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Reno Mail Flier Dies in Crash
Nevada State Journal, August 2, 1924, page 1

Mourners at 'Buddy's' Grave Stunned

William Blanchfield 'Goes West'

Scores Mourn for 'Big Bill'

All Reno Stunned by Tragedy of Air; Tributes Paid to Dauntless Flier

All Reno was stunned yesterday evening when the news of the tragic death of Pilot W. S. Blanchfield was learned. Hundreds of persons expressed their sympathy and many tributes were paid to the young man, so well known here because of his work in the government service.

Youngsters who scarcely knew the pilot's last name, were well acquainted with "Big Bill" as he was known and older persons who had occasion to come into contact with him, all spoke freely of the regard in which he was held.

Manager Stricken

Particularly grief stricken was F. E. Caldwell, manager of the local air mail field. Already shaken by the death of "Sammy" Gerrans, one of the mechanics at the field, the second blow came hard to the field manager.

"Blanchfield has held the esteem and affection of the entire air mail service from the east coast to the west," Mr. Caldwell said last night. "One of the most brilliant fliers in the service, he won the highest admiration from everyone with whom he came in contact. He was every inch a man, and a man the air mail service will never be able to replace."

Jack Bell, whose articles on the air mail service pleased so many readers of The Journal last year, said:

"Of all my intimate men friends and acquaintances I was perhaps better acquainted with W. F. Blanchfield than any other man in this country. His was a personality that was unusually attractive, a man for all the word conveys, a gentleman in the fuller meaner of that much used word. "'Blanch' was really a natural flyer; his reputation for meeting every emergency was a by-word in the air mail: his "slide slipping" into the field was an ever-increasing wonder to pilots and air mail attaches.

"He was prone to make friends: his admirers were legion. He was the soul of honor, lovable, kindly - a man's man. His place will never be filled. There is mourning from one end of the Red Line air mail road to the other for the passing of 'Big Bill.'

"His record in the Royal FLying corps and the air mail will forever stand out in letters of golden intrepid. With Winslow, Huking and Vance, he blazed the trail over the 'hump' that abounded in thrills, danger and pioneering well done - a record that will live for all time.

"All one can say is, God bless him;"

Miss Roma Meek of Reno, fiance of the dead flier, was notified of his death at the home of her sister, 798 Post street, San Francisco, by her aunt, Mrs. Dora C. Dickerson of this city, shortly after the tragedy. Miss Meek was prostrated with grief. It was announced that she will return to Reno to attend the funeral.

No funeral arrangements had been made last night. Word was sent to brother, Michael Blanchfield of San Jose, Cal. A sister, Mrs. LKeo Duffy formerly of San Francisco, but now of New York city, was sought. The mother of Pilot Blanchfield is a resident of Ireland, where he was born 29 years ago. His father is dead.

Inquest Today

An inquest to inquire into the accident will be held today by Coroner Charles D. Bull. An enquiry will also be held by the government, it is said.

NO blame can be attached to either Blanchfield or the plane, those who are familiar with the art of aviation said last night. Blanchfield's 10 years experience in flying made him the peer of practically ever flier in America, it was pointed out, and every trick of the air was his. The plane, No. 297 of the air mail service, was of the De Haviland type and was in perfect condition. The mechanical force at the local field has ever had a reputation for its success in maintaining the planes allotted to it and there has never been an accident due to a plane serviced in Reno.

SAN JOSE, Cal., Aug 1. - Michael P. Blanchfield of San Jose was notified late today of the death of his brother, William F. Blanchfield, air mail pilot, when his plane crashed at Reno, Nev., as he was about to drop flowers upon the grave of Samuel J. Gerrans, mechanic in the service. The brother will leave here tomorrow for Reno. A sister, Mrs. Leo Duffy, resides in New York city.

SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 1 - William Blanchfield, air mail pilot killed at Reno, Nev., today was one of the oldest here in point of service, having come to this division in 1921. He was a native of Ireland and served in the British air service during the war.

A. C. Nelson, superintendent of the western division of the air mail service, said tonight that he had always considered Blanchfield one of the best pilots on the division. Nelson will go to Reno by airplane to assist in making funeral arrangements for the dead pilot.

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