Buffalo, NY airplane crash, Aug 1938

SETTING FIRE TO PLANE

Crash Into High Tension Wire Kills Speed Flier Hawks, Companion

Airman Dies As Predicted -- In Airplane

Pilot Appears to Have Tried Landing Just Before Dive

BUFFALO, N. Y., August 24 - (AP) - Death came last night to Lieut. Commander Frank M. Hawks, world famous speed flier, as he predicted - in an airplane.

The 41-year-old aviator who had turned a year ago from speed flying to the aviation business, struck some wires and crashed in flames on a polo field a few miles from Buffalo.

CLOVER LEAF BAD LUCK

Hawks, who told a friend some years ago "I expect to die in an airplane," and J. Hazard Campbell, upstate socialite and sportsman who had accepted an invitation for a trial spin in a small plane Hawk's company sells, were injured fatally.

Horrified friends, who had watched the takeoff from the small field, heard the plane crash behind a clump of trees. The saw a flash as flame shot high in the air.

They pulled Hawks from the controls of the blazing ship and dragged Campbell from beneath a crumbling wing. The injured men were taken to a Buffalo hospital in ambulances. Neither regained consciousness.

Hawks was flying a small Gwinn Aircar, a plane designed for private flying. He carried a four-leaf-clover a friend had given him for "good luck," a few minutes before the take off.

TRIED TO LAND

Edmund F. Boers, from whose estate Hawks and Campbell took off, described the crash:

"Commander Hawks landed on our field about 5 p. m. and offered to take myself or any of my guests for a ride. Campbell climbed in first.

"The plane lifted into the air and Hawks tilted it 50 feet above the ground to enable it to pass between two tall trees. As he passed out of sight it looked as though he had not been able to gain sufficient altitude and was trying to bring the plane down.

"Just as the plane disappeared we heard a loud crash and a flash of flame shot up behind the trees. We knew he had struck the electric wires at telephone poles.

" We ran to the plane and found Hawks inside the burning machine on the seat. His clothes were on fire so we stripped him and pulled him away."

TELEPHONE WIRE DOWN

Rogers said Campbell was thrown from the plane and pinned under a crumpled and blazing wing.

The crash had ripped down a telephone and light wires serving the community and Rogers and his friends had to go several miles to summon aid.

Hawks was vice-president in charge of sales for the Gwinn Aircar corporation.

Joseph M. Gwinn, president, said Hawks had been making demonstration flights for the company for the past year.

Hawks established himself as one of the nation's greatest speed pilots about 10 years ago, when he set a record for nonstop flight from Los Angeles to New York.

RETIRED YEAR AGO

Then in five years he blazed a trail of records across the United States and Europe that gave him claim to no less than 214 point-to-point records.

Hawks lived in Redding, Conn., and had planed to return home last night. His wife was notified of the accident and left Redding immediately for Buffalo. Hawkes died after she left Redding.

Hawks retired from speed flying a year ago, when he accepted the post with the Gwinn corporation. His announcement followed a crackup at Newark, N. J., shortly after he had made a record-equalling flight from Miami.

Campbell, a director in the Gwinn corporation, was active in the East Aurora Hunt. He was the husband of the former Marjorie Knox and a brother-in-law of Seymour Knox, an international polo star.

WIND QUIRK BLAMED

United States air commerce inspectors today probed the scorched wreck of the tiny "aircar."

By examining the small heap of flame-swept wreckage, they hoped to discover how Hawks whose skill in death-defying speed exhibits had become a by-word among aviators, happened to steer his little "safety" plane into the telephone wires.

Witnesses differed in their opinions. Some thought a quirk of the wind made it difficult for the 41-year-old flier to clear a small field from which he had just taken off.

The "Aircar" was a small cabin biplane to be driven "like an automobile." Besides the usual two landing wheels under the wings, it had a third landing wheel forward under the engine instead of under the tail section.

The plane had been approved by the Department of Commerce and was exhibited at the last national air races in Cleveland, O.

The Abilene Reporter News, Abilene, TX 24 Aug 1938