The Crash of the F-86H
aka - "The McConnell Site"
25 August 1954
The leading jet ace of the Korean War was Capt. Joseph McConnell, Jr. who scored his first victory on January 14, 1953. In a little more than a month, he gained his 5th MiG-15 victory, thereby becoming an ace.
Joseph McConnell, right, talks to a ground crewmen after a flight.
Ten F-86Hs had been delivered by the end of June 1954, but operational testing was delayed by accidents. There were problems with both the airframe engine, with the J73 not being able to meet its 150-hour qualification tests. The most notable of these accidents was the crash on August 25, 1954 in which Capt Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace (with 16 aerial victories) was killed.
During the flight, the aircraft suffered a complete hydraulic failure caused by a missing bolt. McConnell had to fly the plane using the elevator trim. Rather than bailing out and losing the airplane, he tried to fly it back to a landing at Edwards. Several miles short of the lakebed, the attempt failed. McConnell bailed out, but he was too low for his parachute to open. He died upon impact with the desert floor, his Sabre cartwheeling into a fireball a couple hundred yards away.
We are currently searching for photos of the crash site taken during the investigation. If you have any - please contact us.
This crash, plus some other accidents, caused a delay in the operational testing of the F-86H. It was not until October of 1954 that operational testing of the other F-86H aircraft was resumed.
Hollywood memorialized him in the movie The McConnell Story, starring Alan Ladd, and June Allyson. Before shooting was completed on this film, McConnell was tragically killed in a test pilot accident. A new ending was then written and shot.
The Crash Site Today
Like many crash sites, a pit or hole in the ground marks the main point of impact.
Take a 360 virtual tour of the site.
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For the size of aircraft, debris is spread over an amazing large area, at least the area of one or two football fields with most if it being to the west of the crash site.