Posted 12 March 2011 - 07:56 AM
Captain William Kepner (pictured above) piloted U.S. Army Airship #1 (depicted by Cliff in Posts #20 & #27) in the 1928 "National Elimination Balloon Race" and won the contest. Below is a newspaper recap of the race which also killed two Army Officers competing in U.S. Army Airship #3. When William Kepner retired from the USAF as a Lieutenant General in 1953, he held six aviation ratings which included: Command Pilot, Combat Observer, Senior Balloon Pilot, Zeppelin Pilot, Semirigid Pilot, and Metal-Clad Airship Pilot.
Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Wisconsin Rapids, WI. 31 May 1928
Pittsburgh, PA Balloonists Killed in Storm, May 1928
LIGHTNING KILLS 2 BALLOONISTS
SEVERAL INJURED AND CRAFTS FIRED AS ELEMENTS PLAY HAVOC IN NATIONAL ELIMINATION RACE.
Pittsburgh, Pa., May 31--(AP)--The U. S. Army balloon No. 1, the last of the bags entered in the national elimination balloon race to report, landed at Weems, Va., at 6:10 o'clock this morning, race headquarters were advised in a telegram from the pilot today.
Pittsburgh, May 31--(AP)--Two balloonists were killed by lightning in the national elimination race Wednesday. Several others were injured.
All but one of the 14 starters were known today to have been forced to earth by a storm not long after the take offs.
The balloon unreported today was the Army No. 1, from Scott Field, Belleville, Ill. It was in charge of Captain W. E. Kepner as pilot and Lieutenant W. Eareckson as aide.
Strike Ground Hard.
Those who met death were Lt. Paul Evert, pilot of Army No. 3, Langley Field, Va., and Walter Morton, of Akron, Ohio, aide to Ward T. Van Orman, also of Akron, pilot of the Goodyear V. and winner of the elimination for the last two years. Van Orman was in a hospital with a fractured leg, suffered when his balloon struck the ground with great force after being hit by lightning. Morton's skull was fractured at the same time.
Evert met death when struck by lightning as the Army No. 3 floated 1,000 feet in the air. The bolt also fired the big bag, which fell to the earth and was consumed. Evert's aide, Lieut. U. G. Ent of Northumberland, Pa., was unhurt.
James F. Cooper, Akron, Ohio, aide on the City of Cleveland, was shocked and suffered burns when lightning pierced his balloon. He was in a Westmoreland hospital, where his condition was reported as fair. Carl K. Wollam, Akron, Ohio, pilot of the Cleveland entry, escaped.