Mail Service Began:
||December 21, 1918
Mail Service Ended:
||May 25, 1919
||Belmont Park, New York
||Feb 16, 1919 – College
||May 10, 1919 – Belmont
Park, New York
||May 15, 1919 - Cleveland,
Frank McCusker spent his airmail service career
on various routes of the Eastern Division between New York
and Cleveland. On May 25, 1919, shortly after takeoff from
the Cleveland field, smoke was spotted coming from his airplane.
McCusker seemed to try and fight the fire in the air, but
could not halt its progress. At this time, parachutes had
not yet become standard equipment in airmail airplanes and McCusker
faced the choice of burning to death or jumping. He chose
to jump. He fractured his skull and neck on the airplane's
The New York Times
recorded the story of McCusker's death.
LEAPS TO DEATH AS
Mail Air Pilot Seen by Hundreds in Plunge of 200 Feet.
Cleveland, May 25.—Hundreds of persons saw Frank McCusker
of New York, pilot of a mail airplane, leap 200 feet to
his death from a burning machine here today. Fifteen minutes
before he had announced that he would attempt to establish
a record on his flight to Chicago.
The cause of the accident is not known. Witnesses
saw puffs of black smoke come from the rear of the Dehavilland.
When the machine was at a height of between 200 and 400
feet McCusker was seen to climb from his seat to the frame.
Then the airplane plunged and the pilot was seen to leap.
The empty machine flew forward 200 yards before it plunged
to the ground. McCusker was alive when picked up. He died
in a police patrol while being taken to a hospital. His
skull was fractured and his neck broken.
McCusker was formerly in the British naval
flying corps, inspector of Dehavilland airplanes at Elizabeth,
New Jersey, and instructor at the United States aviation field
in Texas. His is said to be the first fatality since the
inauguration of the government airplane service. Superintendent
J. W. Jordan, of the Chicago-Cleveland air mail service,
arranged for the care of the body and then started Pilot
Lester Bishop to Chicago with the mail, which escaped [the]
† Carl B. Smith, who was killed in a crash in New Jersey on December 16, 1918, had the dubious distinction
of being the first postal pilot killed on the job.