Crossing the Alleghenies in 1919
The man who saved the airmail describes “Hell Stretch.”
- By Jack Knight
- AirSpaceMag.com, September 09, 2008
(Page 2 of 2)
At the end of my allotted 2-15 I had not been able to sight a break in the clouds—so—not having enough gas to continue to N.Y.—nor enough to fly back to Cleveland—had one choice left—come down through and pray fervently that the angel of good luck remain roosted on your shoulder until you have landed & stopped rolling.
After starting down—I suddenly changed my mind, and decided to leave some interesting data—in case of accident—which very probably would happen.
I wrote a will—my last word and testament—giving ship no. 67 my destination—who to notify disposal of my effects—also the mail—all this data on the back of an old envelope—tucked it into a pocket took a last lingering look at the sun light—and dove into the clouds headed for the ground.
My altimeter registered 6000-4500 3500 air speed raised to 140 even with throttled motor—wires screamed wildly and struts vibrating badly—still no sight of ground—just wet impenetrable fog rushing through my wings.
2800 feet on the altimeter and still nothing but fog. God for just one glimpse of the ground.
High points of the mountains in this locality stuck up 2400 ft—why didn’t I see them altimeter shows 2000—still no ground—what moment will a mountain side rush up at 140 mph and end all this worry?
Altimeter registers 1800-1600 still fog—fog. The elevation of Bellefonte field is 1800 ft. What has happened—at 1500 ft above sea level (on the altimeter).
Suddenly just a flicker of a glimpse—of a road—then fog again. Nosing straight down—I want to see that road again regardless. The ground at last—and a 200 ft ceiling—with fair ground visibility.
Flying down this road that had suddenly become a dear friend I circled a small town and read Mifflinberg Carriage Co on a roof.
Good night I had some [?] through a 6000 ft layer and been lucky enough to hit Mifflinberg Valley—a valley about two miles wide with mountainous ridges almost 1000 ft higher extending up into the fog.
I couldn’t slap myself on the back without knocking off the angel of good luck—so refrained from so doing, and began flying down this narrow valley twisting—turning & dodging through passes—pulling up blindly into fog—counting ten—diving back out—finally by good fortune more than good flying arrived at my terminal field intact.
After finding that the west bound ship had returned to N.Y. on account of fog—and hadn’t been dumb enough to get caught like I did—the noon whistle blew and I called it another day.