Last week, I posted a blog that had some incredible photos of aeroplane wreckage being used as part of a lobby display for “The Grim Game”.
In keeping with the Aeroplane theme, I thought I would post an article and photos from the New York Tribune, July 06, 1919:
THESE pictures are the first ever to be taken of airplanes in actual collision in midair. The three extraordinary photographs above are part of a motion picture film which was recording the flight from another plane at the time of the accident. The collision was unpremeditated and miraculously resulted in the injury of but one pilot.
The crash occurred 2,200 feet over Santa Monica, Calif. The planes were chartered for scenes in “The Grim Game”, being produced by Famous Players-Lasky. It was planned that a former army pilot, Robert Kennedy, should change planes in midair, dropping from a rope attached to the undercarriage of the upper machine to the top wing of the lower plane. A third plane was to carry a motion picture camera, from which the scene was to be filmed.
Just as Kennedy prepared to leap, an up-current of air drove the upper wing of the lower plane full into the landing gear of the one above. The planes locked and spun down nose on, with Kennedy helplessly dangling at the rope’s end.
At 1,200 feet the planes parted and dove earthward at terrific speed. They finally flattened out and pancaked to the ground, but not without crashing. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured, not even Kennedy, swinging helplessly on his rope during the fall. And all the time the cameraman in the third plane kept on grinding.
The photo on the left shows the daredevil Kennedy standing beside one of the wrecked planes.
[New York Tribune, July 06, 1919, Page 6]
For more information and other photos of the plane crash, see American Heritage April 1972: Houdini’s High-flying Hoax by Art Ronnie, page 106 – 109.
Note: The planes used were Curtiss Canucks, Canadian versions of the famed Jenny, the World War I training plane. They were rented from producer-director Cecil B. De Mille, who owned and operated two of the three airports in Los Angeles at the time.
[American Heritage April 1972: Houdini’s High-flying Hoax by Art Ronnie, page 108]