circled the field at 6000 feet to reduce the gas load, tension mounted on the ground, where nearly a dozen police and fire department vehicles took up standby emergency positions.Cincinnati Fire Marshal Ben Ballard marshalled the forces to the north end of the main runway which angles south from Beechmont Levee. He stretched 1000 feet of hose under pressure from a Wilmer Avenue hydrant and was ready to pursue the plane with 3000 more feet.DONT GO TILL I give the signal and remember there are alligators in there.. Human lift first, then animals if possible, he told his men who were clad in aluminum asbestos heat resistant suits. From the control tower Wesley Schaffer, chief, calmly conversed with the pilot of the stricken craft, suggesting safety procedures.At 3:05 p.m. Pilot McGee and veteran of 20 years in the air and a ferry pilot in World War II, reported the copilot was going to parachute. Mr. Hurst delayed his jump until the plane had passed north of the field. He disappeared in a wooded area.Moments after the Orange and white chute blossomed, Mr. McGee circled to the left and began the grim, wheelsup approach to the runway. All who say it agreed it was a perfect crash landing. For a moment it appeared the worst would happen fire. Midway along a 400 foot, grinding slide there was flame among the myriad of trailing sparks.FORTUNATELY, the flame died of its own accord just as the craft ground to a halt. However, fire in the electrical system filled the cabin with smoke. Marshal Ballard stopped it by disconnecting the battery. Mr. McGee virtually catapulted himself out of the top escape hatch, the door of which he previously had jettisoned.Running for his life, Mr. McGee collapsed on another runway 200 feet away. That was something He gaspedJust let me sit here awhile and say nothing. After a pause: I hope that copilot made t. He cracked his head hard when he went out.Moments later, refreshed by a cigarette in a police cruiser, he explained:I didnt get shook until that final approach. As I was coming down that second engine started going out on me. I didnt think Id have enough power left to reach the field. I shut off the fuel before touchdown.That precaution apparently spared firemen from fighting a major fire. Firemen unloaded the trussed alligators and crates of snakes and turtles. Boy I felt good when I saw all of that equipment down there. Mr. McGee said gratefully to a fireman.Article Courtesy of Cincinnati Enquire
Note: This, aircraft, has, been, fully, restored, and, is, named, "Wild Cargo"