By Greg Bailey, University Archivist, Texas A&M University
On April 18, 1918, two airplanes arrived on the Texas A&M campus after flying up from Ellington Field in Houston. The planes had brought a load of radio apparatus to support the growing U.S. Army Signal Corps School for Radio Mechanics that had been established at the College the previous spring. Radio mechanics were being trained through the Electrical Engineering Department to meet the need of this specialized skill in the U.S. Army. As more soldiers arrived to receive training, more equipment was needed for the men to train with. As a result, Signal Corps officers stationed at the College requested this additional equipment.
The radio equipment was arranged to be sent up from Ellington Field, which had been created by the U.S. Government in 1917 to become an advanced flight training base. Lt. C.D. Tuska and Lt. S.F. Kelley flew in one plane while Lt. E.N. Pickerill and Lt. B.J. Tooher flew in the second. After landing on the Drill Field the apparatus was unloaded and by that afternoon the two planes were scheduled to return to Ellington Field. As Tuska and Kelley’s plane attempted to take off, the plane clipped treetops at the edge of the Drill Field and was completely wrecked. Luckily Tuska and Kelley escaped without injury. The remnants of the plane were loaded on a train and shipped back to Houston. This caused the delay of Pickerill and Tooher’s planned return to Houston until the following morning. On the morning of April 19 Pickerill and Tooher took off from campus without incident but just about a mile southwest of campus they experienced motor trouble and their plane was wrecked. Miraculously Pickerill and Tooher also escaped the crash without injury.