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Incident Name: 14 mi W of Townsend in central MT
Date:  6/19/1957
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization:  Johnson Flying Service of Missoula MT, under contract with the US Forest Service
Position: airtanker pilot and copilot

W. Penn Stohr, 54
Robert Vallance, 31, of Hamilton

Penn Stohr and Robert Vallance were flying a Tri-Motor and spraying to eliminate sagebrush with inflammable oil. "They'd started on their second pass at the head of Crow Creek, 14 mi to the west of  Townsend when an engine seemed to miss," a witness said. The plane hit the ground in a gulch and skidded more than 100 yards shaving off a large fir tree. The diesel tank was thrown free and both gas tanks ignited. Only the wings and motor survived destruction. [Some info in this is from the Missoulian.] (This may not have been a fire-related contract per se, but fuel reduction.)

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14 mi west of  Townsend, head of Crow Creek

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 6/19/1957
    • 2 killed, Penn Stohr & Robert Vallance
    • Operator: Johnson Flying Service of Missoula MT
    • Type: Ford Tri-Motor
    • Location: 14 mi west of  Townsend MT, head of Crow Creek
    • FAA Registration # unknown
    • NTSB # None
  • US Census, 1940: Penn W. Stohr
  • Montana Death Index: Robert Vallance ; US Census, 1940: Robert Vallance, Jr
  • Mellie Note: An eyewitness said, "an engine seemed to miss." ... One article said the plane had crashed two times prior to the fatal accident and had been been repaired...

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Media Articles and Reports

Trimotor Crash Trimotor Crash


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Soaring Tribute to W Penn Stohr

    10/7/2006 | Online Article with photo

    Plains to honor Montana flying legend W. Penn Stohr with dedication ceremony at new airport. He flew planes in Plains. And by the time W. Penn Stohr had chomped on his last cigar, had winked over his shoulder at his last nerve-wracked passenger, had made his final hair-raising landing on a frozen mountain lake, he was the stuff of aviation lore. On Saturday, Plains will celebrate its new $4 million airport and dedicate it in Stohr's name.

  • Montana DOT Publication: The W. Penn Stohr Airport Dedication (420 K pdf) with photos
  • from the Missoulian:

    Stohr, who learned to fly in Plains, was the most experienced pilot for Missoula-based Johnson Flying Services. He was an artist at flying ski-equipped airplanes into the mountains of Idaho, and received national recognition in 1943 for a daring, subzero rescue of an Air Corps bomber crew that crashed near McCall, Idaho.

    Stohr is a member of the Museum of Mountain Flying's Aviation Hall of Fame, and of the Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2006, the Plains airport in named in his honor.

  • YouTube: Tri-Motor Walk Around and Cockpit Tour. Part 1 (5 min) Interesting!
  • YouTube: Ford Tri-Motor, We Go For a Ride! Part 2 (6.5 min)
Restored Ford Tri-Motor Restored Ford Tri-Motor
Restored Ford Tri-Motor Restored Ford Tri-Motor

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Contributors to this article: Mellie, RJM, Tom Janney

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