Earlier this year, author, Paul Beck published a new biography of aviator, and Brookville native, Earle Sandt. As there is not much known about Earle’s personal life, Beck concentrated on his flying career which was short, but very exciting.
Among the newly discovered photos that are in the book was this gem, printed with permission from Dave Taylor (Earle’s grand-nephew).
Colorizing the photo revealed a lot of detail that was not as apparent in the original black & white copy. The white house at left still stands today (113 Walnut St.). Earle’s plane is pointed North at the end of the unpaved street.
In front of the house at the very left we see a guy on a ladder ready to take pictures. Between the guy in the dark suit and the boy standing in the foreground the whirling propeller is clearly seen.
Earle has a leather strap across his shoulders and there is a rod pressed against each shoulder. The aeroplane is a Curtiss Model D. Glenn Curtiss was a motorcycle racer and was aware of leaning into turns. Those rods controlled the ailerons – the pilot banked the aeroplane by leaning one way or the other against the rods. Earle’s hands are on the wheel. Pulling back or pushing forward controlled the elevator, as in modern airplanes. Turning the wheel one way or the other controlled the rudder. Just like modern aircraft, coordinating those controls resulted in smooth flying. Of course a light aeroplane and wind made it difficult to fly smoothly, or safely, for that matter.
Earle has one foot on the accelerator and the other (right) foot on the brake. It was a simple metal plate that pressed againat the front wheel. He’s ready to go—one of his mechanics who was holding the aeroplane is moving away.
Wait. What is that behind Earle? It’s his 14-year-old cousin, Frank Verstine sitting on the wing. Earle was going to test the aeroplane by taking a turn around the “field” before making a cross-country flight to Punxsutawney that day. He either offered, or was badgered into taking Frank for a ride. The Curtiss was not made for two passengers so Frank just sat on the wing with only a strut to hang onto. The color photo shows Fank’s feet dangling below the wing.
What happened next? Well you’ll just have to read the book, “Earle of the Air”, which is profusely illustrated with many previously unpublished photos. It’s available at the JCHC shop or in our online gift shop.