Niagara Gazette


March 26, 2012

Aviation enthusiast, author, seeks family of pilot killed in Lake Ontario crash

NIAGARA FALLS — Truman Partridge is on the hunt once more.

The aviation enthusiast is always looking for something — or someone connected to local flight history.

This time Partridge has been contacted by a California author to help find the daughters of a chief test pilot for Bell Aircraft   killed in a flight test in May of 1953.

The pilot, Jean “Skip” Ziegler was testing an experimental rocket plane called the Bell X2 over Lake Ontario when an explosion   occurred and the aircraft fell out of the mothership, along with Ziegler and his flight observer. The men and the plane fell   30,000 feet into the lake. Neither the plane nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered.

The author, George Marrett, whose book on Howard Hughes won him a spot as a technical advisor for the movie, “The Aviator,”   contacted Partridge after reading the online media accounts of the Angola man’s search for the remains of a Bell P-39 Airacobra   which crashed in 1946 off the shore of Lake Ontario north of Youngstown.

“We’d like to find the widow or the daughters of the pilot killed in the explosion,” said Partridge, who has helped at least   a half dozen authors seeking information on local aviation history.

Marrett, reached at his home in California, said he’s hoping to interview the daughters about their father. “They were too small to experience much themselves, but they would know their mother’s reaction and explain to me so I can do the writing   about their father,”he said.

A former test pilot himself, Marrett has written four books on aviation history. For his fifth book he’s already been in touch   with a widow whose husband set a world altitude record in another Bell X2 (the only other that was built), but who then died   two weeks later in another test flight accident.

“The real story may be how these women picked up the pieces of their lives and moved on,” he said.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of any of “Skip’s” family can contact Truman Partridge at 549-1954 or by email   at

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