As a boy, Frank A. Kindel herded sheep in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico, where his family had migrated to in 1898. In his later years, he was a member of the Carlsbad City Council, a director for the Chamber of Commerce and a leading promoter the nearby Carlsbad Caverns. But this greatest love was flying his single engine, two-seater aircraft all over the country, he flew to Mexico, Canada and Alaska on lone trips, and had over 5000 hours of flight time logged.
Retired from his business as an oil products distributor in 1963, Kindel spent most of his time dressed in his orange flying suit. A small man, barely more than five feet tall, Kindel in recent years sported a white mustache, he was the chief promoter of Carlsbad's Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 1963, which celebrated Carlsbad's 75th anniversary of the town's founding.
A Captain in the Civil Air Patrol, he had flown many mercy missions, and in mid-May of 1964, he was honored by the Carlsbad Realtors Association as the outstanding citizen. He was also commonly know as Carlsbad's "Mr. Welcome".
"God is my Co-Pilot..."
Kindel, then 71 years old, was flying in his Piper PA-12 Cub, registered as N2816M, along with a Presbyterian minister from the nearby ruins of Queen - an old post office from 1905 to 1920 - and was to conduct early Sunday morning services for church campers in the mountains.
On first landing at Queen, which is a 3/4 of a mile long paved portion on State Route 137, Kindel had attempted to taxi down the road to the trail riders encampment near the Tulk chimney, the largest and most recognizable remnant at the Queen site.
The right wingtip had taught on a tree branch spinning the plane into a ditch. The plane had been pushed back on the road, and Kindel had taxied back to the airstrip. The wing appeared undamaged, according to reports. The pair then proceeded by automobile to the service site at the Queen ruins.
At 6:30 a.m. the Reverend Willis E. Plapp, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlsbad, conducted a service in frigid weather for 80 Pecos Valley Trail Riders.
After the service concluded, Carlsbad businessman Bill Davis drove the pastor and pilot back to the airstrip. After takeoff in a light shower and cold temperatures, the plane reappeared. Kindel gave no alarm to his pastor, but had let him know they were going back for a landing.
Ten minutes after 7 o'clock in the morning, Kindel was circling to land when his plane stalled. The airplane hit the ground at a low angle, the right wingtip and underside of the plane hitting the ground at about the same time. The landing gear folded up on impact and the plane skidded some 50 feet before coming to rest in a clearing in the Lincoln National Forest, some 200 yards from the airstrip. There, the wreckage exploded into a ball of flames.Davis, who was driving away from the airstrip, heard the crash, but did not see the location. So, he hurried away for help, knowing their was a two-way radio located at the campsite.
The Reverend Plapp, 48, was thrown out of Kindel's Piper Cub in the crash and received two broken wrists, broken vertebrae and older injuries. But despite his injuries, Plapp tried to pull Kindel out of the burning aircraft but was forced back by flames and collapsed about 50 yards away as the plane exploded twice.