Aviation Day Highlights
EAA Chapter 654 offers a glimpse of aviation’s past
ON AUGUST 21, GUESTS AT Montague Airport-Yreka Rohrer
Field in California celebrated Aviation Day, organized by EAA
Chapter 654, with a look at Siskiyou County’s aviation history.
In the 1940s, two airplanes crashed separately in the area, but
the crash site locations were somewhat of a mystery. Aviation
Day included displays of pieces from each aircraft, a B- 24 and a
Grumman F6F Hellcat.
Chapter members aided in confirming the June 11, 1943, crash
of a B-24E, tail number 42-7199. In 2009, a resident found bullet
casings and advised the location. Artifacts were recovered by
EAA Chapter 654 and put into the Sisson Museum. The chapter
also assisted in identifying the 10-man crew, six of whom died
in the crash. Stacy Churchwell, brother of the B- 24’s co-pilot,
George Churchwell Jr., who died in the crash, traveled from
Florida to attend Aviation Day with his family.
The second crash occurred in 1945. Coast Guard and U.S. Air
Force search units tried unsuccessfully in 1946 to locate the wreck
Attendees to EAA Chapter 654’s Aviation Day converse on the tarmac at Montague Airport-Yreka Rohrer Field.
of a Hellcat piloted by Lt. R.A. Hopen. The pilot’s
father, Jens Hopen, set up camp in the area after
leaving his home in New Jersey with his life savings of
$900 to search for his son’s remains. He hired guides
to assist him, but after 32 days, Hopen left without
success. Later that year, a resident found the wreckage,
and Lt. Hopen’s remains were transported to Arlington
Nancy Ballard Hopen, niece of Navy Lt. R.A. Hopen,
traveled from Arkansas to see her uncle honored at
Aviation Day. EAA Chapter 654 is trying to gather
information regarding Jens Hopen’s search for his
son’s remains to memorialize Jens’ actions.
Artifacts such as what they think is the tailwheel pivot from a wrecked Hellcat were on display.