Thursday, November 4, 2021

One Dead, One Hurt, at Air Meet -- November 4, 2021

Omaha Bee, 04-November-1921

Bert Acosta was a pioneering aviator and air racer. The "intrepid Italian aviator" was born in San Diego. The Pulitzer Trophy Races were the predecessors of the National Air Races. 

A post about Acosta's Curtiss Navy Racer:
A post about the Cactus Kitten's sister, which was a monoplane instead of a triplane: 


Bert Acosta Wins Pulitzer Trophy Race;
Captain Hartney 's Plane Crashes to Earth;
Parachute Jumper Drowned in Missouri

C. B. Coombs Second in Big
Race; Lieut. Macready,
Third -- Winning Time
52 Minutes.


Injured, Aviator, Brought to
Omaha Hospital, Suffers
Dislocated Hip --
Expected to Recover.

Every element of thrill that possibly could be expected in an aviation meet -- tragic death; plane crashes, dare-deviltry and superspeed -- was furnished the 10,000 spectators who witnessed the first-day program of the International Aero congress at Omaha field yesterday afternoon.

Harry Eibe, 26, a parachute jumper for the Floyd Smith Aerial Equipment company of Chicago, was drowned in the Missouri river as scores stood on the bank, helpless to aid him.

Capt. H. E. Hartney of New York, executive secretary of the Aero Club of America, was injured dangerously when his Thomas-Morse monoplane crashed near Loveland soon after he had started in the Pulitzer Trophy race.

Bert Acosta, intrepid Italian aviator, piloted his 400-horse power Curtiss navy biplane to victory in the 150-mile Pulitzer Trophy race at a speed that flirted dangerously with the three-mile-a-minute figure, winning over a field of the fastest aircraft ever built.

Acosta's time for the 150 miles was 52 minutes, 9.2 seconds, and his average speed was 176.7 miles per hour.

Clarence B. Coombs, piloting the "Cactus Kitten," triplane, owned by S. E. J. Cox of Houston, Tex., was second in 54 minutes, 7.6 seconds, making an average speed of 170.25 miles an hour.

Lieut. J. A. Macready, in a Thomas-Morse biplane, piloted his craft into third place with 57 minutes, 20.6 seconds as his time. His average speed was 160.71. miles an hour.

Four in Finish.

Lloyd Bertaud, flying the Balilla biplane, "Whistling Billy drove a spectacular race, but was fourth in 1 hour, 1 minute, 3.16 seconds, with a speed average of 149.78 miles an hour.

Engine trouble forced Jimmie Curran in a S. V. A. to quit after the second lap, after he had been outdistanced badly by the other contestants.

The S. V A. Ansaldo motored plane owned by C. B. Wrightsman of Tulsa, Okl., was withdrawn from the event when its pilot, E. F. Wright, announced serious engine , trouble had developed after his flight to Omaha from Kansas City.

Acosta Drives to Victory.

Acosta drove a masterful race in the little gray biplane, his lap record showing a variation in running time of less than 15 seconds. From his hop-off the Italian had the air speed, under perfect control. When Starter H. F. Wehrley gave him the red and white flags he taxied but a short distance before he went into the air. He circled but once and crossed the starting line for his 150-mile dash a little less than a minute after he had received the starter's signal.

Flying less than 500 feet up he came past the starting pylon on the ' first lap in 10 minutes, 32 seconds. He took the turns easily and without extreme banking of his plane. His motor hummed along perfectly, but it was noticed one of the wings appeared slightly unsteady. Later it developed a wire had snapped as he made his first turn at Calhoun.

From the first lap on, it was apparent Acosta had hit his stride, for he reeled off the succeeding laps in clock-like style, the timers showing the second in 10:24; third, 10:24; fourth, 10:26 and the fifth in 10:23.

"Cactus "Kitten" Wild.

After the first lap the race lay between the Italian and Coombs in the "Cactus Kitten," but Coombs was flying wild and wide. He was burning time and gasoline on wide turns about the pylons and held to the outer edge of the, course throughout the flight. After the race the Texas pilot offered the information that he believed the craft was performing better and faster than if he had tried to pull it down to closer turns.

"The boat was wild and I let it have its head," was Coomb's comment.

But, if Coombs thought the boat was wild during the race, the thrill the ship gave the crowd when Coombs essayed a landing at the finish was wilder. Just as the pilot took his dive for ground his elevator mechanism stuck and the "Cactus Kitten" became an animated rubber ball.

For 100 yard the ship galloped across the landing field in excellent imitation of some of the bucking bronchos from its native state.

"Kitten" a Real Flyer.

Coombs, despite his wild piloting, brought his triplane home less than two minutes behind the winner. That the craft had as much speed as the Curtiss Navy plane was apparent when Coombs dashed up the straightaway parts of the course. S. E. J. Cox, owner of the "Kitten," was so elated he tendered a dinner to all of the other contestants at the Hotel Fontenelle last night.

"We'll win next time," he declared.

Captain Macready in the Thomas-Morse biplane plainly did not have speed to match the winner. The famous flyer drove perfectly and did not overlook a chance to lop a second from his time by close and well made turns. Not once did he appear unsteady and seemed to be getting all that the ship could give in speed. His best time for the 30-mile lap distance was 11 minutes, 27 seconds.

Flies Close to Ground.

Bertaud in the Curtiss-motored Balilla did the most spectacular driving of the race. Combined with the weird whistling made by his side radiators, the pilot's swoops for the ground as he came into the turns lent a color of daredeviltry to the contest that no other entry gave it. From within 25 feet of the ground, Bertaud would swing, into an almost vertical bank and soar aloft as he rounded the pylon.

But the ship did not have the space-eating qualities of the three others and Bertaud finished nearly 10 minutes behind the winner.

When Jimmie Curran started in the S. V. A. Diggins entry it was apparent his motor was "sick." The plane did not seem to have the force to cut the air as it circled for the starting point. After two laps it was out, having taken an average of 17 minutes to the lap. Curran said the motor had burned out rocker arm parts on the trip from Kansas City and that if the owner had not felt it his duty to enter the race because of the lack of contestants, the start never would have been made.

Hartney Starts Late.

Lieutenant Colonel Hartney in his ill-fated Thomas-Morse monoplane, was unable to start with the others, even though the contest had been held up until after 2:30 p. m. by the bad condition of the field. A siphon attachment in the gasoline feed to Hartney's motor went wrong at the last minute and his mechanicians were forced to make repairs.

Officials decided to give Hartney till 4:30 o'clock to make his start. The pilot took his ship out just before the time limit, but it was working badly.

Hartney got away at 4:38, and failed to make the round. At 5 o'clock word was received that he had crashed near Loveland. Even when he crossed the starting line the engine was not getting the proper amount of fuel and officials of the meet were sorry that the intrepid easterner had made the attempt.

Fair Wind Blowing.

When the start of the first five ships was made soon after 2:30 a southwest wind was blowing which seemed to have a surface speed of about 15 miles an hour. It was evident that it was not as strong in the upper air channels, as the pilots had little trouble in clearing the pylons without sliding. The wind velocity seemed to increase as the race progressed. The fogginess of early morning had disappeared and the air was clear as the race started.

Acosta, the winner, was sent away first about 2:40, then at intervals of two or three minutes the others went away in the following order: Bertaud in his Balilla, Macready in the Thomas-Morse, Coombs in the "Cactus Kitten," and Curran in the S. V. A. Every pilot circled but once and made his dash for the starting point well under the time limit of three minutes from his moment of hop-off.

Stunt Flyers Entertain Crowd.

The crowd estimated at from 7,000 to 10,000 persons, which witnessed the Pulitzer classic, was entertained at odd moments throughout the afternoon by stunt flyers, who furnished an aerial circus such as is seen seldom when billed as such. Parachute drops, loops, tail spins, nose dives and myriad other tricks known to the air jockeys were performed almost continuously. '

One of the outstanding stunt performers of the day was N. D. Trinier, pilot of a biplane for the Longren Aircraft Corporation of Topeka. Kan. Trinier brought gasps and groans from the throng as he turned topsy-turvy and tumbled through the air for hundreds of feet, seemingly having lost control of his plane. Then, when he righted the ship, rounds of applause greeted him.

Considering the difficulties attendant on a meet for which the detail had been worked out in so short a time, officials, spectators and contestants expressed general satisfaction with the outcome of the first day.

Result of 150-Mile
Pulitzer Air Derby

Winning Pilot -- Bert Acosta.
Winning Plane -- Curtiss Navy 400 H. P.
Winner's Time -- 52:09.2.
Winner's Speed -- 176.7 miles an hour.
Winner's Prize -- $3,000 and Pulitzer trophy until next race.
Second -- C. B. Coombs in "Cactus Kitten."
Time -- 54:07.6. Prize, $2,000.
Third -- J. A. Macready in Thomas-Morse. Time -- 57:20.6. Prize, $1,000.
Other Starters -- Lloyd Bertaud in Balila; Jimmy Curt in S. V. A.;
H. E. Hartney in Thomas--Morse.

First Thought of
Injured Pilot Is
Of Wife at Field

Captain Hartney "Cracks"
Near Honey Creek, Ia., on
First LapTof Race -- In. jury Undetermined.

"Telephone my wife and tell her I've only sprained my ankle." Those were Captain H. E. Hartney's first words as two rescuers reached him following his crash two miles north of Honey Creek, Ia., yesterday afternoon.

A faulty gas pump was responsible for the crash of Captain Hartney's Thomas-Morse monoplane, which he was flying in the Pulitzer trophy race.

Captain Hartney had just started his first lap when the gas pump failed him. He attempted to adjust his feed line to an auxiliary tank, but while doing so he lost so much speed his ship fell into a tailspin.

Got Out of Tailspin.

Although at an altitude of only 500 feet he managed to extricate his ship from the spin. It was to no avail, however, as the plane almost immediately became unmanageable and crashed to the earth.

Captain Hartney is unable to explain his fall after bringing the machine out of the tailspin. What happened he does not know. He only knows the airplane's landing wheels came into contact with the earth first and the machine hurtled through the plowed field, in which he fell at a 100-mile an hour clip, before it nosed over.

The ship turned turtle with such violence that the flyer was thrown 50 feet from , his craft.

Plane Is Destroyed.

The ship caught fire and burned for more than an hour. It was completely destroyed.

Jim Gilmore, on whose farm near Honey Creek the aviator fell, and Ed Campbell were working in the field only a few yards from where Hartney plunged to earth: They ran to his assistance and carried him into Gilmore's house, where he rested on a cot until an ambulance from the flying field could arrive to transport him to Fenger hospital.

Dr. N. P. Atwood, stationed at Honey Creek, rushed to the scene and reported that Captain Hartney had suffered a dislocated hip. He also feared the captain may have suffered internal injuries.

Cried About Plane.

The aviator did not lose consciousness until opiates were administered. On his cot in the Gilmore home he cried when he learned his specially constructed racing monoplane was in flames and could not be saved.

"It was the gas pump," he told a reporter for The Bee. "The motor started to 'poop.' Then I went into the tailspin at an altitude of 500 feet. I pulled out of that all right and the rest of the fall I cannot describe. I only know the machine came down on its landing wheels and crashed through the plowed field and turned over.

Yesterday's crash was Captain Hartney's second in Omaha. A year ago last summer the army flyer was piloting one of the J. L. Larsen monoplanes when the New Yorker was making a cross-country flight. As Captain Hartney took off for Cheyenne at Ak-Sar-Ben field his monoplane failed to develop sufficient lifting power and he crashed into a small building near the Ashmusen hangar.

Was Famous War Pilot.

In this accident, Captain Hartney, however, was uninjured and continued the trip west. The monoplane was badly damaged and was expressed back to New York.

Hartney is a captain in the army but it was not as a representative of the army that he flew yesterday. During the war he was a lieutenant colonel in France and for a time commanded Eddie Rickenbacker's famous "Hat in the Ring" squadron.

Hartney took a long chance in starting in the Pulitzer race yesterday and his luck failed him. When race time came the Thomas-Morse monoplane developed motor trouble. Mechanics worked feverishly to whip the balky engine into shape. Then when it was learned two Curtiss ships had defeated the other Thomas-Morse entry, the plane piloted by Lieut. J. A. Macready, they redoubled their efforts.

Was Last To Start.

Finally the motor started. Mechanics tested it hastily and then rolled it onto the field. It was 4:30 and under the conditions of the trophy race planes in winning positions must complete the distance before dark. In another hour it would be dark and Captain Hartney had 150 miles to go.

So the intrepid flyer took off with all possible haste. But the 300 horse power motor failed to respond to his enthusiasm and a few moments later he crashed to earth.

Captain Hartney's wife was among the spectators at the field. She flew from Kansas City to Omaha yesterday morning in one of the Larsen monoplanes.

What's Doing Today
In Aerial Congress

9 A. M. -- National meeting at Hotel Fontenelle.
11:30 A. M. -- Aerial parade over city.
1 P. M. -- Airplane races start at Omaha field, lasting until 5 p. m. Two speed events are on the program, together with stunt flying and parachute jumping.
7 P. M. Banquet at Hotel Fontenelle.

Jumper Pleads
To Be Saved as He
Battles Current

Thousands See Parachute Man
Leap From Plane But Few
See Struggles to Escape Death.

Scores of spectators saw Harry A. Eibe, the parachute jumper, go to a violent death in the treacherous waters of the Missouri river north and east of the flying field yesterday. Some criticism of the management, which failed to maintain emergency launches in the river, was heard after the accident, but those who stood on the bank as the jumper struggled against the current declared, human aid was out of the question.

Eibe suffered the terrible experience of watching death come upon him. As his parachute sailed over the flying' field, borne by the wind from the south and west, he knew that in a few seconds he would fall in the river.

Spectators heard his cries.

"Help me, I can't swim," he shouted.

Unable to Aid Him.

Those who heard rushed to the river bank. They arrived there only to stand in silence as the jumper was enveloped by the water.

He fell in the very middle of the current, where it was impossible to reach him. Although unable to swim, the swift current of the river seemed to keep him afloat for a time and he was carried 100 yards downstream before he finally went under the third time.

As he was carried down the river he continued his cries for help.

"For God's sake, help me!" he shouted desperately. "I can't swim."

Current Very Strong.

But even an expert swimmer would have been fortunate to have survived, the current against which Eibe was struggling. It was impossible for a man who could not swim and who in addition was burdened with a six-pound pack on his back.

One spectator attempted to go to Eibe's rescue with an old rowboat he found on the bank. He had to bail it out first and then found the craft was without oars. He tried to push off by using a stick to guide the boat, but his efforts were utterly useless.

Arthur Thomas, chairman of the publicity committee for the Air congress was one of the spectators near the scene of the tragedy. He started to race downstream to carry word of the accident to spectators quarter of a mile down stream, where he saw another rowboat.

Two men heeding his cries launched the boat but they could make absolutely no headway against the current of the river.

Was Professional Jumper.

"Caught in the current of the river as he was, it would have been impossible to have saved him unless a launch could have happened to be within a few feet of him when he fell into the river," said one spectator.

Eibe was 26 years old. He was a professional parachute jumper employed by the Floyd Smith Aerial Equipment company of Chicago. He lived at 912 Chicago avenue in the Windy City.

He was not entered in the parachute jumping contest yesterday. It was his purpose to try out a new chute made by his firm.

He went into the air in a machine piloted by Clyde Horchem of Ransam, Kan. At a point 2,000 feet in the air the pilot signaled for Eibe to jump. Had Eibe taken his pilot's advice he probably would be alive today.

But he signaled Horchem to turn further north. Then Eibe jumped.

Body Not Recovered.

It was a neatly executed jump. After falling few feet the parachute opened and he began to sail gracefully toward the earth. The crowd watched unmindful of the impending tragedy. Not until he was a few feet from the river did it strike most of the crowd that he was in danger of falling in the river. In fact, most of those on the west side of the field were unaware that the man, who only a few seconds before they had seen sailing through the air, had come to a violent death as the river itself is not in the field of vision, except from the north side of the field.

Only three months ago, it is reported, Kibe's partner was drowned during a parachute test at Baltimore.

Eibe's body has not been recovered. 

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