Earle of the Air

Order Paul Beck's biography of pioneer aviator Lewis Earle Sandt

The Jefferson County History Center is now shipping orders for Paul Beck’s highly anticipated biography of Lewis Early Sandt. 

About the book

Early aviation pioneer, Earle Sandt of Brookville, Pennsylvania was once dubbed, America’s Greatest Birdman. After setting up an automobile garage with his brother, Walter in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1909, Earle became fascinated with watching the flying skills of early aviators, like Lincoln Beachey and Bud Mars. 

In November of 1911, Sandt studied flying in Hammondsport, New York with the Glenn Curtiss instructing team and won praise for his good work and “perfect landings.” Returning to Erie, with his new Curtiss D biplane, Earle mesmerized the public with his ever daring flights that included numerous altitude records. 

On February 20, 1912, on an extremely cold day, Earle Sandt flew across a frozen Lake Erie in his open-air flying machine, becoming the first aviator to complete an International flight in North America and the first to fly across one of the Great Lakes. On Earle’s return trip from Long Point, Canada, Earle experienced engine failure, resulting in a crash landing on the frozen Lake. Demonstrating exceptional courage, the injured aviator, hiked over 5 miles to shore across the frozen Lake. News of Earle’s survival and amazing flight over the Lake captivated the public and earned him international recognition in the aviation community. 

Curtiss drawing
Curtiss drawing

“Earle of the Air” is a book that follows the ups and downs of Earle’s flying career. Despite numerous accidents and injuries, Earle continued to fly. His personality, bravery, and never-give-up attitude endeared him to thousands of people in many small towns in Western Pennsylvania and in other States, including New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. In his fragile Curtiss D biplanes, Earle Sandt had to navigate through wind and sometimes challenging weather to achieve his goals in the sky. Earle loved to fly and show off his flying skills. He also liked to share his love of flying with others, inspiring many young people to pursue a career in aviation. In this book, readers will be able to follow Earle’s career, beautifully illustrated with period photographs, historic documents and lore. Although his flying career was short, Earle became one of America’s best and treasured early aviation heroes.

Earle Sandt House
Lewis Earle Sandt house, Brookville, PA
Earle Sandt book cover
Earle of the Air by Paul Michael Beck

Following his historic flight across Lake Erie, Earle continued his brave flying career and established many firsts in early aviation.

Notable first flights include his flight across the smoky City of Pittsburgh on June 15th 1912, a cross country flight from Brookville to Punxsutawney on June 29th 1912 and his airmail flights in Ohio in August of 1912.

Earle Sandt
Earle Sandt, photo courtesy of David Taylor