Earl Southee  
  Earl Southee at Princeton, NJ, 1917
Courtesy Mike O'Neal
via email from his son, Robert Southee, 9-8-2002

     My father was born in Binghamton,NY.
     Dad was at the Curtiss Flying School at Newport News in 1917, possibly 1916, but I'll have to look it up. He was a young mechanic. Curtiss had gotten a contract from a group in Princeton, NJ, to start a flying school for college boys, but they were short an instructor. Dad told me that Capt. Thomas Baldwin at Newport News called a meeting with the pilots/instructors, asked them if they had any suggestion for getting another instructor for Princeton. One of them mentioned that Earl Southee went up with them after he worked on their planes, had taken the controls and done well. The manager said to give him some lessons and see how he does. Dad did fine. After he soloed they sent him to Princeton as chief mechanic and #4 instructor!
     One of the students he taught there was Elliot White Springs, who became a fighter Ace in France. They kept in touch for decades.
     Editor's note: A detailed story of Elliot White Springs' career may be found on The Aerodrome website by clicking on the link above.
     Dad went to Dayton after the Princeton Flying School folded in 1917. Later, he was at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, as an instructor, where he became a 2nd Lieutenant. He survived a terrible crackup there in which the student (who was to blame -- froze on the stick in a nose dive), was killed. Dad had serious facial scars the rest of his life, substituted a perpetual mustache for his left eyebrow.
     Dad went to the Wharton School of Finance, U. of Pennsylvania in the 1920s, also barnstormed and ferried aircraft. After college he became an airport and flying-school manager for Curtiss, and in 1929 Curtiss-Wright.
     My Dad's later aviation love was motorless flight -- gliding and soaring. He was a founder of the Soaring Society of America (1931) and managed the 'Glider Meets' (National Gliding and Soaring Championships), at Elmira, NY, during the 1930s.
     In 1940 he became an inspector for the old CAA (Civilian Aeronautical Authority), predecessor of the FAA. During WWII he was one of the leaders of the highly successful CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program. 1998
EDITORS NOTE: March 19: These anecdotes were provided to me by Earl's son, Robert C. Southee, of Annandale, VA. Bob tells me that he has some photos of Earl which I can use, as well as many other stories. My sincere thanks to him and to Earl's grandson, Scott Southee, who alerted me to his dad and to the materials.

     Flight instructor Earl Southee, one of Paul Culver's best friends from his early flying days, had just crashed on the edge of the field where Paul was giving a group of students a lecture on acrobatic flying. Seeing Earl's plane crash head first into a nearby ditch, they had all rushed over and found him and his student unconscious and badly injured. The Field ambulance which with the fire truck was always near at hand, came alongside and Paul and his students helped the interns extricate the two casualities and place them on stretchers. Then Paul came in from the field on his motorcycle.
     It seems that Earl's student had frozen on the controls, and he had been unable to shake him loose. The student held on like grim death and both of them rode the airplane into the ground head first, burying the motor deep into the earth. The student was hurt the least because he was in the back seat, but Earl, in the front seat, received the full force of the impact, and as a result, spent many weary months in the hospital. Traction, plastic surgery and skin grafting were involved in his recovery. The doctors fixed him up so that he was as handsome as ever, even minus one eyebrow.
From Edith Dodd Culver's TALESPINS, A Story of Early Aviation Days

The Day the Airmail Began
A Story of Early Aviation Days
by Edith Dodd Culver
by Edith Dodd Culver

The date of his death is unknown.
Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Flier,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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