National Postal Museum logo
Top Image
Pilot StoriesHistoric PlanesAirmail Creates an IndustryObject ShowcaseHistory TimelineActivity ZoneFlight School
The Army Pilots
No Old, Bold, Pilots
>> The First Four
>> They Died Flying the Mail
>> Rest of the Best
Tales from 5000 ft.
Contract Pilots
Mail by Female
Pilot's Gear

PILOT STORIES: Stewart, Kenneth M.

Air Mail Service Began: August 11, 1920
Air Mail Service Ended: February 3, 1921
Assignments: College Park, Maryland
  September 7, 1920 - Chicago

Kenneth Stewart was killed on February 3, 1921 as he was flying twin-engine de Havilland airplane #130 just six miles away from the Minneapolis, Minnesota field. Stewart was flying with mechanic George Sampson and 160 pounds of mail. There had been some trouble with the first take-off, but Sampson warmed up the engine and the second take-off was perfect.

According to the reports of witnesses, when the airplane was about six miles out and across the Minnesota River, "at an altitude of probably 1500 feet, it was noticed that a right turn was made and then the ship was soon to come down, but not in a spin.

"We thought a landing was being made in one of the small fields in the hills and several mechanics and myself immediately started in a truck to render assistance if needed and to pick up the mail in case the airplane could not continue. Pilot Lee arrived at the Minneapolis field from LaCrosse in ship No. 10 a few minutes after our departure and he, with Chief Mechanic King as a passenger, flew to the point of forced landing.

"From the best evidence obtainable it appears that the left motor cut out after ten minutes flying and that Stewart attempted to return to the field. Mechanic Sampson says Stewart made a sharp turn to the right and gave opposite rudder with the result that the airplane side-slipped and went into a nose dive on the farm of August Goetzke.

"Mr. Goetzke was the first person to reach the airplane. He found Stewart dead in the pilot's pit and Sampson conscious in the rear pit. He took Sampson to a hospital in West Saint Paul, arriving there at 11:50 a.m. Sampson's left warm and left leg were broken but apparently he suffered no internal injuries. Today, Feb. 7th, the attending physician reports that his condition is very favorable."

Stewart's crash was one of several incidents that ultimately led the Post Office Department to abandon the twin de Havilland as a "horrible mistake."

Learn more about the de Havilland airplane.

Postal Museum | Smithsonian | Privacy | Terms of Use | Site MapBottom Navigation
Top of page link to homepage