Above is the scene immediately after planes hit the earth. Note crowd rushing forward to greet pilots. Robert E. Kennedy (Houdini’s Stunt Double) is in the center with back to camera being congratulated on his narrow escape by fellow pilots (or according to another account, he was he being blamed by fellow pilots for the accident).
Houdini never saw or spoke to him again. According to Tommy [David E. Thompson], who flew the pickup plane, he got up and ran away and was never seen again. Shortly after the spectacular crash, Kennedy and Bill Hahnel, a fellow flying officer in the service, made exhibition flights throughout the country, billing themselves as The Flying Tramps. Later, Kennedy became a noted test pilot, pioneer airplane pilot and inventor of navigation instruments. After several barnstorming tours of Texas, Robert E. Kennedy joined with members of Los Angeles based bus company, Pickwick transportation, in the formation of Pickwick Airways. Flying tri-motors, the new airline pioneered air routes into Mexico until Pickwick was absorbed by a larger airline. Kennedy continued flying until he went to work for Douglas Aircraft in 1934. After retirement, he lived in Anaheim until his death in 1973. But perhaps he can best be remembered for adding one more legend to the folklore of Harry Houdini.
Next related post will look into what happened to David E. Thompson, whose plane flipped over?
- Taped interview with Robert E. Kennedy conducted by Arch C. Wallen, and Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1966
- Locklear The Man Who Walked on Wings by Art Ronnie 1973