1966 Jet Bomber crash between Yellowtail and Rowena probably the worst
One of the hazards of residing so close to a major (at least, at one-time) military airport is that sometimes the planes that are going up have on very rare occasions gone down — that has happened at least three times in Rossmoor.l
There were a number of crashes at the base when it was first utilized as a World War II training base beginning in 1942 and then when it became an aircraft carrier support base in 1943. Some were mentioned in this collection of memories of Bomber Group 19 (VF-19) which trained at Los Alamitos in the second half of 1943 before shipping out and being a assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington and taking part of some of the major battles of the Pacific air war.
We learned of two crashes in 1950 and 1951. On April 16, 1950, a North American Aviation FJ-1 Fury swerved off runway during landing at NAS Los Alamitos NAS,. And just over one year later, on May 9.951, another Fury (VF-778) stalled on waveoff Los Alamitos NAS.
It is quite possible there were even more crashes in the fields in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Rossmoor and “south Los Alamitos” and “College Park East” were still nothing but bean fields. and gleams in developers’ eyes. The Wattes had a farm where Sprouts now stands, but other than that there was little but bean fields and some rifle ranges at the south end of the air base.
It was only when Rossmoor was first beginning to develop that the crashes became more problematic. The September 30, 1956 edition of the Enterprise mentions the following crash:
30 SEP 1956 — 3 FLYERS DIE IN CRASH. – a twin-engine Navy anti-submarine plane from VS 772 crashed into a sugar beet field shortly after taking off from the NAS Los Alamitos at 10:30am Saturday. The three men in its crew were killed instantly. The plane was a Grumman S2F Sentinel radio training mission.
Killed in the crash were Commander Frederick E. Kroeger, USNR, Pacoima; Lt. William T. Kirk, USNR, Van Nuys; and Lieutenant (junior grade) Dennis S. Weibel, USNR, of San Diego.
The most damaging crash occurred ten years later, in 1966 when when a Douglas A4-8 Skyhawk crashed in southern Rossmoor about 3:35 in the afternoon, clipping several small trees and then plummeting into a ball of fire. (see article to left) Wreckage “scattered along a wide area between Rowena and Yellowtail Drives and in an open space north of the San Dioego Freeway.” (This was before the completion and opening of the 605 freeway.) Amazingly no one was killed, or even seriously injured, even though bits and chunks of the plane ripped through roofs and windows and started scores of small fires.
Now that the Navy has left, and the facility is basically an army air base, the primary aircraft are helicopters — and transport planes who use the strip at limited airtimes. And of course, on rare occasions, Air Force One has been known to land and take off there.