As It Was: Air Service Pilot Makes Spectacular Parachute Drop
In the 1920s, the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force, the Army Air Service, flew forest fire patrols throughout Oregon. By request that all airfields be named, Medford held a ceremony for that purpose in September 1920.
The ceremony featured an air circus with military pilots performing maneuvers for the crowd in large De Havilland airplanes. The planes flew first in a five-aircraft formation, followed by a four-lap race. After that, Lt. William DeVoe Coney and Capt. Smith took off for Coney to perform a spectacular parachute jump.
Coney was known as a daredevil in the Oregon Army Patrol Service and nothing seemed too risky. As they reached around 5,000 feet, Coney jumped from the airplane, but his parachute failed to open. Dropping 1,000 feet very quickly, the experienced aviators, the terrorized crowd, and Coney himself thought he was a goner.
Finally, one parachute and then a second opened and Coney gracefully landed on the plowed field below. Coney received a laceration on his hand and a sprained ankle, but was otherwise unhurt.
Sources: Swopes, Bryan R. "William DeVoe Coney Archives." This Day in Aviation, 24 Feb. 2018, www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/william-devoe-coney/. Accessed 15 Oct. 2018; Truwe, Ben. "Medford Airport Notes Throngs at Dedicatory Exercises." SOHS, Medford Mail Tribune , 7 Sept. 1920, www.truwe.sohs.org/files/airport.html. Accessed 14 Oct. 2018; Truwe, Ben. "Medford Airport Notes Aviation Field to be Dedicated." SOHS, Jacksonville Post, 14 Aug. 1920, www.truwe.sohs.org/files/airport.html. Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.