Morgantown, MD Curtiss Airplane Crashes, May 1921





Seven men, five residents of the District, passengers in the huge Curtiss hospital airplane of Bolling Field, were plunged to death when the giant plane crashed to earth during a terrific electrical storm late Saturday near Morgantown, Md.
The story of the seven passengers, five of whom were Army officers and two of whom were civilians, will never be told. None survived when the machine crumbled and fell near Morgantown, Md., 20 miles from Indianhead proving grounds on the Potomac River, in one of the army's greatest peace-time airplane tragedies.

Former Representative In List.
The dead:
Lieut. Col. ARCHIE MILLER, recent graduate of the war college, medal of honor man, and an ace in the war.
Lieut. STANLEY M. AMES, rated as a "crack pilot" in the army.
Lieut. CLEVELAND W. McDERMOTT, army flier at Langley Field.
Sergt. BLUMENKRAUS, a mechanic at Bolling Field.
MAURICE CONNOLLY, former representative from Iowa, a major in the reserve corps, and sales manager of the Curtiss Airplane Company.
A. G. BATCHELDER, chairman of the executive board of the American Automobile Association.
Lieut. PENNYWELL, of Kelly Field, Texas.

A strong electrical storm, which uprooted trees, caused the accident when a heavy descending current of air forced the airship to make an ill-timed landing.

Bodies Found In Cockpit.
Visitors to the scene said the nose of the plane was rammed seven feet into the ground, and that it was shattered into a tangled mass of wreckage.
Huddled in the cockpit were the bodies of the seven victims, torn and mangled until identification was difficult. The plane, in the opinion of Brig. Gen. William S. Mitchell, assistant chief of the air service, and other aviation officers, fell about 100 feet, but, driven by the wind, it crashed with a tremendous impact.
A few persons saw the plane hurtle downward but were so far away they were unable to give detailed accounts of what happened. As nearly as can be ascertained the plane was seeking a landing over an open field.
Members of the crew of the Dolphin, a naval cutter at Indianhead were first on the scene. At first they found only three bodies, but later the other four were located in the wreckage.

Denies Pilot Was At Fault.
Maj. M. F. Scanlon, commander of Bolling Field, emphatically denied that the accident was a result of nervousness on the part of the pilot Lieut. STANLEY AMES.
"Lieut. AMES was the best pilot at Bolling Field, as he tested all of our newly assembled planes," he said.
The plane crashed at 6:23 p.m. A watch worn by Maj. CONNOLLY found on his splintered arm, stopped at the time the plane hit the ground, according to Maj. Scanlon.
The colossal Eagle airship left Bolling Field Saturday morning at 7:30 accompanied by three planes occupied by Gen. William Mitchell, Capt. Burnette Wright, Capt. William C. Ocker, respectively, and flew to Langley Field, where the air forces are making preparations for the coming contests with the navy.

Forced Down By Storm.
Leaving Langley Field at 4:30 p.m., the Curtiss machine arrived near Morgantown when a sharp electrical storm forced it to the ground nose down.
News of the accident reached Bolling Field about 11 p.m. Saturday, and a hurried trip to Morgantown was made by Lieut. Paul C. Wilkens, accompanied by two enlisted men.
Army fliers were of the opinion that one of two things happened to the hospital ship. They said it either encountered an "air bump," throwing it into a "side-slip," or a spin from which it could not right itself, or that it struck an obstruction or some sort. The heavy rain, they explained, would force the machine to fly low in search of a landing place from which position it would be difficult to direct. The machine was unusually large, they explained, to carry a single engine. It was equipped with one Liberty motor.