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PILOT STORIES: Charles Ames

Charles Ames' first assignment was to the College Park, Maryland airfield, the Washington, D.C., terminus of the New York – Washington flyway. On February 15, 1921, Ames was transferred to Hazelhurst Field on Long Island, New York, where he stayed for about five months before being transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. Airmail officials kept Ames on the move. He was at Cleveland only three months before being transferred back to Hazelhurst on September 1, 1922. Two months later, he found himself back at Cleveland. At the time of his death, Ames was flying out of Hadley Field, New Jersey. During his years of airmail service, Ames flew 132, 739 miles, logging 1334 hours in the air.

In his almost five-year career as a pilot, Ames had his share of forced landings, including a particularly frightening one on September 26, 1922. While flight testing a de Havilland airplane out of Hazelhurst Field, New York, Ames reported that "the con rod in cylinder number four, right, broke, one piece going through the crank case and starting the motor on fire while in the air." Flying over Westbury, New York, at the time, Ames responded well to the crisis. "After cutting motor and turning on pressure pyrene tank [fire extinguisher], I landed the ship ok in plowed rolling field and tried to put out fire with my hand pyrene, which was impossible. When the flames reached center section and gravity tank I left ship which burned to the ground."

Ames' luck ran out on October 1, 1925 when his de Havilland airplane crashed in the mountains near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He had taken off at 9:40 p.m. from Hadley Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey for the regular night flight to Bellefonte. The watchman at the Hartleton, Pennsylvania, an emergency airmail landing field twenty miles east of Bellefonte, reported he heard the airplane flying overhead 11:35 that night. That was the last report of Ames and his airplane before the crash. At first airmail officials thought that Ames had probably made a forced landing and would contact them by telephone, as required. When no word was heard from him by the next morning, a search was organized for the missing flyer.

The search for Ames and his airplane took several days and was the focus of attention across the northeast. On October 6, a reporter for the Washington Post working out of nearby Clarion, Pennsylvania, updated readers on the search.

"Practically all the activities in connection with the search for Charles H. Ames, air mail pilot, missing since Thursday night, were shifted to Clarion tonight after another fruitless day's work by the hundreds of volunteers on foot and a dozen Government aviators engaged in the hunt.

"About 300 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, mobilized at the request of Gov. Pinchot, arrived here tonight and will join in the search tomorrow.

"Carl F. Egge, Superintendent of the Air Mail Service, who had been maintaining headquarters at Bellefonte, also arrived tonight and will direct the work from here. Others gathering at the Clarion to aid in the hunt included four veteran fliers of the New York to Chicago Air Mail Service, who were ordered here from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

"Twelve airplanes swept back and fourth over a wide area west of Clarion today, while nearly a thousand volunteers explored the deep ravines, climbed the lofty peaks and tramped through the thick underbrush of the mountainous section for miles. No trace of the last flier or his airplane were found.

"Superintendent Egge feels confident that the missing pilot was forced down west of this place and would be found alive within a day or so, probably between here and Kennerdell, Venango County, an extremely rugged section.

"With the aid of the State troops, some of whom are mounted, strong hope was held tonight that the long hung would end tomorrow. Not much hope remained, however, that he would be found alive.

"The search for Ames in Stone Mountain, north of Huntingdon, W. Va., where raccoon hunters reported having heard a terrific crash Thursday night, was abandoned today when scores of volunteers found it impossible to penetrate the thickets."

The next day, the Pilots' Association of America offered a $500 reward for anyone who could find their missing pilot. Another $500 was offered by the air mail pilots and a personal friend of Charles Ames. Ames' body was found on October 11, still strapped inside his downed airplane. He had crashed through trees into the north side of a ridge in the Nittany mountains. Ames had apparently been flying low, possibly becoming lost in a dense fog.

Ames appeared to have been killed instantly on impact. The airplanes' wings had been destroyed when the airplane crashed into the trees. The trees were so close that they covered the ship, making it almost impossible to locate.

Practically all the activities in connection with the search for Charles H. Ames, air mail pilot, missing since Thursday night, were shifted to Clarion tonight after another fruitless day's work by the hundreds of volunteers on foot and a dozen Government aviators engaged in the hunt.

About 300 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, mobilized at the request of Gov. Pinchot, arrived here tonight and will join in the search tomorrow.

Carl F. Egge, Superintendent of the Air Mail Service, who had been maintaining headquarters at Bellefonte, also arrived tonight and will direct the work from here. Others gathering at the Clarion to aid in the hunt included four veteran fliers of the New York to Chicago Air Mail Service, who were ordered here from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Twelve airplanes swept back and fourth over a wide area west of Clarion today, while nearly a thousand volunteers explored the deep ravines, climbed the lofty peaks and tramped through the thick underbrush of the mountainous section for miles. No trace of the last flier or his airplane were found.

Superintendent Egge feels confident that the missing pilot was forced down west of this place and would be found alive within a day or so, probably between here and Kennerdell, Venango County, an extremely rugged section.

With the aid of the State troops, some of whom are mounted, strong hope was held tonight that the long hung would end tomorrow. Not much hope remained, however, that he would be found alive.

The search for Ames in Stone Mountain, north of Huntingdon, W. Va., w h ere raccoon hunters reported having heard a terrific crash Thursday night, was abandoned today when scores of volunteers found it impossible to penetrate the thickets.

Click here to go back to the Short Summary of Charles Ames.

Ames facing away from camera and Wesley Smith pose with parachutes Clipping regarding the hunt for Ames
  Clipping Ames sought in vain
Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) Ames facing away from camera & Wesley Smith pose with parachutes

(top right) Clipping regarding the hunt for Ames

(bottom right) Clipping Ames sought in vain
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