Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West
On April 11, 1956 an Air Force Douglas TB-26C 43-22716 departed Biggs A.F.B., Texas at 10:08 a.m. en route to Mather A.F.B., California. On board were three officers and two sergeants. The flight was to be non-stop. An IFR flight plan was filed.
Following a mostly uneventful flight, rough weather was encountered over the Central Valley. At this juncture, the pilot radioed an air traffic controller and expressed confusion about his location and distance to Mather A.F.B.. After this communication the pilot deviated from his flight plan without declaring an emergency. At 4:10 p.m. the pilot radioed that he was lost, and at 4:18 p.m., nearly out of fuel, he ordered all on board to bail out. Four crewmen successfully bailed out. Moments later the TB-26C crashed south of Paso robles Airport on farm land exploding on impact.
Of the five crewmen, the pilot sustained serious injuries, as did one staff sergeant. Technical Sergeant Fred D. Kilby apparently struck the tail and was unable to pull his parachute D-ring. Two other officers parachuted safely and sustained no injuries. In the week following the accident the Air force recovered most of the wrecked TB-26C. An investigation was conducted and the crash passed into the annals of aviation accident history and local lore.
The TB-26C crashed a scant 200 yards from the home of George and Hazel Steinbeck. The Steinbecks watched the surviving crewmen parachute down. They immediately rendered aid to the injured crewmembers and brought them into their home. In the years that followed, the Steinbecks traveled to visit surviving crewmen, 1st Lt. Robert Nilsson and SSgt. O.J. Fazio.
Today the Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery continues to pay respect to the crew of the TB-26C, especially to the memory of T/Sgt. Fred D. Kilby. In the winery tasting room there is a prominent display that includes newspaper stories, parts of the aircraft, and photos of 1st Lt. Nilsson and SSgt. Fazio. In addition, the Steinbeck family has placed an American flag at the site where the TB-26C crashed.
To learn more about Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery search www.steinbecwines.com or visit their tasting room at 5940 Union Road, Paso Robles, CA.