1920: Daring Texas Pilot Leaps into History

After you read the following story, which of these two actors would you have cast, when they were in their primes, to the movie role of “Wild Bill Long” from San Antonio, Texas: (Feel free to submit your own choice for an even better casting!)

Movie Role Candidate #1: ROBERT REDFORD

Movie Role Candidate #1:


Movie Role Candidate #2:


Daring Pilot Fires Plane and Leaps to Safety in Parachute

For the first time in the history of aviation, a pilot yesterday deliberately set fire to his airplane, leaped from the blazing machine with a parachute and landed unscathed.

William Long of San Antonio, alias Wild Bill, taker of long chances in the ethereal blue, did the feat, while the longest crowd that ever thronged the beach front in breathless suspense. Ten seconds after the birdman trusted himself to the problematical safety of the parachute, the plane’s gasoline tank exploded and tore to pieces all that remained of the ship as it plunged into the gulf. Wild Bill. suspended beneath the slant umbrella, drifted inshore at the mercy of a smart sea breeze and landed on the roof of a house four blocks from the seawall. He climbed down, a smile all over his smoke-blackened features, turned over the chute to bystanders and went swimming.

The affair was a free attraction obtained by the Galveston Beach Association and the Galveston Commercial Association for the benefit of visitors to the beach.

~ Galveston Daily News, June 20, 1920, Page 2.


In the absence of high definition, high speed digital moving picture photography back in 1921, The Pecan Park Eagle congratulates The Galveston Daily News for assigning an excellent descriptive writer to the job of covering this awesome daredevil stunt from the early years of manned flight.

Given the cost of aircraft sacrifice that made this act the feat it needed to be, we have to presume that there was no repeat of the same performance on the same weekend, if ever.

Thank you again, Darrell Pittman, for sending along this wonderful early example of “America’s Got Talent” and splendid descriptive coverage.

eagleOne additional post-column publication thought about this event and date and their place in history: Since there were no prohibitive laws or “green movement” groups around in 1920 to stop a city from incorporating the “intentional” sinking of a flying vessel loaded with exploding hydrocarbon fuels on board a winged vessel as the central part of their plan to entertain the general public, perhaps, we may want to speciously designate June 20, 1920 and Galveston, Texas as the birthdate and birthplace of global warming.


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