Parachute Jump  
After Walter's First Parachute Jump, 1924
Miraculous Performance as Old German Plane Crashes,
Pleases McCook.


Device Opened Immediately
Proving Value Under Most Severe Condition.
     McCook Field officials were elated Saturday at the miraculous escape from death of Walter Lees, pilot for the Johnson Flying Service, Inc., in the crash of an old German war plane Friday evening.
     The airman saved his life by using a standard army parachute. He is the fifth flier in the history of aviation to survive a crash in this manner.
     The accident occurred while Lees, who is one of the best known commercial flyers in the country, was testing a rebuilt plane southwest of the city. Seeing that the controls were jammed by a loosened fire extinguisher and that a fall was inevitable, Lees stood upright on his seat and dove overboard.
Although he had never used a parachute before, years of flying had taught him to remain calm and he cooly reached for the release ring. The chute opened one jump ahead of the earth and he landed safely.
     The war relic, which was owned by Frank Smith, of Middletown, was a total wreck. The engine was embedded five feet in the ground.
     In view of the fact that the accident occurred but 150 feet in the air, officials of the parachute section of McCook Field are intensely interested. They will ask Lees to submit a full report of his experience for military files and distribution to officers through the air service
Lees is the first commercial flier to owe his life to a parachute. The first airman known to have saved his life with the aid of a parachute is Lieut. Harold R. Harris, chief of the McCook field flying section. It occurred during a flight over North Dayton when his ship began to fly to pieces.
     The second case was at Seattle, Washington, during the test of a MB3A pursuit ship. The plane lost a wing and Lieut. Frank B. Tyndall floated to safety.
     Lieut. Eugene Barksdale, of McCook field, saved his life in this manner just a month ago at Wilbur Wright field when the controls of a Boeing observation plane snapped throwing the ship into a nose dive.
 nbsp;   Several days ago, Lieut W. W. White, of Kelly field, San Antonio, Texas, jumped to safety with his parachute after colliding with another plane.
From The Dayton Herald , June 14, 1924
     Lees was the first commercial flier to owe his life to a parachute. From that time on, Friday the 13th was known to be a lucky day for the Lees family.

  5 June.1948.
New York 8, NY.
     Years ago I was a test pilot for a Flying company in Dayton, Ohio.
For testing a German L.V.G. plane, I borrowed and wore a parachute (for the first time) from the Army base.
Soon after I was airborne I had to use a lot of right rudder and right aileron to hold up the left wing. At 200 feet, by leveling off, using full power and full right rudder and aileron I made a right hand circle and lined the field up for a landing. But when I throttled the left wing dropped again so had to open the throttle and make a left hand circle.
     Knowing I couldn't land I decided to jump. Being very low; 200 feet; I stood up on the seat, pulled the rip cord, the chute opened and in a few seconds I was on the ground, unhurt, scared stiff, but very thankful for that parachute. The plane hit just 93 feet from where I hit, completely demolished.
The date--- Friday the 13th, May 1924.
Record of this jump is in the U.S. Army Parachute Division files at Wright Field, Dayton Ohio.
Walter E. Lees.
Caterpiller member No. 9.
This letter was written by Walter in 1948

     "I remember I was sick in bed. Pops came in from Johnson Field, about six to eight miles from our house at 17 Wilmington Avenue in Dayton. Pops came right in and was quite shaky. All he said was, "I want you to know I am all right. The plane crashed all to pieces. That was the first you heard about it? They didn't notify you?."
     He just came home in a hurry to let me know that he was all right.
     Pops went right back to fly the next day. He said it was just like falling off a horse. It didn't seem to scare him at all. A little thing like that wouldn't bother him.
     That was the first bad one he'd had where the machine was crushed to pieces. In St. Louis, he had crashed a Benoist with no real consequences.
Interview with Loa Lees, 1976

BackBack Home