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PILOT STORIES: McDonough, W. J.

Air Mail Service Began: May 12, 1920
Air Mail Service Ended: June 24, 1920
Assignments: College Park, Maryland
  May 19, 1920 - Cleveland, Ohio

W. J. McDonough was fired from the Air Mail Service after crashing a Curtiss R aircraft in June 1920 on a flight between Cleveland, Ohio and Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Fellow pilot Frederick Robinson spoke up for McDonough, arguing in a letter to Chief of Flying James C. Edgerton that if McDonough was fired because of the crash, "it seems to me that he received distinctly unfair treatment as, under the circumstances, the crash was almost unavoidable. R42 was one of the few ships of its kind which are properly build up i.e., rigged, so as to be properly balanced fore and aft when carrying about a 350 pound load. As a result it was almost impossible to touch 3 points on the ground at once . . . without the 350 pound load."

McDonough pleaded his own case in a letter he wrote to Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger on July 23, 1920. "Left Cleveland, Ohio 12:30 pm ferrying Curtiss R42 to Bellefonte, trailing [airmail pilot Glenn] Conrad in DH4 #89. I had never flown an "R" before. . . . Half an hour out of Cleveland we ran into an extremely violent rainstorm and I went down and landed satisfactorily at Shenango waited for storm to pass over and took off again. (Conrad landed later outside Brookville also owing to the storm.) I kept to the course as far as Brookville, and struck slightly south to pick up the Tyrone valley railroad into Bellefonte. As I was flying up the mountain valley from Tyrene, I encountered another severe storm and being unable to see the tops of the mountains I steered south again hoping to clear the storm this was not so and I was forced to descend in the valley 14 miles south of Tyrone. There was no field there large enough to land a machine safely in consequently in effecting a landing I rolled into a fence and tipped up onto my nose – damage done – landing gear struts, propeller, left and right bottom wings, and left top wing."

The letters made no difference, and McDonough's firing was permanent.

Telegram from Praeger confirming McDonough's dismissal  
   
Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) Telegram from Praeger confirming McDonough's dismissal
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