Personal communication from Rick Hendricks, 3-2-05
Going through one of my late father's photo albums tonight, I found an original photo taken in Chicago of a single engine aircraft parked behind an open hangar door with a toolbox alongside. It was instantly recognizable as "The Spirit of St. Louis". The shock of finding an original photo by my father of this famous aircraft got me to thinking about the plane crash in Jackson Park. In an effort to solve that mystery once and for all, I did a search for "plane crash", "Chicago", and "Flag Pole". How satisfying it was to at long last read the fine transcription by Bob Davis of the Knoxville Journal story!
My father was in Jackson Park that day at the golf course, at age 19, trying to earn some money, He said that he watched the huge Stinson-Detroiter fly over Lake Michigan and heard it develop engine trouble. He was immediately concerned and watched as the pilot, Mr. Stinson it turns out, deftly maneuvered the stricken plane to attempt a landing on the golf course. Seeing this, my father Walt and his friends began yelling at others to flee from the fairway as the plane approached. They were pulling for the pilot to successfully make the daring landing. As the plane approached, he realized in horror that the pilot would not be able to see the huge flagpole that was directly in the approach path. They watched helplessly as the brilliant approach was foiled by the wing striking the flagpole.
After the crash landing (I believe I remember my father saying that the empennage came to rest upside down) they raced to the wreckage in order to assist the passengers and to try to remove them from the plane before the possible onset of fire. My father was a strong and lanky six foot six inches tall at age 19, and he set himself the task of removing the pilot because of his admiration for the skillful approach that the pilot had made. My father desperately wanted the pilot to survive saying that he certainly deserved to do so. Alas, it was not to be, and Mr. Stinson's subsequent death has always haunted my father. He thought that it was such a shame that conditions made it impossible for the flag pole to be seen. In another era when someone would "auger in", with defensive bravado, observers would comment that "he didn't have the right stuff". My dad always wanted to make it clear that this was not the case. It is indeed a tribute to Mr. Stinson's skills that the other passengers survived. I am so pleased to finally be able to pass along the credit that my father always claimed was due, to the right person at last: Mr. Eddie Stinson, Aviator Extraordinaire!
Thanks again for your marvelous historical tribute site to aviation pioneers! You have allowed me at last to complete a very personal connection with the past!
Richard L. "Rick" Hendricks