Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Into the Air

It was an American Eagle that one of Burley Chaney's friends had recently purchased, and the two men had decided, one Sunday afternoon, to take it up for a spin. The "field" they had used for takeoff was literally that: a field on a farm just outside the city of Zanesville, Ohio, where Chaney had recently secured work following his return from a disastrous stint in California.

The plane was said by witnesses to have "made a good takeoff," following which spectators had watched as it "soared gracefully into the air." The pilot—whether Chaney or his friend is not clear—circled his craft to the north and the east for quite some distance, eventually returning to approach the field for a landing.

Before that could happen, though, the plane was observed to have dipped at an unusual angle, but it quickly righted itself. Following that, the sound of the motor was heard to have "turned on full speed," but the plane dipped again. Going into a nosedive, the craft crashed into a ravine at the edge of the field.

Chaney and his companion—Chaney was seated in the forward seat—were both badly injured, and rushed by car to a local hospital. The Zanesville newspaper, The Times Recorder, reporting the next day, provided details of the injuries sustained by each of the two men and noted that Chaney died while in transit to the hospital. His companion, having never regained consciousness, survived only a few hours more.

Chaney was said to have taken the plane up several times before this episode, and had never before experienced trouble with the machine. This time, however—at least, according to the newspaper—"hundreds of persons" were drawn to the scene of the crash. What was billed as a "spectacular nose dive" was said to have been the area's first air tragedy.

According to the March 17, 1930, report, Chaney was described as "a good flyer." Though a follow up report was filed in the next day's edition—including paragraphs bringing up Chaney's unfortunate past in California—no mention was ever made as to the suspected cause of the crash.

Just as had happened barely three years prior for his fellow aviator friend from Ohio, at age thirty three, the last chapter had abruptly closed on a man for whom other burdens had eclipsed his underlying love for flying.


  1. Replies
    1. I sometimes can hardly believe some of these family stories that surface during research forays. This one was particularly melancholy.


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