Monday, December 17, 2007

Eddie August Schneider (1911-1940)

Eddie August Henry Schneider (October 20, 1911 - December 23, 1940)

He set three transcontinental airspeed records for pilots under the age of twenty-one in 1930. His plane was a Cessna with a Warner-Scarab engine, named "The Kangaroo". He set the east-to-west, then the west-to-east, and the combined round trip record. He was the youngest certificated pilot in the United States, and the youngest certified airplane mechanic. He was a pilot in the Spanish Civil War in the Yankee Squadron. He died in an airplane crash in 1940 while training a new pilot, when a bomber clipped his plane's tail at Floyd Bennett Field.

Birth and family:
Eddie Schneider was born in 1911 at 2nd Avenue and 17th Street in Manhattan in New York. His father was Emil August Schneider (1886-1955), a banker and stock broker, born in Bielefeld, Germany. His mother was Inga Karoline Eldora Pedersen (1882-1927), who was born in Farsund, Norway. [12] Eddie had one full sibling: Alice Violetta Schneider (1913-2002) who married John Harms (1905-1985).

Early years:
The family moved from Manhattan to Red Bank, New Jersey, and then they moved to Jersey City, New Jersey by 1920. Eddie attended William L. Dickinson High School and dropped out of school in 1926, at age 15 to go to work as a plane mechanic at Roosevelt Field in Hempstead, Long Island. In 1927 his mother died, then, Eddie and his parents visited Bielefeld, Germany and Farsund, Norway to visit with relatives. In Germany Eddie went on a plane ride and then aviation became his obsession. In 1929 he trained at Roosevelt Field on Long Island and became the youngest person in the United States to receive a commercial pilot certificate. That same year he also received a mechanics certificate, becoming the youngest certificated airplane mechanic in New York. In April 1930 Eddie was living in Hempstead, Long Island with a German friend named Carl Schneider (1898-?). Carl was not related to him, and was also working as a mechanic. Eddie flew a red Cessna monoplane with tail number C9092.

Transcontinental air speed record:
Eddie reported that he intended to fly to the Pacific coast and back in August 1930. On August 25, 1930 he set the round-trip transcontinental air speed record for pilots under the age of twenty-one years in his Cessna using a Warner Scarab engine. He flew from Westfield, New Jersey on August 14, 1930 to Los Angeles, California in 4 days with a combined flying time of 29 hours and 55 minutes. He lowered the East to West record by 4 hours and 22 minutes. He then made the return trip from Los Angeles to Roosevelt Airfield in New York in 27 hours and 19 minutes, lowering the West to East record by 1 hour and 36 minutes. His total elapsed time for the round trip was 57 hours and 14 minutes, breaking the preceding record for the round trip. Frank H. Goldsborough held the previous record which was 62 hours and 58 minutes. When Eddie landed in New York on August 25, 1930, his first words were to his father: "Hello Pop, I made it." He was carrying leters from the Mayor John Clinton Porter of Los Angeles, to Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City.

National Air Tours:
After setting the transcontinental speed record he entered in the 1930 Ford National Reliability Air Tour in Chicago, which ran from August 23, 1930 to September 1, 1930. He won the Great Lakes Trophy. Nancy Hopkins also flew in the tour that year.

In 1931 Eddie participated in, what was the last Ford National Reliability Air Tour, in his Cessna. A defect in his engine forced a landing while flying over a mountainous section of Kentucky. He made a forced landing in a corn patch on the side of the mountain. A new engine was sent to him and after a difficult takeoff, he went on to win first place for single engine aircraft, and finished third overall.

Time (magazine) wrote:
"Sensation of the meet was the youngster Eddie Schneider, 19, who fell into last place by a forced landing of his Cessna and a three-day delay in Kentucky, then fought his way back to finish third, ahead of all other light planes."

During one of the National Air Tours, Schneider had taken off in his Cessna with the Warner Scarab engine, from Chicago bound for the balloon races in Cleveland. He saw the crowd scatter below, looked up and saw the 40 foot left wing of a twenty passenger Burnelli transport plane directly over him. Passengers in the Burnelli scrambled to the other side of the cabin to tilt the the wing back up. Schneider sent his plane diving just as the Burnelli's wing scraped his planes wing. A crash was averted by his dip. The officials said his quick action in dipping his plane close to the ground and then pulling clear of the grandstand had probably averted the most serious accident in the races.

In 1932 he went to work for the Hoover Air League, and married Gretchen Frances Hahnen (1902-1986) in New York City on June 2, 1934 at the New York Municipal Building in Manhattan. Gretchen was the daughter of Zora Montgomery Courtney (1882-1962) and was originally from Peoria, Illinois. Her father was Herme Francis Hahnen from Des Moines, Iowa. She was a member the Jersey City Young Woman's Christian Association (YWCA) and was director of the Aviation Club of The Jersey Journal, and the editor of the Junior Club Magazine. Eddie met her at an aviation function. They did not have any children.

Jersey City Airport:
Starting on January 1, 1935 Eddie leased the Jersey City Airport and ran his flying school from there until the field was converted into a sports stadium using WPA money. Eddie was taking off in a Travelair three-seat, open-cockpit biplane with his student, Fred Weigel (1904-1990), when the motor died. From an altitude of 100 feet they crashed into Newark Bay, but were unhurt and were able to walk ashore. He also taught Herbert Sargent to fly with just 55 minutes in lessons.

Spanish Civil War:
"I was broke, hungry, jobless ... yet despite the fact that all three of us are old-time aviators who did our part for the development of the industry, we were left out in the cold in the Administration's program of job making. Can you blame us for accepting the lucrative Spanish offer?"

In 1936, Eddie left for Spain to fly in the Yankee Squadron for the Spanish Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. He was recruited by a lawyer in New York City. Time (magazine) wrote on December 21, 1936:

"Hilariously celebrating in the ship's bar of the Normandie with their first advance pay checks from Spain's Radical Government, six able U.S. aviators were en route last week for Madrid to join Bert Acosta, pilot of Admiral Byrd's transatlantic flight, in doing battle against Generalissimo Francisco Franco's White planes. Payment for their services: $1,500 a month plus $1,000 for each White plane brought down. ..."

He was living at 50 Jones Street in Jersey City at the time. He was promised he would be paid $1,500 each month and given a bonus of $1,000 for every rebel plane he shot down. He claimed he was never paid in full, and he returned to the US in January 1937. Spain claimed that they were paid in full, and were not owed any money. Others who flew for the loyalists included: Bert Acosta, Gordon Berry, and Frederic Ives Lord. When he returned he was questioned by Chief Assistant United States Attorney, John F. Dailey on January 15, 1937 in New York. Eddie's lawyer was Colonel Lewis Landes. On January 20, 1937, Eddie, Bert, and Gordon flew to Washington, D.C. and had to testify again. When talking to reporters Eddie said: "I was broke, hungry, jobless ... yet despite the fact that all three of us are old-time aviators who did our part for the development of the industry, we were left out in the cold in the Administration's program of job making. Can you blame us for accepting the lucrative Spanish offer?" He later said "This was a mess ... and there was always that never-ending jockeying for the power among the factions to contend with, it got to the point where we did not know who we were fighting and why, and you can say that we are damn glad to be back." The flyers had their passports confiscated, and they were to be returned when they attested that they had never forsworn allegiance to America.

Middle years:
In 1938 Eddie stood at 5 foot, 8 inches (68 inches) and weighed 160 pounds (73 kg). He had blue eyes and blond hair, and he was living at 38 Broadway in Manhattan. Eddie began work for American Airlines at Newark Airport in New Jersey, he then moved to Jackson Heights, Queens on Long Island, when the American Airlines eastern terminal had moved to LaGuardia Airport. Around June, he took a job as a civilian instructor teaching Civil Aeronautics Authority students to fly at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn with the Archie Baxter Flying Service. Eddie registered for the draft on October 16, 1940 when he was living at 3250 73rd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens in New York.

On December 23, 1940, around 1:25 pm, Eddie was killed in an accident at Floyd Bennett Field at age 29, while training George Wilson Herzog (1903-1940). They were flying at about 600 feet, about to land, when Navy pilot Kenneth A. Kuehner, age 25, of Minister, Ohio struck the tail assembly of Eddie's Piper Cub. Eddie's plane went into a spin and crashed into Deep Creek, just off of Flatbush Avenue. Both Herzog and Schneider were dead at the scene of impact. The bodies were taken to King's County Hospital, and Eddie's cause of death was listed as "crushed chest & abdomen; hemothorax & hemoperitoneum in aeroplane crash". The accident was investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and Kuehner was ruled at fault for flying too low and failing to observe the traffic in front of him. The air traffic controllers were also chastised. Eddie was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Fairview, New Jersey. Bert Acosta attended the funeral.

On February 13, 1942 Gretchen appealed to Congress for financial relief with HR 5290 Gretchen married Herbert Gray and after they divorced she married Grant A. Black (1913-1976) who was from Michigan, and they lived in Fort Worth, Texas and later Goldsboro, North Carolina. She died under the name of "Gretchen Black" in her home town of Des Moines, Iowa.