UNSEEN OBSTACLE BROUGHT DOWN YOUNG AIR
Watercolor by Mike Newcomer from NewksArt.com
On September 20, 1920 U.S. Air Mail Service pilot
Frederick A. Robinson took off from Hampstead, New York bound for
Cleveland in a de
Havilland-4H, #31697 carrying 14 bags of mail. The U. S. Post Office
by then had been
flying the mail for 27 months, but it had not been a happy time for the new
service. Since its inauguration on May 15, 1918, eleven pilots, one
divisions superintendent, four mechanics, one clerk and one helper had
lost their lives in fatal crashes.
Robinson likely gave that depressing statistic scant
concern on his scheduled route from New York to Cleveland with a refueling stop in Bellefonte, PA. He was a young, 22 years old pilot who thrilled spectators with his
That day the flying weather was far from ideal; heavy fog covered much
of the route. Somewhere northeast of Harrisburg, PA, Robinson lost
sight of the ground, railroad tracks and other navigational markers he
Flying low because of the bad weather, he eventually picked up the Susquehanna River north
of Harrisburg and followed it north toward Millersburg.
Two telephone poles, one-eighth of a mile from
Millersburg, spanned the river from Berrys Mt.on the east side to Mt.
Patrick on the west side. Unaware of their presence, Robinson
tangled into their heavy cables, loss control and slammed into the east shore of the
river bank and died.
Left: Cables were strung across river to towers on hill tops, left and
right. Right: Robinson's plane
In honor of Robinson, a small airfield was
built about 1 1/2 miles east of Millersburg near Rt. 209 named Robinson
Field. It was officially dedicated on July 13, 1930.
The population of Millersburg at this time was around 2000, but they
estimated the crowd at 6000. The fly-in attracted 50 planes; also the
Army and Navy planes put on shows. The planes included a Ford Tri-motor,
Ryan Monoplane, Fairchild 71, Goodyear Blimp, five Navy scout planes,
Army Curtiss Hawk.
only lasted a few years and is now known in Millersburg, PA
Centennial Books and at the local Historical Society of Millersburg
where memorabilia from the Robinson Airport is exhibited, including that
of Mr. "Hops" Gilbert, who owned the airfield where he flew
his Travel Air K4000 and a Fairchild KR-31.
Parachute jumpers at the fly-in: (Left to right)
Howdy Reitenbaugh, Violet Kilpatrick and Herb Frye. Plane is a new
Fairchild KR-34 NC205M.
(Left to right) Marion "Hops" Gilbert and Howdy
Reitenbaugh. Plane is a new Fairchild KR-34 NC205M.
All Robinson Field photos courtesy of Ron Billman and Historical
Society of Millersburg.
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