Meet the Original Crew of "Beach City Baby!"
SGT. John Falotico
Lt. jack Bartlett
2nd Lt. Sidney C. Little
18 May, 1944.
C-53 41-20095 boards its single passenger, for passage from Rabat Field in Morraco to Cazes airfield in Casablanca.
Aircraft commander Lt Jack Bartlett steps into the traffic office.
“Hey we only have one passenger and are light on fuel, do you have any ballast for us, we are going to be really nose heavy when we get to Casablanca.”
“No sir, nothing else going your way and we didn't have any sandbags left, or at least none we can spare.”
“Well time to go so we will make due”
Co Pilot 2nd Lt Sidney Little had the C-53 ready to go when Lt Bartlett stepped back onboard. Sgt John Falotico had their single passenger, a British VIP briefed on the one hour flight to Casablanca.
“Hey Sid you got her ready you want this one?”
“Sure Jack, lets get going.”
The pair started up the two Pratt and Whitney 1830s and set out to the runway. They set takeoff power at 12:12Z and Sidney turned her West and flew down the shoreline to Cazes.
Almost an hour later, they checked in via radio approaching the Cazes field. The tower informed them that the field was landing to the south west with a 15 knot crosswind
. “Ok Jack, straight in with a right to left crosswind, just 15 not too bad.”
“Ok Sid, I'm a little concerned about the balance, ill be right back.” He unbuckled and headed back to John in the radio compartment. “Hey John can you head to the back and have a seat with our guest in the last row. Oh and buckle up.”
“Sure Lieutenant, anything wrong?”
“No, its fine, we are just a little light in the tail.”
At Cazes, Pvt Oscar Holland sat in his yellow Jeep awaiting the next arrival. This next one is a local he thought. Jack shouldn’t need the taxi guidance most likely. Oscar sat back and enjoyed the view.
“fuel boost pumps”
“give me 2500 rpm and gear down”
“gear safety switch”
The crew continued their checklist after being cleared to land and crabbed slightly nose right and into the wind. Lieutenant Little eased the power back flared and touched down right wheel first. The left main followed shortly after and he relaxed as he worked the massive rudder to compensate for the wind in the roll out. You never stop flying this big bird unt......BOOM! The big Douglas shudders and the nose shifts hard left and drops as Sidney crosses rudder control from one side to the next and adds ailerons to correct as well. Both pilots feel an incredibly rapid deceleration and simultaneously confirm mentally they have blown a tire. From boom to sudden stop only took a few hundred feet as the already nose heavy 20,000lb C-53 shifted its weight forward and onto her nose. The cockpit became a very noisy and dusty place as the skin just forward of the pilots feet was ground to shreds and the rudder and yoke controls under the floor took a beating that transmitted right to their feet. Both propellers struck the runway and suddenly there was complete silence.
Pvt Oscar Holland saw the tire burst and had his Jeep in gear and chased after the aluminum sandstorm before she even came to a stop. The crew in the tower hit the crash buzzer and the field rescue trucks came alive.
Normally, after the tail wheel settles on the runway, a passenger in rear seats would be looking up at flight deck at an eleven degree angle. Sgt Falotico and his passenger elevate very rapidly from horizontally level during the wheel landing to hanging forward on their seat belts, about 25 feet above the ground looking downward at the flight deck.
As the dust settles Jack calls back to his Sgt.
“Yeah we are ok back here, but I think our friend is going to stick with the RAF from now on. That was one heck of a ride back here”
“Cazes this is 095, we are all ok.” said Jack over the radio.
That day, 41-20095 took a big hit, and as a result got major repair work done including structural and having both engines overhauled. Both her and the crew went back to work as soon as they were ready, after all there was a war going on. In just a few weeks, several thousand of her little siblings would launch the invasion that would liberate Europe. She would continue to work through to the end of the war and then live a much more peaceful and less exciting life in airline, civilian and Ohio State Government hands.
Sgt John Falotico went home to his family at the end of the war. He never flew again. He loved aviation and aircraft regardless, but told his kids that he got quite enough excitement flying during the war. He raised a family and had two sons and a daughter. He shared his love for aircraft by taking them to visit the observation deck at LaGuardia Airport to watch operations there. Even long after the war, he undoubtedly saw some very familiar Douglas products shuttling passengers around. One can only imagine what he thought seeing his old friend in peace, still doing its job but under much more pleasant circumstance. He passed in 1986 followed by his wife. He was not very talkative about his war experience with his children, so not many stories were passed on other then a shared interest in aviation.
When Vintage Wings Inc came upon 41-20095, we found that it had amazing military history, but most of the stories were word of mouth. USAF records don't indicate much of its service history, which spanned the entire war. One thing came up, an accident report from May 1944. The report came with excellent descriptions of the events and even some grainy pictures. With the incredible number of aircraft losses from accidents during the war, it was amazing that an event like this had such a detailed record. A record that included crew names and serial numbers.
At first no connections were made. The names I found in the personnel databases matched but the rank and age didn't seem right. After Syd Edwards gave me the hint that the personnel records are often in error, we made a connection. I reached out to a person via Facebook that I hoped was the son of John Falotico. Magically, we connected and finally spoke and exchanged information. He was surprised and elated that an aircraft his father actually crewed during the war was still around. We are thrilled to find family of the crew of our aircraft and really thrilled with their level of interest in their shared past. Going to LaGuardia to watch planes with Dad had a good effect on that!
Making this connection really injected a personal feel to 41-20095, a direct human connection beyond the serial number and Beach City Baby namesake. Most warbirds flying today never left the continental United States, let alone have the service history ours has, yet her history is mostly unknown. We look forward to working with the family to unearth more of her history and pay tribute to her crew. We are excited to restore her crew stations to their wartime trim and dedicate the radio operators position to Sgt John Falotico.
In late 2018 after meeting the Faloticos, Vintage Wings Inc. member Janet Aaron went on a mission to locate the rest of the original crew of "Beach City Baby." After days upon days of dead-ends and endless detective work, Janet stumbled across a loan grave stone in the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Oakland County, Michigan. The name upon the grave stone was none other than Major Jack Bartlett who passed away on November 18, 2008. Jack was survived by his only child, Wendy Bartel of Pennsylvania. The information was passed to foundation President Jason Capra who reached out to Wendy on multiple occasions with no answer. It wasn't until New Year's Day, 2019 that Wendy and Jason connected via a phone call and confirmation was made that Jack Bartlett was indeed Wendy's father and the pilot of our C-53 in 1944.
As Wendy would explain, her father Jack Bartrlett retired from the Army Air Force as a Major with Air Transport Command flying C-53s, C-47s, and C-54s. He then started a brief career with TWA before being hired to fly as the private pilot of the King of Saudi Arabia on DC-3s. Jack eventually retired to Springfield, Ohio where he spent the rest of his life as a businessman. Ironically, Jack would live in the state of Ohio for which his old wartime mount, 41-20095 served as the state's airplane unknowingly for the rest of his life. One has to wonder how many times he heard the rumble of her engines passing overhead not knowing the proud state airplane known as "Buckeye One" was really his old "095."
41-20095 on it's nose.
Casablanca, May 18, 1944
Crew Photo, late 1944 with VIP Passengers
Crew of our C-53 41-20095 in late 1944 with Saudi Arabian Caliph (white beard) and his personal guards after flying on our C-53 to Cairo, Egypt. Captain Jack Bartlett is kneeling lower right. Photo Courtesy of Wendy Bartel
Steve & John Falotico Meet their Father's aircraft
On October 6th, 2018 after "Beach City Baby's" first flight to Franklin, Pennsylvania we had the pleasure of finally meeting John & Steve Falotico. They are the sons of Sgt. John Falotico who was the radio operator on our C-53 in 1944 in North Africa when it had a landing incident. Through the USAF records we were able to track down John & Steve after months of detective work. Finally, Steve and John met their father’s airplane for the first time. It was a very emotional moment for everyone and it was an honor to meet them and help preserve a part of their families past.