• Published
  • AETC Director of Safety
To many, the town of Eden, Texas, is a dot on a highway map. However, I remember as a 16-year-old novice driver, who had yet to learn Air Force flight and fuel planning techniques, anxiously nursing my old pickup toward this "dot" with my fuel gauge hovering around empty. As I gingerly cleared one last cotton farm and mesquite pasture, this small town and her gas stations, brimming with 68-cents-per-gallon petrol, seemed to sparkle like a diamond.

In the 30 years since this "running-on-fumes" experience, my skills and appreciation of flight and fuel planning have matured considerably. Likewise, my knowledge and admiration of Eden also has grown. It is indeed a diamond in military, aviation and flight safety history.

In 2007, the town honored retired Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder, a native son of Eden born in 1910, by rededicating a park in his name. Rudder served with great distinction in World War II and later as president of the Texas A&M University system.

Eden is also the boyhood home of Gen. Ira C. Eaker. A life-long advocate of airpower, Eaker served as a key commander in World War II. Indeed, his legacy is well documented on a Texas historical marker in downtown Eden.

Finally, 2nd Lt. Philip R. Meyer, one of our nation's aviation pioneers, made an interesting impact on Eden's colorful history in the area of flight safety.

On March 25, 1919, Meyer flew to Eden in a Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" biplane -- the first airplane to touch down in the town. With no real runway, he performed takeoffs and landings from a nearby field. Unfortunately, he crashed the plane on this same visit, which resulted in Eden's first flight mishap. Thankfully, he was not injured.

In 2007, an Eden resident asked if we had any details on this 1919 mishap. It took some time to track information down, but it was worth the effort. The Air Education and Training Command safety team sifted through clues from the 1919 crash and pieced together a nearly 90-year-old puzzle with a fascinating outcome.

The results from our "investigation" can be found on page 20 of this issue. As you will see, lessons learned from this mishap in Eden have become diamonds in flight safety that are keenly appropriate to today's aviators.