STORIES: Vance, Clare K.
Mail Service Began:
||April 22, 1920
Mail Service Ended:
||June 31, 1920
||February 24, 1921
Mail Service Ended:
||June 30, 1927
||College Park, Maryland
||July 8, 1920 – St.
||February 24, 1921 –
College Park, Maryland
||March 16, 1921 – Chicago,
||July 1, 1921 – Reno,
||March 16, 1922 – San
||May 1, 1925 - Concord, California
In his years working for the Air Mail Service,
Clare Vance was one of the few air mail pilots who had flown
every East and West air mail route. He began at Washington,
D.C., in 1920. he spent 7,800 hours flying, 1,500 of them
at night. Prior to working for the Air Mail Service, Vance had joined the army aviation services on December
4, 1917. Overseas, he flew with the photographic squadrons,
and was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant.
Vance had a particularly rough trip in late
April 1921 when he flew through one of the worst storms seen
to that date between St. Louis, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois.
Vance left St. Louis at 11:07 a. m. and arrived in Maywood
3:45 p. m., standard time. The flight usually takes only slightly
more than two hours. The weather in St. Louis was slightly
windy but was not thought to be heavy. But -- Twenty miles out of St. Louis, however, Vance found himself facing a sixty-five mile
gale that almost held the ship stationary. When reaching Maywood
field Pilot Vance was so stiff from the cold he had to be
lifted from the cockpit. The airplane was entirely covered with
ice and sleet collected on the trip.
week later, Vance was hit be another storm on his Chicago
– St. Louis airmail route. This time, he flew into a
hail storm so heavy that he had to turn back to Chicago instead
of going on to St. Louis. The hail stones were so large and
coming at such a high velocity that they tore holes in the
wing and pock-marked the airplane's propeller.
Vance was one of several U.S. Air Mail Service
pilots who sought jobs with private carriers once the service
was turned over to contractors. After having survived tremendous
storms and forced landings during his years with the U.S.
Air Mail Service, Vance was killed on December 17, 1932, while
flying the mail for United Air Lines. Two days later, the
Washington Post ran an
article describing Vance's life and tragic death.
CLAIR VANCE DIES IN
CRASH IN CALIFORNIA
Body Found in Wrecked airplane; Hit Mountain in Heavy Fog.
WIFE OF NOTED PILOT COLLAPSES AT HOME
Son Born to Her 6 Weeks Ago; Airman Started Flying Here
Danville, Calif., Dec. 18 (AP). Claire Kinsey Vance,
35, veteran air mail pilot, rode to a flaming death against
the summit of Rocky Ridge, four miles west of Danville,
last night. His body was found today in the charred wreckage
of his airplane.
Vance, fifth ranking air mail pilot in the
United States, started his flying career with the Army of
the World War and served in France with Quentin Roosevelt,
son of the former President, who was shot down behind the
Alone in a two-passenger airplane, Vance left
Oakland Airport at 11:45 p.m. last night with his cargo
of air mail for the East. Fears for his safety were first
raised after he failed to report by radio to receive instructions
concerning the weather ahead.
Few Feet Meant Life
A scant ten feet more of elevation would have taken the
airplane safely over the ridge, which is about 2,000 feet high.
It was the last between him and the level Sacramento Valley.
C. E. Johnson, vice president of the United
Air Lines, accompanied the foot party to the wrecked airplane
after it had been sighted from the air. He expressed the
opinion Vance was "flying blind" because of
a fog and was depending on his instruments to give him the
Mrs. Vance, the former Miss Lucille Williamson,
San Francisco public school teacher, lay in a state of collapse
at the Vance home in Alameda. A son, Richard, was born to
her six weeks ago.
Time after time Vance had brushes with death, and won.
Outside his World War flying, one of his most
sensational experiences was the day after Thanksgiving,
1923, when a snowstorm forced him down in practically the
wildest part of Placer County, Calif., on the banks of the
upper reaches of the American River, where he undertook
to "pancake" his airplane and landed in a manzanita
Veteran in Mail Service
With four matches to his pocket he started out for help.
Night caught him. He crawled into a hollow stump, built
a fire and kept himself awake until daylight. Then he reached
the ghost mining town of Last Chance, routed out a prospector
and his burros, went back to the airplane for his mail, and
reached civilization 48 hours after the crash.