Biography of Eddie August Schneider (1911-1940) written by Gretchen Francis Hahnen (1902-1986) to accompany his papers deposited at the George H. Williams, World War I Aviation Library at the University of Texas at Dallas.
6325Biography of Eddie August Schneider (1911-1940) AviatorGretchen Francis Hahnen
Eddie Schneider was born October 20, 1911 on Second Avenue, and 17th Street in New York City. Later his family moved to Red Bank, New Jersey where he attended grade school. From there his family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey and he graduated from Dickinson High School. In 1928 his mother passed away and his father took him, and his sister, for a visit to Germany and Norway to visit relatives. It was in Germany that he had his first airplane flight and it was then the "bug" bit him. Eddie received his flying instructions at Roosevelt Field in 1928. In October 1929 he received his commercial pilot's license and so became the youngest commercial pilot in the United States at age eighteen. He also received in that year, his aircraft and engine mechanic's license and so again he became the youngest licensed aircraft mechanic. In August 1930 he succeeded in breaking Frank Goldsborough's Junior Transcontinental record from New York to Los Angeles in 29 hours and 55 minutes, lowering the previous record by 4 hours and 22 minutes. He made the return trip in 27 hours and 19 minutes, lowering the previous record by 1 hour and 36 minutes. His total time for the round trip was 57 hours and 14 minutes, thus breaking the preceding record for the round trip, which was 62 hours and 58 minutes. His A.I.I. license was signed personally by Wilbur Wright. Following his transcontinental flight, Eddie flew to Chicago where he was one of the outstanding personalities at the National Air Races. While there, he was highly complimented for his ability to avoid an air crash over the crowded grandstand, a crash which had it occurred, would have cost a number of lives. Schneider had just taken off in his Cessna (with a Warner Scarab engine) monoplane from the Chicago field bound for the balloon races at Cleveland, when he saw the crowd scatter below. Noticing the panic, he looked up and saw the 40 foot left wing of a twenty passenger Buranelli transport plane directly over his. The youthful aviator saw passengers in the Buranelli scramble to the other side of the cabin to tilt the the sloping wing. The danger of the crash was great, and in an instant, Schneider sent his plane diving just as the Buranelli's wing scraped his. The crash was averted by the dip. The officials said his quick action in dipping his plane close to the ground and then pulling clear of the grandstand had probably averted the most serious accident in the races. He then entered in the Ford National Reliability Tour, the youngest pilot to have ever been so honored by an aircraft company. These tours were in reality efficiency races for commercial airplanes flying over a course of five thousand miles, which undoubtedly made these races the longest commercial aircraft races in the world. Schneider completed the tour with further honors, winning first place for single engine aircraft and the Great Lakes Trophy. Incidentally, he was the first pilot to fly a Cessna throughout the itinerary. Others had been entered in previous tours, but none had finished. Returning to New York, Schneider put in considerable time appearing in smaller air shows, where he attracted hordes of boys and girls to whom he spoke on any and all occasions, impressing upon them always the fact that any one of them could do what he was doing; that aviation belonged to them; that they should grasp the opportunity presented to them. In 1931, the Ford National Reliability Air Tour found Eddie once again a Cessna entry. During the race, the propeller broke and, causing him to lose his engine and so forced him out of the race for three days. This happened over the mountains of Kentucky. After pleading and cajoling with the Warner Company in Detroit, he made the necessary repairs with a new propeller and had been given permission to reenter the race. Naturally when he reentered the race, he found himself in last place and way behind the leaders, but he gained on his fellow pilots until on the last day, he found himself in first place again for a single engine aircraft and was the winner the second time of the Great Lakes Trophy. In 1932 he became chief pilot for the Hoover Business League. After that he became a student instructor until 1935 when he leased the Jersey City Airport in New Jersey and managed it and conducted his own flying school, aerial photography and charter work. At that time he one of the largest flying schools in the East with over one hundred and twenty-five students. And so he carried on. No flying club was too small or insignificant to win his willing cooperation in the furtherance of their plans. It was at the meeting of the Jersey Journal Model Plane Club that he met his wife, Gretchen Hahnen, who then lived in Jersey City, but was from Des Moine, Iowa. They were married in New York City on June 02, 1934. In December 1935, after a unsuccessful battle to save Jersey City Airport from becoming a stadium, he did exhibition flights and was an instructor at several New Jersey airports. By 1936, flying jobs were hard to come by. Schneider was "invited" to go to Spain and fly for the Spanish Loyalists. He accompanied Bert Acosta, Gordon Berry and Freddie Lord. They left New York on November 11, 1936 and arrived in Spain a week or so later. There he flew antiquated planes, but got disgusted and gave up, and came home, in January 1937. Between then and June of 1940 he became a mechanic for American Airlines at La Guardia Field, but his heart was not into it, he wanted to fly. He applied to the US Government for a job as a civilian instructor for the Army and was assigned to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. On December 23, 1940, while instructing a student and coming in for a landing, he was hit in the rear by a Navy Stearman which brought Eddie, and his student, to their untimely death. When the Navy plane landed, it still had Schneider's plane's left wing in their undercarriage. And so, aviation, as an industry, owes a debt of gratitude to it's younger contingent, such as Frank Goldsborough, Bob Buck and Dick James and others who followed, and to these youthful trail blazers who were constantly winning new recruits to the ranks of those who look upon aviation as a part of themselves and to whom the industry must continue to look for its new leaders.