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PILOT STORIES: Warde, Wilfred B.

Air Mail Service Began: October 25, 1920
Air Mail Service Ended: March 7, 1921
Assignments: College Park, Maryland
  November 16, 1920 – Hazelhurst Field, New York

Wilfred Warde's career as an airmail pilot was a few short months. His performance did not greatly impress his superiors. He made a forced landing on February 2, 1921 near Greeneville, Pennsylvania that left his field manager and the superintendent of the Air Mail Service questioning his skills and judgment.

On February 3, 1921, Warde filed this report of his forced landing in de Havilland airplane #39:

The reason for my forced landing two miles West of Greeneville on Smith's Stock Farm, Feb. 2nd, was due to the motor overheating. I selected a very good field but in landing I couldn't pull the wheel control back sufficient to get the tail down. As a result the landing gear hit the ground too hard and gave way. However, the four rear struts of the landing gear did not break and finally dug into the ground causing the ship to turn over on her back.

I had to fly about two hundred feet above the ground as the clouds were very low. Visibility was bad on account of snow and haze. The mail was trained on #8 on the Penn. R.R. leaving Greeneville at 2:30. I made arrangements for an end-door box car and the agent is to notify Cleveland upon arrival of car. No damage was done to crops as the field was frozen.

Parts broken on ship were: -- Front struts of landing gear, all four wings slightly, radiator, propeller. Belief fuselage is O.K.

Warde's boss, J. E. Whitbeck, Superintendent of the New York – Cleveland Division, and Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger, found no fault with Warde's determination to keep the mail moving, but questioned the reason for his forced landing.

On February 9, Otto Praeger wrote to Whitbeck, noting Warde's "excuse for the wreck that he could not pull the wheel back and as a result the ship hit the ground in a flying position instead of in a landing position. It is the belief of this office that this is no reason at all and a very poor excuse. This office has been watching the work of this particular pilot for some time and it is believed that his services can be dispensed with without detriment to the service."

Warde was fired, but tried later that year to get his job back. He wrote to Praeger on October 19, 1921.

"Sir: As a former Air Mail Pilot I would appreciate a review of my case.

I have never been able to really find out why I was released.

I believe if my record is compared with the records of some of the pilots who were on the New York – Cleveland Division it will compare favorably or perhaps better than some of the other records. At the time I was on that run the ships were in pretty bad condition and quite a few were smashed up. I realized the condition they were in and quite often returned to the field of departure as in my judgment they were not capable of getting thru without a forced landing and possible wreck in the hills of Pennsylvania. As long as a ship was in fair condition I would always get thru no matter what the weather even with a few forced landings thrown in for good measure.

My flying record in the Army was always very satisfactory as any of my commanding officers will vouch for, and had always thought my record was O.K. until my release came thru without any warning and I was dropped without any appropriate excuse, from the Air Mail Service.

Hoping that I may get some justice I still offer my services to the Air Mail Service as Pilot and hope to be flying the Mails again someday for the Post Office Department."

Despite his pleas, Warde did not work again as a U.S. Air Mail Pilot after his original dismissal.

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