Richard W. Higgins

Richard W. Higgins
Born (1922-08-21)August 21, 1922
Framingham, Massachusetts
Died April 5, 1957(1957-04-05) (aged 34)
Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
Allegiance United States Air Force
Rank Major (posthumously awarded)
Unit 7330th Flying Training Wing

Richard W. Higgins (1922–1957) was a jet pilot with the United States Army Air Forces. A member of the 7330th Flying Training Wing in Germany, Higgins died in an aircraft accident. He is cited as one of four examples in bravery in the history of the German Air Force.[1]


Early life and career

Higgins was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. He gave up his studies at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont to become a pilot of the USAAF. In early 1944 he married his wife Elisabeth, shortly afterwards he received his wings.[2]

After a brief period as a civilian after World War II, he joined the USAF again as fighter pilot in 522d Fighter-Escort Squadron in the Korean War.[3]

Fürstenfeldbruck and Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base

In 1957 the family resided in Fürstenfeldbruck in Southern Germany.[4] In August 1957 son Tuck was aged nine, daughter Blair six and baby Peter was born in Fürstenfeldbruck in 1956. ref name="jabo49"/>

Fürstenfeldbruck had been the site of an Air Base since 1936. The Fliegerhorst was used by the Luftwaffe before and during World War II. After World War II the United States Air Force the 70th Fighter Wing took over the facilities. In 1955 the French, British and American occupation of Germany ended and permission was given to the West German government to re-establish its armed forces. In 1957 Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base became a joint-use facility with the new West German Air Force. Starting in November 1953, the 7330th Flying Training Wing was activated at Fürstenfeldbruck. Its mission was to provide upgrading and instructor training for students of MAP (Mutual Assistance Pact) – recipient countries in T-33 trainers; to operate and maintain Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base; provide administrative and logistical support for tenant units; prepare for the reception and provide necessary support for tactical units using Fürstenfeldbruck as a staging base; and to operate and maintain the Siegenburg gunnery range.

Captain Higgins was an experienced member of the 7330th Flying Training Wing with a total flight log of 2476 hours, therefrom 670 hours on F-84F.[4]

The Accident

A German F84-F like what Higgins flew on the fateful day

Higgins was asked to take over a maintenance flight as stand-in for another pilot on duty. The German F-84F of Waffenschule der Luftwaffe 30 with registration BA-102 had logged only 103 flight hours and had been taken over by the Luftwaffe on November 13, 1956 from the USAF. Shortly after take-off at 1049 from runway 10 the engine caught fire. Higgins turned right for a short pattern, which crossed parts of the city, not higher than 300 meters. Although he got the advice to eject, he steered his descending jet into downwind and the right base of the pattern, keeping it away from the town. He ejected in about 80 meters over the forest near Rothschwaige – 2 minutes and 18 seconds after leaving the runway. Due to the low-level eject he died close to the crash site of the jet.[2]

The crash was the first accident with a German F-84F. The engine failure was caused by broken turbine blades in the forth stage high-pressure compressor.


Ten days after the accident "Richard - Higgins - Straße" in Fürstenfeldbruck was named after Captain Higgins. Higgins was promoted Major by the USAF.[1]

On April 5, 2000 Gebäude 227 (building 227) at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base was named "Captain Higgins Gebäude" - his widow Elisabeth and daughter Blair attended the ceremony 43 years after Richard W. Higgins death.[2]

At Christmas 2002 an elementary school in Fürstenfeldbruck changed its name to "Richard-Higgins-Volksschule". The new name was approved by the Bavarian State Minister for Education and Cultural Affairs Monika Hohlmeier.[2]


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