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Army Air Corps BC-1 ACTS Training
September 14, 1938
By Ken Freeze, PACS, USCG (ret)

It was overcast with some broken clouds the afternoon Coast Guard Lt. William Schissler took off for a two hour practice flight in an Army Air Corps North American BC-1 Trainer (#37-658).

Lt. Schissler had been assigned to ACTS (Air Corps Technical School) Chanute Field, 1st School Squadron, from Coast Guard Air Station St. Petersburg, Florida. Schissler was an experienced pilot. In just the three months prior to the accident, Schissler has flown just about every type of aircraft then in the Coast Guard inventory, from the Hall PH-2 to the Grumman J2K.

After Schissler had been in the air for two hours 1st Lt. R. L. Kreider, who was the Officer of the Day at Chanute Field, was notified that Schisler was overdue from his flight. Kreider ordered the tower to attempt to gain radio contact with Schissler. After several attempts, contact was made and Schissler who requested his position. Schissler stated that he was, "now crossing the beam," with no altitude or direction being given. No further contact was made. Kreider reported hearing a garbled, "…west of …" then static filled the air waves.

In the belief that Lt Schissler was still able to receive the control tower, a radio mechanic broadcast in the blind, instructions in the use of the radio compass .

Thomas Watson who witnessed the crash said, "He (the plane) started turning and headed toward the clover field and apparently headed into a steep dive and hit the ground after the airplane sounding the way I have heard in a power dive." He added that, "It appeared to me that during all the time that I heard the airplane, the pilot was opening and closing the throttle until the final dive during which time the motor seemed to be wide open."

The final conclusion of the investigation board was the Lt. Schissler had become lost while on a local practice flight and due to darkness, possible lack of knowledge of the use of the radio range and radio compass was unable to locate Chanute Field. Then, when the fuel supply was nearly exhausted, he decided upon landing in a fairly large clover field. While maneuvering and preparing for a landing, Lt. Schissler lost control of the plane and either spun or dived toward the field. When attempting to recover from this maneuver, with the flaps lowered and the plane traveling at excessive speed, the right wing failed, coming to rest some ways from the crash site. The plane crash in the field near Henning, Ill about 7:10 pm.

As a sidelight to the crash, the farmer in who’s field the plane crashed submitted a damage claim to the War Department Air Cops for $15 in damaged clover.


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