On Sunday, March 14, 1915, Bishop Milton Wright wrote the following lines in his daily diary:
…Lincoln Beachy fell 7,000 ft to his death in San Francisco Bay, to-day, in his second flight, on a monoplane. Alas, that he must fly on Sunday! A monoplane cannot be as strong as a biplane.
Lincoln Beachey (1887-1915) is often called the first great American stunt pilot. He was the first man to fly upside-down and performed the first loop-the-loop in America. In addition to being quite the daredevil, Beachey is credited with finding a solution to the dreaded tailspin.
Beachey began learning to fly at the Curtiss Flying School in 1910. Soon after, he became a star member of the Curtiss Exhibition Team. Some of his most exciting demonstrations were at Niagara Falls in 1911 and San Francisco in January 1915.
On August 1, 1914, Beachey made an exhibition at Dayton, Ohio. On that day he is said to have made what turned out to be a prophetic statement: “I want the bands playing and the crowds cheering when I die…”
In the short span of time from learning to fly in 1910 and his death in 1915, Beachey actually retired from the exhibition business three times. Unfortunately, he was once again performing fantastical stunts on Sunday, March 14, 1915, when Death ceased to be defied.
As Beachey performed his stunt over the San Francisco Bay that day, he was unfortunately too close to the water to complete his desired maneuver. He attempted to change direction, but in doing so, the strain caused both wings on his monoplane to snap, and he plummeted into the Bay. When the wreckage was retrieved from the Bay, Beachey was still firmly strapped into his harness. The daredevil pilot’s actual cause of death was drowning.
More sources on Lincoln Beachey:
- Lincoln Beachey, National Aviation Hall of Fame profile.
- Frank Marrero, Lincoln Beachey: The Man Who Owned the Sky (San Francisco: Scotwall Associations, 1997), SC&A call number TL540.B43 M3 1997.
- Lawrence Goldstone, Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies (New York : Ballantine Books, 2014), SC&A call number TL521 .G568 2014.