PILOT STORIES: Charles
Charles Lamborn's first assignment was
to Belmont Park, Long Island, New York. The next month, he was transferred to the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania airfield. The
33-year old Los Angeles-born Lamborn was carrying 404 pounds
of mail in his de Havilland airplane #82 when he left the
Bellefonte field at 10:20 a.m. on July 19, 1919. He passed
through fog, low clouds and even heavy rain without incident.
He passed low through a gap in the mountains between Bellefonte
and Milesburg. He then had to climb high into the clouds to
make it over Snowshoe Mountain.
Lamborn lost his visual references and became
disoriented. When his airplane came out of the clouds too low,
Lamborn was unable to recover. He crashed at 10:40 am in Dicks
Run valley, eight miles from Bellefonte. People heard the
airplane's motor going on and off as Lamborn circled
over the valley. The pilot broke both ankles, ribs, and his
collar bone and died from shock on the way to the hospital
without regaining consciousness.
Air Mail Supervisor Charles Stanton, accompanied
by pilots Max Miller and David Logg, conducted an investigation
of the crash, interviewing four witnesses and examining the
wreckage. They determined that the ship was "clearly
out of control at the time it struck, for there was open ground
within two hundred yards of the wreck at angle of about thirty
degrees to the left from the direction of the ship, and there
was a large open place seventy degrees to the right wherein
a landing could have been effected without more serious accident
than tripping over bushes or fences." The switches were
on, which indicated "that the pilot was not expecting
to land, or to crash, since it is always customary to throw
off both switches in making a forced landing in bad ground
. . . in order to lessen the danger of fire in case of a
crash." Lamborn was 33 years old when he died.
A stone memorial commemorating Lamborn, reading "Lt. Charles W. Lamborn, U.S. Airmail Service Crashed Here July 19, 1919," was placed near the area where he crashed.
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