July 21, 2014

95 Years Ago Today

Wingfoot Air Express was a passenger dirigible that ran a route between Grant Park in Chicago and the White City Amusement Park south of the city. 




The dirigible was one of several aircraft that operated from a short airstrip and a pier in the big urban park, which, being right next to The Loop, provided air service directly to and from downtown Chicago. 



On July 21st 1919 this all came to an end when, shortly after takeoff from Grant Park, Wingfoot Air Express caught fire directly over the Chicago Loop. The crew and passengers attempted to use their parachutes, but only the captain and mechanic survived as the dirigible exploded, fouling the other chutes in the collapsing rigging or setting them afire. 

However the disaster was about to get worse. Even given the fact that a position directly over the Chicago Loop is a most unfortunate place for an aircraft to explode, what happened next was improbably bad. The flaming dirigible crashed directly through the skylight of the Illinois Trust and Savings Building, rupturing the ships gas tank and spewing flaming gasoline all over the interior of the building. 



Pic and caption via


37 bank employees and customers were burned, hit by debris or both. 10 of them died.

The reaction from the city was swift. All air operations out of Grant Park and over the city were banned.  An airfield was built outside of town but Chicago's unique and growing air commuter businesses were all shut down as a result of the tragedy.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 01:17 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 An airfield was built outside of town...

...which is now known as Chicago Midway International Airport.  The more you know!

Posted by: Wonderduck at Mon Jul 21 18:10:34 2014 (aDkEL)

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