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PILOT STORIES: Brown, Howard C.*

Air Mail Service Began: July 20, 1920
Air Mail Service Ended: December 6, 1923
Assignment: College Park, Maryland
  August 4, 1920 – Cleveland, Ohio
  August 16, 1920 – Chicago, Illinois

Howard C. Brown was born in Moxahala, Ohio on September 15, 1890. He married Martha M. Tibbetts on June 15, 1921. Brown had graduated from West Virginia University and was an electrical engineer with Western Pennsylvania Power Company from 1914 to 1917. Later that year, he worked as an engineering designer at Diesher & Sons, followed by a stint in the same position at Stone and Webster from 1919 to 1920.

Brown attended Princeton ground school in 1918. He was a flying cadet at Love Field, and then took bombing training in 1918. Brown served in the army from 1917 to 1919.

On August 1, 1922, Brown, representing the Air Mail Pilots of America, wrote to Second Assistant Postmaster General Paul Henderson, who was in charge of the airmail service, regarding an "Omaha Bee" article which quoted Henderson as saying the airmail pilots were a "temperamental lot accustomed to too much freedom in the army, and in my opinion over paid." Brown said that he and the other pilots were understandably livid at the quotation and wanted to know what Henderson was up to. In his defense, Henderson denied ever saying anything like that, and charged that the paper's reporter had made up the quotation for circulation.

While making an emergency landing on February 26, 1923, Brown tore down two fences, in all about 250 feet of wire and posts. His aircraft then ran into a soft and muddy wheat field where it became stuck. Mr. Klenke, the owner of the property, helped Brown dig out his plane, get it back into shape and even helped him take off again. The postal service received a bill from Klenke for $30.90 for the damage Brown's landing made to the farm.

On December 6, 1923, Brown was flying de Havilland airmail airplane #318 from Cleveland to Chicago in relatively clear weather. At 10:30 a.m., W. H. Sedgwick, a postal employee at Castalia, Ohio, watched as Brown's airplane tumbled to the ground and crashed and burned. Badly injured and burned, Brown survived the crash and was taken to a Sandusky, Ohio hospital. He was able to talk about the crash before dying of his injuries.

Following the crash, investigators learned that Brown had spoken to the local postmaster when asked if they should notify anyone. Brown responded, "Tell my wife the control broke and I got a bump. I am injured but not badly. Have a broken leg and will not be out for few days. She may come here but its not necessary for I am all right." Later, to a pair of airmail mechanics, he said, "I am not so bad; I guess I have a broken leg and my nose is gone. Something went wrong with the control assembly. I thought I could make Bryan. The universal control broke and I lost control of my ailerons and elevator. I had a ceiling of between 200 – 300 feet." Howard Brown died at about 5:30 p.m. that evening following an internal hemorrhage.

Howard C. Brown  
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