Captain Francis Thomas Evans Jr,  USAF

On June 16, 1953 while trying to land his disabled F-86D Sabre Jet at Andrews AFB Capt Evans Jr. made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of the children at Forestville Elementary School.

This website is dedicated to the memory of USAF Capt. Francis T. Evans Jr.  It is a first hand eyewitness account (with corroboration from other classmates/eye witnesses) of the last 5 to10 seconds of  the 29 minute flight of this seasoned WWII combat fighter pilot.
 This writer has been unable to locate the Washington Times Herald, The Washington Star or Washington Daily News for June 17, 1953.  Please feel free to send any information you may have on obtaining any of the  newspapers mentioned above to the address below.  Any eyewitnesses I haven't talked to recently, please send an email to
TheFrancisTEvansJrStory@comcast.net

A few facts, current websites & newspapers referencing Captain Francis T Evans Jr. and the F-86D.  Documentary follows links and pictures.
This Portrait and Plaque still hangs in the old Forestville Elementary School.
It was in the auditorium that was built in his honor.
Sometime between 1994 and 2006 it was moved to the "new Main Entrance" foyer when public
access to the auditorium was removed.  In the same time frame, someone had the plaque restored.
The first 3 photographs below will be replaced about July 2009.

Captain Francis T Evans Jr


The picture below is a close up of the Plaque shown above for easy reading.

Presented by Forestville Citizens Association

This is the original Main Entrance of the old Forestville Elementary School.
This is the thin and West side of the school.  Classrooms lined both sides of the centered hallway.
The school system built a new school in a new location sometime after 1958.
It then became the Prince Georges County Police Academy Training Center. 
It is now the Prince Georges County Office of Central Services, Facilities Operations and Management.
To the left (North) of the school is now a parking lot for about 100 school busses.
Until they built the re-located school, the above mentioned parking lot was the well kept
grass playground (where most of the children were at that fateful moment)
that separated the woods, where Capt Evans put his jet down, and the school.

Forestville Elementary School




Captain Francis T Evans Jr. Aviation Experience
1618.   hours, total flight
 647.35 hours, jet fighter
 215.   hours, combat, WWII Europen Theater, 371st Fighter Group
       
F-86D
Instructor Pilot
        Pilot since July 28, 1943 (21 years old)


Command Structure 
Air Defense Command (ADC)
 Eastern Air Defense Force (EAD)
  4710th Defense Wing (DEF)
   95th Fighter Interceptor (FI) Squadron
    Base Assignment, Andrews AFB (1321)
     Primary Duty Assignment, Air Operations Officer (1435)

Aircraft
Type/Model #                F-86D-25
Serial #                    51-5933A
Engine                      J47-GE-17
Date of Manufacture         April 21, 1953
Aircraft Total Flight Hours 18.00
Engine Total Flight Hours   18.00
Cost                        $700,000.00

Weather, June 16, 1953 Andrews AFB & Vicinity
Visibility  10 Miles
Ceiling     4000 Feet
Wind        Mild
Temperature 78 Degrees F

Dew Point   58 Degrees F


Tuesday - June 16, 1953

At 14:54 First Lieutenant Leon A. Blackmon in Skyhigh 22 and Capt. Francis T. Evans Jr. in Skyhigh 16 took off from Andrews AFB on runway 19 due South on a training mission.  First Lieutenant Blackmon was going up for his F-86D "VFR Instruction Check" with Capt Evans being his instructor piloting the "chase plane".   They rose to 20,000 feet for maneuvers before descending for more.

At 15:00 the bell rang at Forestville Elementary School signifying the end of the school day and, on this paticular day, the end of the school year.  Parents picked up some of the kids, most of the walking students started walking home while some of them stayed to play with friends they might not see for 3 months, and those who rode the first of the three bus trips that were required to get students to and from school each day got on their bus. The rest of the students started playing in the large playground.

Some "moments" before 15:19,  the jets'  Adapter Drive Spline, which connects the engine to the hydraulic pump for the
normal flight control hydraulic system, sheared due to material failure.  This failed system controlled the Aileron and Elevator.  At this time Capt. Evans activated the  electrically driven alternate flight control hydraulic system..

At approximately 15:19, while approximately 30 miles southeast of Andrews AFB at an altitude about 7000 feet, Capt Evans radioed his student pilot that he was returning to base due to hydraulic failure and that he should continue his mission.

At about 15:21 Capt. Evans contacted the control tower asking for landing instructions and informing them he still had about 2500 pounds of fuel remaining and was operating on the alternate flight control system.  The tower radioed all planes in the area to stay out of the area for 5 minutes for an emergency landing and alerted the crash equipment to the end of runway 19.  Capt Evans then entered a normal overhead pattern for runway 19.
On the downwind leg he slowed down to 185 knots and lowered the flaps and landing gear.  About 7000' north of  the runway he turned onto base
leg at which time he discovered the alternate flight control hydraulic system had failed.  (This failure was caused by a short circuit in that system.)   This left him with only the throttle to control the aircraft.  On jet aircraft there is NO direct connection between the pilots' controls and the flight control surfaces.  Without hydraulics there is simply no way to operate the aileron or elevator.  His last transmission to the Control Tower was Negative Hydralics which, unfortunately, meant he was unable to execute the last turn he needed to make before landing.  This left him heading straight for the playground.

Seconds later the kids and teachers on the playground and those standing in line waiting to board the second of the three bus trips turned their heads towards the sound of a jet being way too low.  (The final approach for runway 19 is very close to being directly over the school itself so the students and teachers alike were very familiar with the sounds the different planes made as they took off or landed.)  He then ejected the canopy.   A second or so later he saw the playground full of kids.  Virtually everyone on the school property just froze in place with eyes fixed on the too low jet that had now come into view not too far above the treetops.  

At 15:23 Capt. Evans, 44 days shy of being 32, USAF jet fighter pilot, husband, father of a 3 year old daughter with their second child due in 3 months, made a fateful split second decision and pulled the throttle back hard and as soon as the jet was in a 45 degree dive (another split second) he pressed the eject button.  The ejection seat tumbled uncontrollably through the air at a 45 degree angle to the horizon and Capt. Evans was unable to pull the ripcord even after he and the seat separated (see ejection seat note below).
  Capt Evans had managed to crash the jet 30 feet into the woods.  The 30 feet of woods protected everyone from the flying pieces of the jet.  Had Capt. Evans taken one second to make his next to last split second decision, the jet would've crashed in the playground.  The ensuing explosion broke at least a third of the windows on the north side of  the school some 300 feet away.  No other building damage occurred.  No child, teacher or school employee on the ground was injured in any way.
 
USAF Capt. Francis Thomas Evans Jr. had achieved his #1 goal. 

Tragically, he was unable to achieve his secondary objective.  Captain Evans Jr. was 31 years old, leaving behind his wife, soon to be 2 daughters, father, mother and younger brother.

As the plaque above states, in part,

"... and will be remembered in thanks and gratitude by the children of this school and ...",

this writer can state unequivocally that everyone who witnessed Capt. Evans' heroic act has remembered to this day.

Accident Investigation Findings
All F-86D Sabre Jets were grounded pending completion of the accident investigation.
Ejection seats were to be improved to operate without tumbling during low altitude / non level flight ejections.
Determine a better metal for the Adapter Drive Spline.

Last Updated: February 9, 2009  0700 EST