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Francis Gary Powers dies in helicopter crash

Francis Gary Powers dies in helicopter crash

Aug. 1, 1977: Scene where KNBC chopper crashed killing former U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers.

The next morning, Times staff writer Dale Fetherling reported:

Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot whose capture by the Russians in 1960 sparked an international furor, died Monday when his television station helicopter crashed in a field in Encino.

Another KNBC employee, George Spears, 43, died with the 47-year-old Powers as the pair returned from covering a brushfire north of Santa Barbara.

The $500,000 Channel 4 “telecopter” came to rest upside down in a plowed field at the Sepulveda Dam Recreational Area at 12:38 p.m.

“It’s really ironic,” one FAA investigator said, “that after his experiences over Russia as a U-2 pilot, Powers gets killed by flying a helicopter over a field.”…

He had served nearly two years of a 10-year sentence for espionage when he was freed in exchange for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.

Powers have been captured in May 1960, when, as a civilian pilot for the CIA, his high-altitude U-2 spy plane was shot down while 1,200 miles deep into Soviet territory…

Powers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. For more on Powers, check out this June 8, 2012, Los Angeles Times story by Richard Simon: U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, downed by USSR, to get Silver Star.

This photo above, by retired staff photographer Joe Kennedy, was published on Page One of the Aug. 2, 1977, Los Angeles Times.

July 21, 1971: Francis Gary Powers working as an airborne traffic reporter for a Los Angeles radio station. This photo was published in the Aug. 2, 1977, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Associated Press


  1. September 8, 2014, 2:27 am

    There was a clip on YouTube(since taken down as I cannot find it anymore)of, I believe it was, Jess Marlow on KNBC talking about the deaths of Powers and Spears on that afternoon's newscast. He was really broken up, nearly losing it on the air.

    By: Alma
  2. October 24, 2015, 2:40 pm

    I remember watching Jess Marlow. What struck me was that Marlow, like I, myself, thought it peculiar that his helicopter…RAN OUT OF FUEL… I didn't believe it, then. I don't believe it, now. Mr. Marlow certainly seemed incredulous, too. Smells mighty "fishy", even now.

    By: Paula

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