Ralph H. Lawter – Second Lieutenant, United States Army Air Service

Board of Inquiry Finds Pilots’ View Was Restricted
Military Funeral For Four

RANTOUL, Illinois – December 24, 1926 – The inability of an airplane pilot to get more than a limited view from his cockpit of the air ahead of his machine was recognized today as a hazardous element in flying by a military board of inquiry after investigating the mid-air collision of two planes over Chanute Field on Wednesday, in which four flying officers were killed.

The board concluded that when the two planes came together almost head-on four hundred feet above the field, each pilot was unable to seethe other machine because they approached at “blind angles.”

Officers pointed out that the inability of a pilot to see in all directions long had been called for great caution in flying when two or more planes were in the air. Many a time passengers in the rear seat have been asked to keep an eye out for planes from other directions because the rear seat offers a view of the surroundings from different angles than the pilot’s seat. Occasionally, they said, collisions have been averted by warnings from passengers.

The evidence indicated that possibly Lieutenant Ralph H. Lawter of Huntington, West Virginia, caught a sight of a second before the crash of the other plane flown by Lieutenant Henry Kunkel of Columbia, Missouri, but not in time to swing clear.

Major William McChord, who headed the board of inquiry, pointed out that the problem of “blind angles” it to aviation the same problem which motor car manufacturers faced a few years ago when closed cars came into vogue with tops, the supports of which kept the drivers from seeing cars approaching from some angles at intersections.

With military honors, officers and men of Chanute Field conducted funeral services today for the four officers in the gymnasium at the field, converted into a chapel on the day when it was to have been the scene of a Christmas Eve fete.

After the services the bodies of Lieutenants Lawter and Kunkel were placed on a train to be taken to Arlington Cemetery.  The body of Captain Harold Foster will be buried in Chicago, his home, and that of Lieutenant Albert J. Clayton at West Philadelphia, where he resided.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/22/1926

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