Wingfoot Air Express crash

Wingfoot Air Express crash
Wingfoot Air Express.jpg
Wingfoot Air Express
Date July 21, 1919
Summary In-flight fire
Site Chicago, Illinois, United States
41°52′41.25″N 87°37′56.28″W / 41.8781250°N 87.6323000°W / 41.8781250; -87.6323000 (accident site)Coordinates: 41°52′41.25″N 87°37′56.28″W / 41.8781250°N 87.6323000°W / 41.8781250; -87.6323000 (accident site)
Aircraft type Type FD dirigible
Aircraft name Wingfoot Air Express
Operator Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
Flight origin Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois
Destination White City amusement park, Chicago, Illinois
Passengers 2
Crew 3
Fatalities 13 (2 passengers, 1 crew, 10 on ground)
Injuries 27 (on ground)
Survivors 2 (2 crew)

The Wingfoot Air Express was a dirigible that crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building in Chicago on Monday July 21, 1919. The Type FD dirigible, owned by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, was transporting people from Grant Park to the White City amusement park.[1] One crew member, two passengers, and ten bank employees were killed in what was, up to that point, the worst dirigible disaster in United States history.

The crash

B&W picture of wreckage
Aftermath of the crash

The craft caught fire at about 4:55pm while cruising at an altitude of 1,200 ft (370 m) over the Chicago Loop.[2] When it became clear the dirigible was lost, the pilot, Jack Boettner, and chief mechanic, Harry Wacker, used parachutes to jump to safety.[3] A second mechanic, Carl Alfred Weaver, died when his parachute caught fire. Another passenger, Earl H. Davenport, a publicity agent for the White City Amusement Park, jumped from the dirigible, but his parachute got tangled in the rigging and he hung fifty feet below the burning craft; he was killed when the airship crashed.[4] A fifth person who parachuted from the dirigible, Chicago Daily News photographer Milton Norton, broke both legs and later died at a hospital.[5]

At the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank[6] building at the northeast corner of LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard, 150 employees were closing up after the day's business in and around the main banking hall, which was illuminated by a large skylight. The remains of the Wingfoot struck the bank's skylight directly and flaming debris fell through to the banking hall below. The result was ten employees killed, and 27 banking staff reported injured.


In addition to causing the city of Chicago to adopt a new set of rules for aviation over the city, the crash led to the closing of the Grant Park Airstrip and the creation of Chicago Air Park.

See also


  1. ^ O'Brien, Ellen; Lyle Benedict (June 2001). "1919, July 21: Dirigible (Balloon) Crash". Deaths, Disturbances, Disasters, and Disorders in Chicago. Chicago Public Library. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  2. ^ "The Great Tragedy", The Columns of the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank, Chicago [special memorial issue], p. 3, July 1919, archived from the original on 2006-06-20
  3. ^ "Wild Plane", Time, Time, 1993-09-04
  4. ^ Krist, Gary (2012). City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster that Gave Birth to Modern Chicago. New York: Crown Publisher. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-307-45429-4.
  5. ^ "11 Killed, 27 Hurt in Blazing Blimp's Fall in Chicago" (PDF), New York Times, 1919-07-22
  6. ^ "Illinois Bank & Trust". Retrieved 2016-09-26.

["Blimp Burns, Kills 11, Chicago Daily Tribune, July 22, 1919]

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