STORIES: Sherlock, Harry C.
Mail Service Began:
||February 12, 1920
Mail Service Ended:
||March 30, 1920
||College Park, Maryland
||March 15, 1920 – Newark,
||March 20, 1920 – Bellefonte,
Pilot Harry Sherlock's Air Mail Service
career was cut short by a crash at Heller Field in Newark,
New Jersey. Prior to that incident, Sherlock had come face
to face with the strict, unforgiving rules of Second Assistant
Postmaster General Otto Praeger's management. The pilot
was penalized 10 flying hours for what was termed "poor
judgment in making landing at College Park on March 11, 1920."
Sherlock was told at that time that "this matter will
be given consideration at the time [you are] up for first
On March 30, 1920, Sherlock was flying de Havilland
#72 from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania to Newark, New Jersey. His
airplane was sighted around 2:45 pm at 3,000 feet, according to an official report after the crash. "Pilot circled
field once to lose altitude and had about hundred fifty feet
altitude over Tiffany's factory, at the east end of
field and was gunning motor preparing to make a landing, hitting
stack directly in center of motor at a speed of about eighty
miles per hour. Ship collapsed and nosed down between fence
and concrete cupale, wrecking ship completely. Pilot Sherlock
was carried out by the boys of the field, assisted by men
from the factory and died being carried from ship to dispensary
of that factory. Being present at the coroners visit was informed
that he had a broken nose, broken neck, broken jaw, both collar
bones broken and three ribs shattered over the heart."
grieving mother wrote to Praeger, speaking for her son and
other airmail pilots when she complained about the wretched
conditions of Heller Field and the lack of condolences from
postal officials to her on her son's death. "We
have waited word from Washington to see what you intended
doing in this matter but up to this date, have not heard from
you, neither have we received one line of sympathy from your
"As everyone seems to know, the approach
to Heller Field is a death-trap for aviators and we feel we
would like to see that Field discontinued for the safety of
future Air Pilot's lives, even though we have lost our
own son through someone's disgraceful neglect. Sunday
afternoon, we were over at the Field and we are of the opinion
that it is a most unappropriate [sic] and dangerous landing
place for any Aviator, no matter how expert he might be as
a flyer and we feel that it is just a miracle for any pilot
to land safely."
"It seems very dreadful that Pilot Sherlock
should have gone through the War safely and then to have met
his death in this terrible way, and more especially on account
of the Government allowing such a Field to be used by their
employees at this time."
"We feel, therefore, that something should
be done to compensate us for this frightful happening and
we would be glad to hear from you at your earliest convenience."
Praeger's single page response detailed
the various roads to financial compensation Mrs. Sherlock
could pursue, and ended with a paragraph expressing his condolences
at the death of her son, "while our acquaintance with
him was rather brief, nevertheless he endeared himself to
all with whom he came in contact by his sunny disposition
and pleasant manner."
Praeger's letter did not address a single
concern about the dreadful conditions of Heller Field.