Among the many hats L. Ron Hubbard excelled at, aviator was certainly one. While powered and powerless flight in 1931 were exhilarating though still very dangerous, Ron Hubbard became America’s 385th licensed glider pilot in September. And he had spent the summer barnstorming Midwestern states. Ron was heralded as “Flash” Hubbard for his aerial antics. His experiences were the stuff of which great adventure stories are made. Then add in the newsworthy aviation events of the 1930s and you have the winning combination that made stories such as The Sky-Crasher authentic.
In the air adventure, The Sky-Crasher, pilot Caution Jones enters an air race to win a postal service contract. It is a round the world flight against competitors willing to break all the rules.
International Air Race
Our first little-known fact of 1934 features the longest flying race.
A spectacular flying race was held to celebrate Melbourne’s 100th anniversary. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne devised the race with a prize of £15,000.
In October of 1934, the Centenary Air Race began in London and ended in Melbourne, Australia. There were no limits to aircraft size, power, or crew.
The route stretched over nineteen countries. Five compulsory stops were designated. Pilots could select their own route between the five stops (Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin, and Charleville).
The winner was the De Havilland DH-88 Comet “Grosvenor House.” It was explicitly built for speed and won this race within three days.
Perhaps more important for long-distance air travel were the two passenger transport planes that won second and third places.
The second-place winner was the Royal Dutch Airline KLM DC2, the “Uiver”—an ugly duckling of a plane.
That this type of plane came in second over other specially built planes was significant. The achievement showed that a full-bodied metal aircraft could cover the distance reliably—and suddenly Australia was much closer to Europe.
The most dramatic part of the race was when the “Uiver” got caught in a thunderstorm, and ended up over Albury in New South Wales.
The Albury townsfolk responded quickly. The chief electrical engineer of the post office turned the town lights on and off, and cars lined up to light the runway for the plane.
The plane landed safely, and the following morning, locals pulled it out of the mud so it could fly on to Melbourne and claim second place in the race!
The Boeing 247-D flown by Roscoe Turner (without his lion, Gilmore) took third place. (Roscoe and his pet lion were the possible inspiration for L. Ron Hubbard’s Man-Killers of the Air.)
Both second and third-place winners were less than a day behind the sleek first-place winner.
Another little-known fact relevant to The Sky-Crasher concerns the vital role played by the postal service in early aviation. The US Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 made it possible to pay airlines based on the weight of the mail carried. During the early years of aviation, the post office helped offset airline operating losses while more efficient aircraft were developed.
However, by 1930 most air mail contracts were with the big airlines. The small, independent airlines complained of unfounded corruption charges and conspiracy to monopolize the air mail and demanded Congressional hearings.
In response to this pressure, President Franklin Roosevelt canceled all domestic air mail contracts on February 9, 1934. He called upon the Army Air Corps to carry the mail.
During the worst winter in decades, the “Air Mail Crisis” ensued. The Army pilots suffered a series of widely publicized accidents and several deaths.
The public outcry caused President Roosevelt to suspend the Air Corps’ mail service, and the Air Mail Act of 1934 was implemented. This returned air mail routes to the major and smaller airlines.
By the end of 1934, the first international air mail delivery was made from UK to Australia, just in time for Christmas!
See the history of aviation unfold through this adventure short story.
The Sky-Crasher—The Story
They don’t call him Caution Jones for nothing. Ever since his barnstorming father was killed in an air stunt, ace pilot Jones has stuck strictly to business—as the no-nonsense general manager of Trans-Continental Airlines. But, like Robert Redford in The Great Waldo Pepper, he’s about to find that, sometimes, if you want to get anywhere, you have to throw caution to the wind.
The race is on for a monster contract: the US Postal Service. To get it, Trans-Continental will have to circle the globe and beat its top competitor to the prize. And there’s only one pilot with the skill to do it: Caution Jones. He’ll have to dust off his wings and soar to heights even his father never dreamed of.
The wild blue yonder has never been wilder as Jones discovers that the competition will go to any length to bring his plane down. But an even greater challenge sits in his own cockpit—his blonde and brazen co-pilot.
The Story Behind the Story
L. Ron Hubbard was a sensational pilot in his flying days. The July 1934 issue of The Pilot magazine said, “Wherever two or three pilots are gathered together around the Nation’s Capital, whether it be a Congressional hearing, or just in the back of some hangar, you’ll probably hear the name of Ron Hubbard mentioned … for the flaming haired pilot hit the city like a tornado a few years ago and made women scream, and strong men weep by his aerial antics. He just dared the ground to come up and hit him.”
Straight from the cockpit to the typewriter, L. Ron Hubbard brought all the thrills and chills of his flight experience to his stories—bringing historical facts to vivid life!
Caution Jones’s nostrils quivered a little. He saw the names on the chart: The Aleutians, Japan, Russia, Poland, Germany and France. Angrily he turned away from the map and threw himself into his desk chair.
Craig, hair bushy and stiff as steel wool, his face the color of raw beef, entered with a militant stride and thumped himself onto the edge of the desk.
“What’s this note you sent me?” demanded Craig. “You don’t like this world flight?”
“No,” said Caution. “That’s what I’m paid to do.”
“See that TCA keeps going.”
“But look at that potential earning!”
“United States Airlines,” said Caution, with a shake of his head, “is going in for this thing. And they’re after our scalps. They’re buying up our stocks, cutting our rates and shortening our schedules. Mercer is going to hammer us into the middle of next week. And if Mercer and United States Airlines don’t want us in that race, they’ll see that we stay out, or kill our pilot.”
“Nuts!” said Craig.
Listen to This Excerpt of the Audiobook
This is not just any audiobook, but a cinematic high-definition audio experience brought to life by Hollywood actors—a multi-cast unabridged performance
“The Sky-Crasher is a wild adventure about embarking on a round-the-world flight back when making the claim was so great an achievement that the attempts attracted a criminal element.
“Each action-packed volume of Stories from the Golden Age is further enhanced with a glossary of regional terms, dialects that have fallen into disuse, and other words that may be esoteric to the casual reader.
“Excellent picks for anyone who loves pulp fiction.” —Midwest Book Review
“The full-cast performances are excellent. Special effects round out both stories, making for great escapist fun.” —AudioFile
Other articles and resources you may be interested in:
Read the articles: Macrobertson Centenary Air Race (longest Air Race as of 1934), Air Mail History in Pictures, How Air Mail Influenced Early Aviation, the Air Mail Crisis, and the first international Air Mail Success of 1934.