by ED VANCE, Engineer, Operating Plants
  (Editor's Note: Mr. Vance devoted many hours of his personal time, contacting people throughout the country who personally knew or were in some way associated with Cyrus Bettis. This story represents an accurate and in-depth look at our laboratory's namesake.)  
      Each modern aircraft that flies over the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory pays tribute to the perseverance and courage of the pioneers of the aviation industry. The Laboratory dwells on the site of Bettis Airfield, renowned in those prologue years of an infant business.
    After several years of use by adventurous pilots, the field was formally opened as the Pittsburgh-McKeesport Airdrome in August 1925. In November 1926, the airdrome was renamed Bettis Airfield in honor of a superior Army pilot, Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis.
    On September 1 of this year, we mark the 41st anniversary of the death of this young aviator who succumbed to injuries after crashing into a mountain near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Today, his name is very much alive because of his won achievements and the events that followed his death.
    Cyrus Bettis, son of John and Mattie Bettis, was born on January 2, 1893, at Carsonville, Michigan. After graduation from the Carsonville High School in 1910, he completed a business course at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
    Mr. Bettis entered the Army on February 2, 1918, as a flying cadet from Fenton, Michigan, where he was the manager of the Fenton Exchange of the Michigan State Telephone Company.
    He was graduated from the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois, and was sent to Camp Dick, Dallas, Texas, in April 1918. Flight training was completed on September 11, 1918, at Call Field, Wichita Falls, Texas, and Cyrus Bettis was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
    His post-commissioning duties involved piloting on patrol duty at the Mexican border and in the Philippines.
    His flying ability gained attention during the International Air Races on October 4, 1924, when Lieutnant Bettis won the John L. Mitchell Trophy Race, for which he received a letter of commendation from the Chief of the Air Corps.
    On October 12, 1925, Mr. Bettis won the Pulitzer Trophy Race at the International Air Races, held at Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York and established a world record of 249.342 miles per hour for 100-km. He received letters of commendation from the Assistant Secretary of War, Dwight F. Davis, and from the Chief of Air Corps, Major General Mason M. Patrick.
Bettis & Lanphier
NICE WORK-- Being congratulated by Major T. G. Lanphier is Lieutenant
Bettis after establishing a world record of 249.3 mph over Mitchell Field.

Bettis & Lanphier
READY TO GO--Lieutenant Bettis poses with the Army Curtiss Racer he
used to win the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race at the International Air Races.

      Lieutenant Bettis was also alternate pilot to Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle in the Schneider Cup Races for that year. Together with Doolittle, Mr. Bettis was awarded the Mackay Trophy in 1925.
    On August 23, 1928, Mr. Bettis led a formation of three planes from the Sesquicential Grounds in Philadelphia to Selfridge Field, Michigan. The pilots, Lieutenants Bettis, S. L. Smith and J. J. Williams, encountered a heavy fog in the mountains near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
    Lieutenant Bettis flew into a tree top and crashed on Sand Mountain at 1:15 P.M. He regained consciousness about two hours later, and remained with the wrecked airplane, thinking that perhaps his flying companions would return.
    Later, despite serious injuries, he began to crawl in the direction of a road several miles away. He could hear planes flying above the next day, but due to dense underbrush and his weakened condition, he was unable to signal Lieutenants Smith and Williams as they frantically searched for him.
    After two days of crawling, Cyrus Bettis made his way to the road and was found by two highway employees at 10 A.M. on August 25, 1926. It had been 45 hours since his plane was downed.
    After treatment at the Bellefonte Hospital, he was flown by Army ambulance airplane to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. He was believed to be recovering rapidly despite the seriousness of his injuries, but inflammation of the nerve sheaths set in.
    His strength exhausted by his harrowing experiences, he was unable to combat the complications, and he died at 9 A.M. on September 1, 1926
    Two months later, several thousand persons attended the dedication of Bettis Airfield and watched a group of Army pilots stage an aerial demonstration. The crowd was electrified by the stunt flying.
    After the dedication, a banquet was held at the Penn McKee Hotel, in McKeesport, to honor the distinguished guests, including Ithrene Bettis, sister of the deceased pilot. Thus, Cyrus Bettis unknowningly had his name thrust into the future.
    The pioneering spirit which dominated the life of the airfield, and the airman for whom it was named, gained momentum with the establishment of the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and the creation of nuclear reactors for the world's first atomic submarines, surface ships, and electric power plants in 1949.
      This article appeared in 1967 in a Westinghouse in-house newspaper mailed to E. P. Vance, 4797 Beall Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15236. I question the accuracy of the "formally opened" "August 1925" date. A June 19, 1925 date is more verifiable.
Collection of Carolyn Peat, 9-14-05

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