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"Bodies of Nine Airmen Burned and Mutilated Lie Amid Splintered Fragments of an Aeroplane and Ruins of a Dirigible."
" Austria Scene of Most Sensational Disaster Since Man Learned to Fly. Aeroplane "Attacks" the Balloon, Rips it Open, and Explosion and Catastrophe Result,"
Knoxville Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: June 21, 1914,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 3-2-07
"Vienna, June 20. - Nine burned and mutilated bodies, the splintered fragments of an aeroplane and the charred remnants of a big dirigible balloon, are the mute records of one of the most tragic, certainly the most sensational disasters which have occurred since man learned to fly. The catastrophe which resulted in the death of all concerned, nine officers and men, followed a mimic atack by the aeroplane on the dirigible at a great height during the maneuvers and served to show, more than any previous accidents to flying machines have done, the horrors that would be likely to attend aerial warfare.

The dirigible military balloon Koertling early today left Fischamend, eleven mles from Vienna, manned by Captain Johann Hauswirth in command, Lieutenant Ernst Hofstetter, Lieutenant Bruer, Lieutenant Hiadinger, Corporal Hadima, Corporal Weber and Engineer Kammerer.

After the lapse of half an hour a military biplane with Lieutenant Flatz and Lieutenant Hoosta aboard started in pursuit.

It was the intention of Captain Hauswirth to take photographs of the movements of the troops below and then to join the maneuvers. At the same time he was to keep out of range of any mosquito craft which might seek to attack him.

The news had gone abroad that something in the nature of a sham aerial fight would take place and at Koenigsberg the scene of the engagement, a big crowd had gathered. Very quickly the smaller, but much speedier craft overtook the big airship and then the spectators witnessed a thrilling sight.

The Attack
As might a wasp bent on attacking some clumsy enemy, the aeroplane circled several times around the balloon, now darting close to her and then away, always apparently steering off just in time to avoid an actual collision.

Meanwhile the balloon continued to rise until it was about 1,300 feet from the ground. The aeroplane, at a still greater height, maneuvered until it appeared to be nearly over the airship. Then it began its descent. It was the evident intention of the pilot of the aeroplane to take up a position directly above the dirigible within striking distance, but owing either to a fatal miscalculation of distance or speed, the nose of the biplane struck the envelope of the airship and ripped it wide open.

Explosion Follows
A tremendous explosion followed, the balloon burst into flames, which enveloped the biplane and in a moment the wreckage began to drop, crashing at length like lead to the slope of a hill. Almost at the same moment the wife of Lieutenant Hofstetter, who had been married only a month, arrived in a motor car.

The envelope of the balloon still was burning when it struck the ground. Lieutenant Flatz, when extricated from the wreckage of the aeroplane, showed faint signs of life, but almost immediately he expired. All others were killed.

Carried Out Instructions
Military officers who witnessed the disaster said that the maneuvers had been undertaken with instructions to carry out as far as possible actual war conditions, in which an aeroplane was attacking a dirigible, the latter trying to repel the assault. The occupants of both craft had been ordered to conduct themselves as they would in actual combat.

According to some experts the catastrophy seemingly was caused by the aeroplane being caught in the eddies from the balloon. They attribute the accident to a species of whirlwind caused by the airship's propeller which drew in the smaller machine.

Archduke Charles Francis and several officials of the ministry arrived shortly on the scene and an aide-de-camp of the emperor also proceeded to seek information for his majesty and express the emperor's sympathy.

The Austrian army has lost several of the most intrepid and experienced aviators by today's accident, as well as its only dirigible.

The start of the dirigible was made without difficulty, but it is said, shortly afterward the spectators noticed that the balloon was not flying as well as usual, but was seemingly carried by the wind. Lieutenant Flatz, who was attached to the navy, is reported also to have remarked that the machinery of the balloon was not in order.

Peasants who were near at hand report hearing despairing shrieks of the occupants of the gondola as the wreck of the dirigible fell. Officers and men in automobiles hastened from Fischamend, but it was difficult to locate the spot until the pilot of another aeroplane made an ascent to reconnoiter.

Rescuer Horrified
The rescuers were horrified at the sight of the Koertling. Nothing remained but a twisted mass of half-melted metal framework in which the bodies were inextricably entangled. Just beside it, lay the aeroplane, completely wrecked, with the bodies of the officers firmly lashed in. The motor of the aeroplane had stopped and was buried deep in the ground while the dirigible motor continued in motion.

Identification of the victims was difficult. So fierce had been the flames that all watches and rings were completely melted but singularly the pocketbooks of Hofstettler and Bruer were almost intact.

Lieutenant Bancher who was to have made the trip, arrived too late to do so. Another similarily fortunate man was Fireman Gaiswinkler, who was called back just as he was entering the gondola."

     If you search for "Flatz", using the Google search engine, (3-3-07), you will not find any relative links.

Flatz died on June 20, 1914

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this pioneer aviator,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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