STORIES: Vanatta, Elmer R.
Mail Service Began:
||August 5, 1920
Mail Service Ended:
||April 22, 1921
||College Park, Maryland
||October 16, 1920 –
On August 25, 1920, only a few weeks after joining
the service, Vanatta lost his way while flying to College
Park, Maryland, and landed several miles off course. He telegrammed
his flight and location to Air Mail Service headquarters.
Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger responded
in his usual brusque manner, writing, "stay with ship until you
can get same off safely. Fly ship to College Park without
getting lost again or it will mean your separation."
Vanatta finished the trip without getting lost a second time.
On March 30, Vanatta was flying de Havilland
#85 from Cleveland, Ohio to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, when
engine problems caused him to make a forced landing at Kersey,
Pennsylvania. In his report, Vanatta described the flight.
"The airplane and motor worked perfect [after takeoff],
but after flying for one hour and fifteen minutes, I noticed
the air pressure going down fast, so turned on the gravity
and landed. After landing tried to investigate the trouble
but could find no leak in the lines anywhere. After being
on the ground fifteen minutes, the pressure started coming
up again, and I took off. It then worked alright and continued
to do so for the next fifty-five minutes when it went down
again causing another forced landing at Kersey, Pa. I was
on the ground at that place for five minutes, when the pressure
started coming up again, and I tried to get off, but due to
the different air currents and light air, the machine would
not takeoff the way it should, and when it finally did get
off, the motor cut out and the tail surface caught on a tree
causing the airplane to wreck."
"Damage done to the airplane – four
wings broken, radiator, propeller, four front longerons, stabilizer,
elevators and rudder. The motor apparently is alright."
The next month, on April 22, 1921, Elmer Vanatta
was violating the Air Mail Service's anti-stunting rules
when he put on a show for spectators at Mitchel Field, New
York. Vanetta took off in a de Havilland, and tried a 180-degree
vertical turn 50 feet off the ground. His airplane side-slipped,
hooked a wing and crashed, killing Vanatta.