Corporal Frank S. Scott
(article by Scott AFB History Office)
Corporal Frank S. Scott, the first enlisted man to lose his life in an air accident, was killed at College Park, Md., Sept. 28,1912, while flying as a passenger with 2nd Lt. Lewis G. Rockwell, who was engaged in a course of tests for Military Aviator ratings.
Corporal Scott was born in Braddock, Pa., part of suburban Pittsburgh, on Dec. 2, 1883. Little is know of his early life except that he became an orphan in 1889 after losing his parents in the great Johnstown flood that year, and than an aunt raised him.
In 1908, at the age of 24, he enlisted in the Field Artillery. Discharged in 1911 with character "excellent," he re-enlisted in the same year and was subsequently assigned to the Signal Corps.
In July 1911, Corporal Scott was the victim of a lengthy illness, the nature of which is not known. After convalescence, he was pronounced unfit for "mounted" duty and assigned to the Army's College Park Flying Field in Maryland, a meteorological station of the pioneer Army Aeronautical Division.
Corporal Scott had a talent for things mechanical. He rose from the task of releasing balloons to become chief mechanic of one of the Wright Type-B biplanes which the Army had purchased. Apparently, he was keenly enthusiastic to go on the flight that carried him to his death.
A visitor to College Park, retired Army Capt. Bernard Rome, saw Corporal Scott a day before the ill-fated flight. "He was in high spirits when I spoke to him," Captain Rome recalled. He added, "A Lieutenant Rockwell had promised to take him flying the following day, and Scott jokingly referred to himself as 'ballast'." Another officer had asked to accompany the lieutenant on the flight but had been turned down because of excess weight. Corporal Scott, on the other hand, had never fully recovered from his illness and carried no excess poundage.
The flight started out in routine fashion on Sept. 28, 1912. Lieutenant Rockwell did a solo. The clumsy craft banged and coughed its way into the air, fluttering over College Park at the remarkable speed of 40 miles per hour. Assured that everything was in proper working order, the lieutenant landed and picked up Corporal Scott. The two men took off in the open biplane; and, after reaching an altitude of 150 feet, leveled off and soared for about 10 minutes. Coming in for a landing, the frail craft developed trouble and nosed downward. For tragic seconds, its 30 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine popped at full power, but the biplane continued its long dive, hurtling to earth with a crushing impact.
Nothing was left but a heap of splintered wood and torn canvas. Corporal Scott was dead when the running soldiers reached the scene of the crash. Lieutenant Rockwell was rushed to Washington's Walter Reed Hospital, but died on the operating table. More than 300 people witnessed the crash.
In 1917, following the procedure for naming military aviation fields after American airmen who had lost their lives during the "experimental" era, today's Scott Air Force Base was officially designated Scott Field.