1932: CLEMENCEAU AIRPORT: Lynch and Clark Killed in Airplane Crash, May 15.


"Tragedy stalked two nationally known men and experienced aviators in the course of a 'blind' flying lesson yesterday afternoon and dashed them to instant death only a few miles from their home port, the Clemenceau field."

Harold John "Jack" Lynch, 39, one of the few pilots in this country to hold a master pilot licence, with between 4000 and 5000 hours of flying experience, in every type of airplane made, and William "Bill" Andrews Clark, III, 29, holder of a private pilot licence, and descendant of the late noted Senator Clark, copper magnate of Montana, shared the same fate.

"They took off from the Clemenceau port around two o'clock in a two-place, open- cockpit biplane, declared by Marcus A. Rawlins, manager of the airport, to have been in excellent mechanical condition. Forty minutes or so later they plunged to their deaths on a limestone-capped mesa on the Windmill ranch, six miles northeast of the airport and a half mile from the Verde river" ... east of "the Verde Country Club golf links."

"It was the purpose of the flight for Lynch to instruct Clark in the practice of blind flying or flying only by the use of the instruments on the panel board. In other words the idea was to pretend Clark was flying amid dense clouds without being able to see the ground. But more than that --- he was supposed to be flying in the fog and have his plane go into a tail spin. The problem was to bring the ship out of the spin. In order to produce these conditions artificially a hood was stretched over the cockpit in which Clark was seated, so he could not see out."

"Behind him in another cockpit was Lynch, who had a duplicate set of controls and a means of communicating with Clark. Lynch did not have any hood over his cockpit, but both fliers had on their parachutes."

"At a height of 2500 or 3000 feet Clark, flying blind, went into a tailspin on purpose and after dropping perhaps half that distance snapped the plane out of it. Golfers playing on the links witnessed the lesson. The plane then proceeded northeasterly and when about two miles or so from the links, Clark went into a second tailspin, but the plane never righted."

"Spectators who witnessed the fall notified the airport and in a few minutes Rawlins and another man took off in a training ship for the purpose of locating the fallen craft, hoping against hope the fliers had bailed out and were safe. But even from the height at which Rawlins was flying he discerned, his two flying friends had plunged into eternity. Hurrying back to the port, he gathered together some tools and made for the scene of the crash in an automobile, others following."

"They found death had been instantaneous, when they reached the scene of the fall, after having had to tramp across some wild country for a distance of about a mile and a half from the nearest road. Both bodies were crushed badly. The hood, however, had been removed from Clark's cockpit, indicating it had been torn off at the last minute by the 'student,' and yet there were evidences to indicate neither Lynch nor Clark dreamed of the necessity of leaping for their lives. The ship landed on its nose and drove the engine clear under the front cockpit."

"It was not long until thirty or forty cars had gathered at the roadside, their occupants scurrying over to the wreck in a stream. Word of the fatal accident spread rapidly, leaving an excited populace in its wake. It seemed hard to believe that ... Lynch, the fellow who gave Col. Charles A. Lindbergh his first lessons in flying and who barnstormed around the country, including up into Wyoming and Coloado, with 'Slim' Lindbergh, ... who for months taught transport pilots in Los Angeles and Kansas City how to fly 'blind' and come out of tailspins," plunged to his death.

"Nauseated in a way at the horrible sight that greeted their eyes, the sweating men unhooked the ailerons and gently lifted the broken bodies out of their cockpits, wrapped them in their parachutes, lashed them to the ailerons just as though they were stretchers and then began the solemn march back to the road."

"Justice of the Peace L. C. Jolly of Clarkdale was to have presided at a coroner's inquest this morning and there was the expectation that the department of commerce would make an investigation and full report, probably through the person of Ed Pettis of Tucson, inspector for that branch of the federal government in Arizona. But these official investigations very likely will not throw much light on the real cause of the tragedy." ...

"This afternoon, the whole Verde Valley populace is feeing the weight of the tragedy. The bodies were taken to Ash Fork in time to meet the six-forty west-bound train for Los Angeles, where joint burial will take place. Two widows," Thelma (Wyatt) Clark and Margaret (Strauss) Lynch, and five children "are left as a consequence of yesterday's accident."

"More than a year ago Clark moved to Clarkdale and from a survey of the possibilities he projected the formation of what became the Verde Valley Air Lines, Inc. Lynch joined him several months ago. The Clemenceau airport was built and last March 19 and 20 the field was dedicated with an air circus, in which more than twenty planes were entered." (see: The Verde Independent; "1932: CLEMENCEAU AIRPORT DEDICATION Attracts 6000 People March 19-21;" March 21, 2013.)

"The airline company, it is believed, will be discontinued because Clark's leadership will be missing. Aviation in Yavapai County has been dealt a stunning blow by three fatal accidents, including the death of E. E. Feuerhelm of Phoenix, Standard Oil lubricating engineer, April 15, as the result of a crash on Mingus mountain." (see: The Verde Independent; "1932: AIRPLANE CRASH: Feuerhelm Killed, April 15;" April 15, 2013.)

"Clark operated the Cord and Auburn automobile agency in Phoenix for some time, up to a year ago, and was also an officer in the Pilot-Ray Lamp corporation."

"Young Clark's father, who was on route to France when informed by radiogram of his son's death, arranged to be transferred at sea to a returning steamer, it is understood."

(Prescott Evening Courier; Monday, May 16, 1932; page 1, column 8, and page 7, columns 3-5)


During the regular weekly meeting of the Rotary Club in Clarkdale, "Marcus Rawlins, president of the Verde Valley Airlines, Inc., gave a report of the findings of the scientific investigation of the deaths of W. A. Clark, III, and H. J. Lynch, who lost their lives in an airplane crash May 15. The report conclusively proved that the accident was due to defective materials used in the bank and turn indicator instrument in the rear cockpit of the airplane."

"This was the first public statement of the findings of Mr. Rawlins and others who worked on the scientific investigation. To illustrate his talk Mr. Rawlins displayed the instrument and microscopic photographs of the defective materials used in the indicator."

(Verde Copper News; Jerome; June 10, 1932; page 1, column 4.)

see: Sharlot Hall Museum; Library and Archives, Photographs: Jack Lynch and W. A. Clark, III, with their plane and plane after the crash; Call Number T-147P (t147pa and t147pb).


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