STORIES: Ward, Earl F.
Mail Service Began:
||December 21, 1923
Mail Service Ended:
||August 31, 1927
On the night of October 2, 1926, Ward crashed
while trying to land his Douglas mail airplane #621 at Sunbury,
Pennsylvania's emergency airmail landing field. He filed
a forced landing report, but was asked for more information.
Ward was carrying mail along with a special package of film
footage of the World Series.
Ward provided his superiors with a two-page letter explaining the incident:
Left Hadley Field, New Brunswick at
10:25 P.M. October 2nd with 588 pounds of mail. Delayed
waiting for special World Series Files. Weather for Hadley
to Bellefonte Sector was doubtful but apparently flyable
provided no change for worse took place. After leaving Hadley
the first doubtful indications were found at Pickles Mountain
Light, where the light was revolving in masses of light
fog. Between Pickles Mountain and West Portal Lights this
layer of fog began to get solid, but lights could be seen
thru it dimly when directly over them. From Stewartsville
west there was a solid overcast which extended almost from
the ground up to about 3000 feet. In flying at sufficient
altitude to clear this I was bucking a strong head wind
and making from sixty five to seventy miles per hour ground
speed. All towns of any size were showing a glow thru the
clouds, making it easy to keep on the course.
At the Blue Ridge the top of the cloud
formation rose sharply to about six thousand feet yet thru
the occasional small holes could see it extended almost
to the ground. Upon striking these clouds started climbing
steadily and came out on top at 6000 feet. Proceeded west
and at Numidia top of clouds again dropped to about 3000
feet. From Numidid west the holes in the clouds became more
numerous and much larger although the Beacons were still
very dim. Passed Sundbury, where one red flare was showing.
At that time Sunbury and vicinity was clear, so judged the
"caution" flare was shown account Woodward weather.
At Hartleton the Beacon could be seen, also a red flare.
Was still at 3000 feet, which I increased to 3500 feet to
allow for possible error in altimeter. Upon reaching the
mountains the clouds again were piled high. Circled over
Hartleton while climbing to 6000 feet, then headed west
on the course again, climbing wide open. Reached 6000 feet
but was not yet above clouds when I ran out into a small
hole just over the Woodward Field. Came down to 1600 feet
in this hole – about 800 feet below surrounding mountains
and 400 feet above ground but could not see town of Millheim,
2 ½ miles west and 200 feet lower. (Attempted to
release flare to judge condition of Woodward Field but was
unable to trip the release.)
Decided it would be impossible to find
Bellefonte, as it was too low to fly under and at 8000 feet
the ship was near its ceiling and too "mushy"
for blind flying, so climbed to 3500 feet and flew blind
back over Woodward Mountains. Blind flying was very difficult
because of turbulence in clouds. Passed Hartleton, which
by that time was covered over by low clouds, which seemed
to be forming rather than blowing across the course. Continued
back to Sunbury, which by this time had become very foggy,
the town being covered, (also the south end of island) and
the Beacon on the hill revolving in fog, although the Field
itself was clear. Circled the Field and again tried to release
a flare but with no success. So swinging north up the river
to reach position for landing, a short distance north of
the Field struck a solid bank of fog and began a turn at
once, motor turning about 1200 R.P.M., and trying to maintain
same altitude and speed in order to be able to land in Field.
Had completed 180° turn when right wing caught tree
on west band of river, pulling airplane down, next striking
log in the edge of water and ending upside down in about
four feet of water about 50 feet from shore. Fuselage was
slightly on its side, upside down, permitting exit through
high side. Caught a box of films thrown out in crash and
climbed on fuselage. Remained there for one hour and forty
five minutes before boat arrived, sent by Sunbury Police
Department. Had talked to caretaker across water and had
him phone Bellefonte, also get boat.
Was assisted in salvaging mail by two
men who drove to scene. Was unable to find all boxes of
films. Manager Ingalls arrived from Bellefonte shortly after
we had landed the mail and took charge. Later on was brought
airplane by Pilot Chandler and I proceeded to Cleveland with
mail. Crash occurred at 1:55 A.M.
Injuries to Pilot – few minor
bruises and scratches.
Some of the film footage was later found, along
with Ward's extra set of clothes and some personal items,
by kids walking along the Susquehanna River shortly after