Friday, June 24, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: June 24

June 24, 1912 – John Schwister, head of the aviation school at Fort Snelling, received a broken left wrist and probable internal injuries this evening when his airplane crashed about 60 feet from the ground, falling to the earth near the riding hall. Nearly 100 persons, civilians and soldiers, saw the plunge and hurried to the aid of the injured man, who was placed in an automobile and rushed to the fort hospital.

John Schwister

 Accounts of the accident vary. While the most common accounts say that Schwister was 1,000 in the air when his engine “died.” By skillful and cool-headed steering, he managed to keep his plane afloat and sailed toward the earth. When about 60 feet from the ground, it is believed that he encountered wires leading from the riding hall that caused the plane to veer and finally crash to the ground.

Witnesses of the accident said that the plane appeared to be sailing along through the air when it suddenly seemed to pause for a second until it suddenly pointed straight downward and fell.

Schwister had been in the air about 18 minutes, having left the aviation camp about a mile from the fort and was circling the air above the grounds when the engine stopped. It is then believed that he endeavored to keep the plane straight by steering and floating in the breeze.

Schwister is said to be a good aviator. His plane was fashioned after the make of the Wright brothers’ planes. This is not his first fall, having had several accidents. Last fall his plane collapsed a few feet from the ground, but he escaped with minor injuries.

Schwister’s Plane2

In today’s accident, the plane was practically demolished. It was left where it lay all night, a detail of soldiers guarding it.


Schwister survived the crash. He died in 1927, and was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame on Oct. 10, 1998.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Aeroplane Collapses; Airman Falls 60 Feet. John Schwister Is Dashed to Earth While Flying at Fort Snelling. Head of Aviation School Escapes Serious Injury—Machine Wrecked. Engine ‘Died’ 1,000 Feet in Sky—Glide Saves Life.”; June 25, 1912; p. 1.





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