A Crashed Jet Abandoned in the NJ Woods

This past Memorial Day, we set out to find a treasure hidden in the New Jersey woods.

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We drove an hour west of the city to a pleasant area of New Jersey, then turned off into an unassuming residential neighborhood and parked at the end of a cul-de-sac.

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Just off the street, we found a trail into the woods and began our hike, following a GPS coordinate that quickly took us far off the beaten path…

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As we bushwhacked through the thick foliage, we could practically feel each poison ivy leaf brushing against our bare legs…

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…while many a shoe were nearly lost to the swampy mud, freshly soaked from a night of heavy rains (good thing we came so well-prepared for this!).

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And then, we saw it up ahead, nestled in the fertile overgrowth: the wreckage of a crashed jet plane.

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Words really really can’t describe how surreal it is to come across something so out of place (though I definitely started having Lost flashbacks). The jet, a Lockheed T2V-1 “Seastar” training plane, crashed in 1962 and has been here ever since. Back in its heyday, this…

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…would have looked like this…

Lockheed : T2V-1 (T-1A) : Seastar

Though significantly decayed, the fuselage and wings are still in tact – in fact, you can even see one of the faded military insignia on a wing:

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I’ve wanted to take a hike out to see the famous West Milford plane wreckage ever since I read about it on the awesome blog Lost In NJ and in the pages of the equally awesome Weird NJ.

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According to the West Milford Messenger, in 1962, two pilots flying a training mission out of Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field had a flame out and crashed into “a “’heavily wooded swamp’ reportedly infested with poisonous snakes” (er, wish we had known about those poisonous snakes before we set out!).

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Incredibly, despite the ejection system failing, both pilots survived the crash and were found standing near the wreckage by the first officials on the scene. They were treated at nearby Chilton Hospital for back injuries and abrasions.

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Even more amazingly, the crash site is a mere 300 yards or so from a residential neighborhood, and a potential disaster was narrowly avoided. I love the faded technical writing:

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According to its entry on waymarking.com, a military helicopter later retrieved the engine (nearly crashing in the progress) for salvage.

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The plane was then painted orange to identify it as “found wreckage of a known crash” in case anyone else spotted it (most of the orange paint has since faded away) – and left here to rot.

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Inside one of the wings, leaves grow around what looks like a very powerful arm mechanism:

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For decades, the wreckage was only known to a handful of locals, many of whom had accidentally stumbled on it while hiking or hunting. The site has become more popular in recent years, and the plane has been further damaged by souvenir collectors.

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The rear of the fuselage is simply gone…

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…with no tail to speak of.

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On the opposite wing, a faded orange X:

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We found the nose of the plane some distance away…

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When first reported to Weird NJ, the nose was still attached.

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Someone has since dragged it about 100 feet away, and it now rests on a piece of plywood. Very cool if the intention was to prevent it from sinking in the mud, not so cool if someone was trying to cart it off for scrap.

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The inner workings of the nose:

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More orange paint on the side:

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I love the little bits of technical wording:

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More lettering:

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For anyone looking to visit the site, you can find the exact location with a minimal amount of online research. One piece of advice: dress appropriately. Crappy old sneakers and cargo shorts are not a smart way of combating poison ivy, ticks, and a VERY muddy swamp.

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Also, FYI, we saw this sign on the way out…

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Coming across the wreckage of a crashed jet in the middle of a New Jersey swamp is something too priceless to last. I have a feeling at some point in the future, this will simply disappear one night, and the story of the West Milford crash will descend into legend. So check it out before it’s too late. And remember: no souvenirs!

-SCOUT

PS – Be sure to check out the Lost In Jersey blog for more awesome NJ finds, including a very cool abandoned airfield.

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22 comments

  1. “Lloyd Bennett Field” should be “Floyd Bennett Field”. You would have a good time there.

  2. OK – Like your site and this story is fantastic, but the one shot of your shoe reveals a incredible stupid choice – NO SOCKS !!!!
    Poison ivy is not fun.
    Always, always, always wear socks.

  3. this reminds me of the movie Stand by Me

  4. God, I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to find a plane in the middle of a swamp from decades ago. You’d think the government would have taken the entire plane itself out and not just the engine.

    • It’s amazing what the military will just up and leave. I know of a former military installation just off a busy highway at the edge of a state park. It is now covered in boreal rainforest. The buildings, flimsy sheet-metal things, have long since fallen to the cool damp rot. However, if you go up the right road-turned-trail, you will find a vintage 1940s pickup truck with the hood up . . . and a mature Sitka spruce growing where the engine block used to be.

  5. I’ve stumbled on the wreckage of a plane at the top of a mountain in Woodstock NY. It was totally accidental – I know the feeling of “…what the heck IS that?” The numbers on the fuselage are still clearly visible and doing a google search brings up the details of the crash. If you’d like the directions to it email me.

  6. I don’t know exactly why, but these “out-of-place” things scares the s**t out of me.

  7. Loved this piece. I’ve got another New Jersey plane wreck for you to find… Years ago, I lived in Chatham, NJ. Our lot was three acres deep and the back acre was really woodsy and swampy and totally invisible from our house. Behind that was a dirt road with transmission power lines. I was about 4 or 5 and my bedtime was before it got dark in the summer. I was still awake and heard the engine from a small airplane reallly close. I looked out the window and it was flying under the power lines in our front yard! Not good. Then it gained a little altitude and headed toward the woods. It crashed in the swamp and the pilot was killed. From the transmission line road you could follow a little path to the wreck and see the wreaths placed by the pilot’s family. How long ago?…51 or 52. If you can find any photographic evidence of this, I’ll send you one hundred bucks.

    • i actually went looking for this not too long ago. that swamp sucks eggs. i wont ask you to honor your 100$ offer, but I’d like to discuss this privately. feel free to email me. lost at lost in jersey dot com

  8. Not 51 or 2 years ago, but 1951 or 2

  9. “Aviation archaeology” is a popular hobby in the western states, where well-preserved wrecks abound. Here is a particularly interesting site. And the crash described at this site has to be one of the most bitterly ironic of all time; the aircraft just missed clearing the peak of the highest mountain in a 100-mile radius.

  10. nice exploring, nice pictures, nice writeup. and nice hitting the front page of IO9 as well. are you getting a traffic spike like I am? yeesh!

  11. Would-be souvenir hunters should be aware that the Navy (alone among the service branches) claims ownership in all of its aircraft crashes no matter how old and will prosecute anyone found removing souvenirs.

  12. Check out Weird NJ for more stuff like this. The site has highlights of their most popular stories — the magazine has full accounts. Enjoy it while it’s still there!

    West Milford jet:
    http://www.weirdnj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=28

    Other fun stuff:
    http://www.weirdnj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=4&Itemid=28

  13. Scout, this plane actually did destroy most of a house, though nobody inside was injured. I recall the tale that the family who lived there had just gone in the dining room to eat, and that was the only room not blasted to smithereens. My parents grew up in that area, and one of their friends lived in the house. The family had a bunch of kids, who were all sent to live with different relatives for a time because they were instantly homeless! Years ago, when I first found Weird NJ, and read this article aloud to mom and dad, they were like “oh yeah, that was the plane hit so-and-so’s house”. Hysterically, that was not the only item in Weird NJ that they were completely unfazed by!

  14. I lived in west milford in the early 80’s,and as a child all of 12 years old. all the local kids played in that plane! it was a fort holding off german snipers if i remember it right.this story brings back fond memorys there.I do recall somthing else out there as well but im not quite sure if it was real or not… thanks for the fond memorys the old girl dosent look the same anymore.

  15. I’m a geocacher and geocaching takes me to amazing places. I would love to see this site. Would you be able to post the coordinates you used to get you there??

    Thanks!

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