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Claire Vance, Airmail Veteran, Killed
Nevada State Journal, December 19, 1932, Page 1

Vance World War Ace and Survivor of Many Air Thrills

14 Years Spent in Service of Air Mail

Claire K. Vance, mail plane pilot who was killed in a crash near Oakland yesterday, had a colorful career and was widely known in Reno.

His widow is the former Lucille Williamson, sister of Mrs. Matt Dromiack of Reno. He leaves three children, Robert, 5, Jacqueline, 4, and Richard, 6 weeks.

Pilot 14 Years

He first became an air mail pilot in 1918. He came to Reno in 1920 to fly mail between Reno and San Francisco. In 1921 Vance set an Oakland-Reno speed record of 175 miles per hour. Two years later he made a successful landing on the crest of the Sierra Nevadas.

Vance had survived many hair-breath escapes. Once he landed in San Francisco bay when his motor failed and he was rescued by a tug.

Commandeered Mule

In 1921 his plane crashed in a snow storm and landed in the American river valley in an isolated place. Nothing was heard from him for 36 hours. He made his way to a cabin, borrowed a mule, and appeared at Placerville with his mail sacks slung over his shoulder.

"Claire Vance was the best aviator who ever flew over the Sierra Nevada mountains," Ray Mason, former manager of the Reno air flight, said last night.

"He was a natural flier and a master of his ship in emergencies. In the days when aviators flew from Reno to San Francisco and back, instead of continuing as they do now, Vance always visited his friends in Reno. He stayed at the Golden hotel on his stopovers here.

Stopped Over Here

"His companions of those days of the open cockpit Haviland ships were Burr Winslow, Jack Sharpneck, Harry Huking, Ray Little, Monte Mouton, Rex Levisees, Bill Blanchard and Eugene Johnson.

"Sharpneck was killed about six months ago in a crash near Sacramento. Blanchfield was killed several years ago in a spectacular accident in Reno. While dropping flowers at the cemetery north of Reno on the grave of a mechanic of the Reno field, his plane caught fire and crashed into a house on Ralston hill.

"Moulton is now inspector of air craft, United States department of airways. Johnson is superintendent of the Oakland field.

"With the passing of Vance, Winslow is the only one left of the old crowd that used to make this run," Mason said.

Pilot 14 Years

Besides his renown as an aviator, Vance also was a student of aircraft engineering. He had completed a new type of "Flying Wing" plane, which he expected would cut many hours from transcontinental flights.

Designed Plane

A demonstration of the "Flying Wing" plane was seen recently in a newsreel at the Majestic theater here. The plane is equipped with a wing, small cabin, regular motor and airbreakers. It has no fuselage.

Vance had intended to make a transcontinental demonstration of the plane as soon as the plane was rigged to his satisfaction.

The dead flier's family lives in Alameda.

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