Parachutes had been recommended by the CSO as early as July 1, 1914 but were not distributed to pilots in the Air Service until 1920. Two years later the Caterpillar Club was formed composed of people saved by parachute when forced to leave an aircraft. It was while a student at the Tactical School that Major Geiger became the 32nd member of the famous Caterpillar Club.

     On May 10, 1926, during training maneuvers to work out formation problems, Major Geiger's SE-5A was involved in a mid-air collision at an altitude of 3,000 feet with another SE-5A piloted by Major Horace M. Hickam, who happened to be a former USMA-1908 classmate. Major Geiger was slightly injured in the collision, but both men were able to jump from their damaged aircraft and parachute to safety. One year later Major Hickam was killed in an airplane crash at Fort Crockett, Texas.

New Command

     Upon graduation from the Tactical School in June, 1926, Major Geiger got his wish to command a flying unit in the United States and was appointed Commanding Officer of Phillips Air Field, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

     This new command came on the very eve of a new age in Army aviation history. On July 2, 1926 the Air Service was re-designated Air Corps when Congress passed the Air Corps Act, which approved a 5-year plan for expansion from 919 officers, 8,725 enlisted men, and 1,254 airplanes to 1,650 officers, 15,000 enlisted men, and 1,800 airplanes; thereby strengthening the conception of military aviation as an offensive, striking arm rather than an auxiliary service.


     While in command of Phillips Air Field, Major Geiger was able to do a great deal of flying. Early on Tuesday morning, May 17, 1927, he had flown a DH-4B, from Aberdeen Proving Ground to the Middletown Air Depot, Olmsted Field, Middletown, Pennsylvania. With him was a passenger, 2nd Lt. George Hinkle Steele (USMA-1924), who was to take back a Curtiss plane which had just been reconditioned.

     That afternoon, around 12 P.M., both airplanes taxied out to the runway for the return flight to Aberdeen Field. Major Geiger in the DH-4B took to the air first with Lieutenant Steel prepared to follow. Six mechanics and officers of the Middletown Air Depot saw Major Geiger's plane rise gracefully, when suddenly something went wrong and the plane plunge noise downward. Captain Harrison Flickinger, who witnessed the wreck, said the plane went into a "pancake drop" from an altitude of fifty or sixty feet. On impact, the plane swung over on its wing, and eighty gallons of gasoline from the fuel tank burst into flame, covering the ship from end to end.

     Apparently only slightly hurt, Major Geiger managed to release his safety belt and leap out when the plane struck ground. He made a desperate effort to get clear of the fire that had engulfed the wreckage and according to onlookers half crawled and ran through the flame as far as the tail of the machine before he was overcome and dropped to the ground. The heat and the intensity of the flame prevented anyone from getting near enough to help rescue him. After the flames where put out his body was found lying under the rear part of the fuselage. He was forty-two years old.

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