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Eddie Schneider

Sport: Aviation

Born: October 20, 1911

Died: December 23, 1940

Town: Red Bank & Jersey City

Eddie August Henry Schneider was Born October 20, 1911 in New York City and grew up in Red Bank and later Jersey City—where his father, Emil, owned a delicatessen. A mechanical genius who was obsessed with aviation, Eddie dropped out of Dickinson High at 15 after being offered a fulltime mechanic’s job at Roosevelt Field in Mineola, Long Island. One year later, Charles Lindbergh would take off from this airfield to start his history-making transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

In 1929, Eddie became the country’s youngest licensed commercial pilot and certified airplane mechanic. Emil bought his son a “graduation” gift, a uses Cessna monoplane, which Eddie christened The Kangaroo. In the summer of 1930, Eddie set a new record for pilots under 21 when he flew round-trip to California and back in 57 hours. He began his journey in Westfield, landed in Los Angeles, and then returned to Mineola. Eddie carried a letter from L.A. mayor John Porter to Jersey City mayor Frank Hague. The record he broke belonged to Bob Buck, another young New Jersey aviator.

Eddie’s newfound celebrity made him a draw at airshows and competitions. In 1935, he leveraged his fame to start an aviation school in Jersey City. He and a student survived a crash into Newark Bay. Late the following year, Eddie joined the Yankee Squadron, a mercenary group fighting for the loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. The pilots were paid $1,500 month with a $1,000 bonus for each aircraft in Franco’s fascist White Plane air force they shot down. In 2019 dollars, Eddie stood to earn over a quarter-million dollars a year for his service.

Unfortunately, the situation within the air ministry was dangerously chaotic. Shortly after they arrived, Eddie and two other pilots decided to flee back to the United States. They were caught leaving southern France by motorboat; the driver was executed and Eddie and his comrades were briefly jailed. They were allowed to return to America early in 1937. He went to work for Eastern Airlines in Newark and then at New York Municipal Airport, later to be rechristened LaGuardia.

Two days before Christmas in 1940, Eddie was training another pilot at Floyd Bennett Field when their aircraft was clipped by a Navy Reserve pilot on approach to landing. The impact sheared the tail off of Eddie’s plane. They plunged to their deaths from 600 feet.

 

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