This tale comes from 1928. I have talked about the opening of the Colorado Springs airport about this time, and in it I mentioned that we were getting our fast mail by airplanes. Now if you have been around here a winter or two, you already know that spring can bring us our worst snowstorms. In 1928 they had a couple like that.
As the story goes, a mail plane out of Denver, southbound, got lost in a spring snowstorm. When it did now show up in Colorado Springs, search parties were sent out once the storm ended. An airplane out of Colorado Springs found the airplane in a field well east of where it should have been, stuck in mud, but looking quite alright, but no pilot to be seen. The search plane, one of several out looking for the missing aircraft, was able to land without getting stuck, looked around then returned to Colorado Springs for help. A crew was sent out in automobiles to the area to check things out.
When the searchers in automobiles arrived at the airplane they were able to track the pilot in the quickly melting snow toward a farmhouse. Once they reached the farm, they found that the situation was under good control, except for the airplane. It seems the pilot was quite unaware of the crisis. He had landed in the field, finding out quite suddenly that the ground was quite wet under the snow. It quickly brought him to a stop, as the plane’s wheels sank into the mud. He could see a farm in the distance. He grabbed the mail bags and started for the house. The trip was not too difficult, but a stiff cold wind made it harder. On arriving at the farm, he was welcomed in. The farm had no telephone, or electricity, which was no real surprise at that time.
The good news was that not only could the farm’s residents give him shelter, but they could help with the mail. The farm was close to the Rock Island’s railroad track to Colorado Springs and one of the regular passenger trains was expected to pass by in a couple of hours. The pilot and the mail were loaded in a wagon and taken to the tracks. When the train approached it was flagged to stop. The mail was passed on to the railway’s mail car attendant on the train. It would go on to Colorado Springs for delivery, just slightly delayed. His airplane was being found at about the same time so he did not know that crews were out searching for him!
The rescue crew dug out the airplane, repairing a few things that had been damaged in the storm. The pilot, who remained at the farm, was quite surprised by the attention. He then flew his plane back to Denver, where he was greeted as a celebrity. What was possibly a disaster turned out to be quite an unusual event.
The mail planes of the day were being regularly lost in wither storms. It was fortunate that the plane, the mail and the pilot were all in relatively good condition. Four airplanes from Denver who were searching for this plane also found themselves back on the ground only a few minutes into their search. One of the search planes from Colorado Springs was an Alexander Eaglerock, which had recently rolled off the assembly line in north Colorado Springs.
E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. He is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. Contact Mel at email@example.com.