MAIL PILOT SACRIFICED LIFE TO SAVE OTHERS
1921, Plain-Dealer Forced to seek a landing in
downtown Cleveland by engine trouble and unable to see because
of a dense fog, Air Mail Pilot J.T. Christensen (James Tinus)
yesterday afternoon sacrificed his life rather than attempt
a landing in a street -- a course which would have endangered
the lives of many people. Facing death, he struggled for
fifteen minutes to find a landing place before the crash scene.
James Tinus Christensen
The pilot fell
200 feet to the Erie railroad tracks at Scranton and University
roads S.W., almost under Central viaduct. His airplane
was reduced to a mass of tangled wreckage, the gasoline tank
exploded and the fire which followed burned the pilot's body,
caught under the debris.
engine missing, searched back and forth over the southern portion
of Cleveland for a vacant lot in which to land. He flew
low, barely missing the tops of some buildings. Many person
stood on the street and watched. They said his engine
seemed to be missing, and to the observers it was evident he
was in straits.
Once he skirted
over a vacant lot into which he might have dropped, but did
not see it because of the fog. He tried once to rise,
but was unable to attain enough altitude to allow him to continue
When he was directly
over the Cuyahoga river he flew upstream, presumably intending
to drop into the river, but Central viaduct suddenly loomed
ahead and he was forced to return.
Central viaduct and the high level bridge, he circled upstream
once more, flying at the height of the viaduct until suddenly
his engine appeared to fall entirely and he fell, the plane
striking on its nose among the piles alongside the railway tracks.
by 25 Feet
Aviators say that
if he had dropped into the river, twenty-five feet away, his
life would have been saved.
The aviator's battle
for life was watched by hundreds who were attracted by the roaring
of the motor.
His flying mates,
who declare he was one of the most skillful of air mail pilots,
say that in the fog he could not have been able to see beyond
Unable to get his
engine to run properly, they declare, he was forced to look
for a way out of his difficulty.
The only paths
open were to attempt a street landing, with great danger to
vehicles and lives, to find a vacant lot, an attempt which he
made and failed in, or to drop into the river. They say
that he was trying to descend into the river, feeling his way
in the fog, when the crash came.
making his first trip on the Chicago to Cleveland route.
He was transferred recently to that division from the Cleveland
to New York route.
He told friends
when he was transferred that it was exactly the assignment he
wanted. The plane he was flying was a converted De Haviland.
was 31 years old. His home was in Maywood, Chicago, but
he maintained a room with Carl Krumhar.
...He was well
known here, having flown at the first aerial tournament held
in Cleveland at Woodland Hills park, Aug. 15 to Aug. 25, 1919.
He married two
years ago in Cleveland Miss Lena Davis. He met Miss David
while she was attending Dana College, Blair, Neb. The
couple took an airplane honeymoon trip from Cleveland to Akron
and other Ohio cities.
is visiting relatives in Nebraska and no one was at home at
the little cottage near the Maywood air field in Chicago when
reporter called there last night.
The dead aviator
was one of the best flyers in the service, heads of the mail
flying department said. He held three speed records.
On Dec. 30, 1920,
he startled the commercial flying world by taking mail from
Chicago to New York, 741 miles, in five hours and thirty-one
minutes, averaging 117 miles an hour from Chicago to Cleveland
and 151 miles an hour from Cleveland to New York. Another
record was established when he flew a De Haviland from Omaha
to Chicago in two hours and forty-five minutes.
Knew Air Currents
supremacy in the air mail service lay, according to officials,
in his knowledge of winds. He knew that the winds varied
at different altitudes and always jockeyed up and down until
he found the most favorable current.
He was taught to
fly at the old Curtiss flying school at Norfolk, Virginia, before
the war. When the war broke out he joined the army as
a civilian instructor and was sent to Gerstner field, Lake Charles,
LA. He later was given the rank of second lieutenant and
became instructor in stunt flying at which he was expert.
After three years
in the army he was discharged in the spring of 1919 and did
civilian flying at Erie Beach, Erie, Pa. He came to Cleveland
to fly at the Woodland Hills tournament and then joined the
He flew on the
Chicago-to-Omaha division, then was transferred to the Cleveland-New
York route and recently to the Cleveland-Chicago route.