Mark C. Hogue was ferrying a Curtiss R4 airmail airplane to Washington, D.C. with pilot Richard Wright traveling in the mail compartment. The engine threw a rod and caught fire. Wright crawled out onto the airplanes' right wing, possibly to fight the fire with his hand extinguisher. While trying to fight the fire, and when the airplane was at about 200 feet, Wright lost his hold and fell. The aircraft smashed into a tree, throwing Hogue clear of the burning wreckage, and he survived.
This is part of Hogue's report of that terrifying incident:
Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, I heard a loud report in the motor and at the same time clouds of white smoke arose from the motor and up through the pilot's seat. I immediately thought of fire in the motor, so shut off my gas, opened the throttle wide and put her into a 40 degree dive, at the same time handing Wright the fire extinguisher, which he did not use. I dove for what I considered 700 feet, when the flames rushed up between the fuselage and the right wing and through the pilot's seat. I put my arms over my face, put the machine into a left hand side slip and steered for a grove of small trees. Simultaneously with the breaking of the flames, Wright left the mail pit, crawled out to the first bay of the right wing and, in my estimation, at 200 feet he left the ship. I am not prepared to state whether he jumped or not, because the flames prevented me from watching him and I was watching my left hand side slip. I skidded the machine sharply into a grove of small trees, and as I hit unbuckled my belt and was thrown on the top wing, landing on hands and knees, and left the ship as fast as possible.
It took twenty minutes for me to locate Wright. He was supporting himself on his right arm and his left arm and both legs were broken. The fire which dropped from the machine set fire to the country all along beneath our line of flight after the fire first broke out, and when I discovered Wright it was about two feet from his head. I dragged him to a road and there received assistance from local people. . . . He was carried into a close house, doctor summoned and ambulance called from the Coopers Hospital at Camden, New Jersey We arrived there at 1:30 and Wright received all the attention possible. He remarked to me when I found him that it took some nerve to jump that high. Again, that he did not mean to jump so high. Again that he fell off. Later, that he did not remember what happened after he saw the flames.
Hogue was commended by the department for his cool thinking and was not blamed for either the fire or for Wright's death.
Report made by Mark C. Hogue on April 12, 1920 detailing the tragic flight made by himself and airmail pilot Richard W. Wright. When a fire broke out on board their aircraft, Wright apparently crawled out of the airplane while it was still 200 feet in the air, possibly to try to extinguish the flames.
Learn more about airmail pilot Richard W. Wright.