#ThrowbackThursday: Princeton’s Aviation Pioneers

Flying ace Elliott Springs, Class of 1917, with his wife, Frances. (PAW Archives)

Flying ace Elliott Springs, Class of 1917, with his wife, Frances. (PAW Archives)

Nearly a decade after earning fame as a World War I flying ace, Elliott Springs, Class of 1917, had transitioned to a new career as an author, editing the best-seller War Birds and writing a pair of other popular books. But, as Springs wrote in PAW, flying remained an integral part of his life. And even though he’d endured enemy gunfire, stalled engines, a leak that squirted hot oil into his face for hours, and a motor that vibrated so badly that it shook a filling from his tooth, he claimed to have “never made a flight that I did not enjoy.”

Springs, pictured above with his wife, Frances, headlined the Feb. 24, 1928, issue of PAW, which was devoted entirely to aviation — a hot topic in the winter following Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight. Other authors in the magazine included F.B. Rentschler 1909, the president of Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Co.; James L. Breese 1909, part of the U.S. Navy crew that made a trans-Atlantic flight (with stops) in 1919; and James S. McDonnell ’21, a young airplane designer who would go on to create McDonnell Aircraft.

The issue also featured an article called “A Vacation on Wings,” about summer training in the Naval Reserve’s air unit, written by Harvey Williamson ’27. Sadly, Williamson died six months later in a plane crash near his home in Duluth, Minn. The airfield there was re-named in his honor.

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