Monday, November 24, 2008

Early Bird, Part 6

The Lillie Flying School moved down to Kinloch Park in the fall of 1912, and then on to San Antonio, Texas, for the remainder of the winter. There, DeLloyd Thompson showed off for the locals, becoming the first person to fly over their city on Jan. 5. The next day, flying with Andrew Drew, he performed a spectacular spiral dive from 3,500 feet.

On March 16, 1913, the San Antonio Express reported, "Since Lincoln Beachey of Chicago has retired from the aviation game, San Antonio, in DeLloyd Thompson, claims the foremost aviator in the country." The next day, Dutch and Drew staged an exhibition of air "warfare," dropping "bombs" made of bags of flour and staging a dogfight. Later that day, Thompson would receive word of the death of his father in Kansas City.

A couple of weeks later, Max Lillie and Thompson packed the planes on a train and returned to Chicago while Drew remained for a while to cover the Mexican Revolution for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Shortly after Drew returned north, the following news report hit the Cicero fraternity hard:
"Lima, Ohio, June 12 – Andrew Drew, amateur aviator and pupil of Orville Wright, dashed to his death in a blazing aeroplane here tonight as a result of a 'little joy ride.'
"Drew fell 200 feet after being in the air but a short time. Drew shut off his motor and those waiting saw a red tongue of flame shoot from his machine as he fell to his death."

Two months later, while flying over Chicago, the propeller of Thompson's Day Tractor biplane snapped in two, damaging a wing. He was able to save his own life, however, by performing a maneuver he first executed with his late friend Drew. "Spiral Drop of 2,500 Feet Saves Aviator," read the headline in a Chicago newspaper on Aug. 2, 1913.

It would hardly be the last time that Dutch Thompson cheated Death.


Anonymous said...

Is the picture of a "spectacular spiral drop", or of, as the plane looks too close to the ground, some aviator about to crash?

Park Burroughs said...

Neither. I'll clarify, as much as I can. This photo is pasted in a scrapbook that Thompson's mother kept of his achievements. It was most likely taken at Kinloch Park, Mo., late in 1912, and shows Thompson making a dramatic, low-speed maneuver close to the ground.