Route 66 news:  Hero of Stinson Airport tragedy honored by USGS

Hey roadies, remember several months ago when we got previously unrecognized little Canyon Creek in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve an official name?  Well (blush!), we’ve done it again.  And now we’re trying to organize a dedication ceremony early next month for the newly named Schustek Pond on Route 66.

Bruno Schustek, hero and victim of the Stinson Airport tragedy, Route 66, July 1930, McCook IL

Aviator and hero Bruno F. Schustek

For nearly two years, we’ve been looking for a way to honor a hero of Route 66:  aviator, parachute jumper and World War I pilot Bruno Frank Schustek (1899-1930).  Next month is the 85th anniversary of his death.  Schustek died on July 6, 1930 in what is known as the Stinson Airport tragedy, while trying to save the life of a novice parachute jumper.  Her chute had been caught on the wing of her plane as it circled 1,000 feet above Stinson Airport on Route 66, in what is now McCook, IL.  For two hours, several other pilots attempted rescue with rope ladders and failed, while the girl dangled in midair above and horrified people watched below.  Then Schustek got into a plane with his fellow pilot Charles ‘Bud’ Geiger to make yet another attempt.  As Geiger maneuvered his craft above the other plane, Schustek climbed down a knotted rope to try to free the girl.  The novice made it safely to the ground, but the weary Schustek – an experienced parachute instructor who, ironically, was wearing neither a safety harness (they didn’t exist yet) nor a chute at the time – lost his grip on the rope before he could climb back up and fell 600 feet to his death.  (Listen to our podcast about the tragedy here.)

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Memorial fund is up for Stinson Airport tragedy hero Schustek

Greetings, fellow route-roadies!  You’ll be glad to hear that the Bruno Schustek Memorial Fund is up and running.  The forgotten hero of the Stinson Airport tragedy of July 6, 1930 is buried in an unmarked grave, and we’d like to change that.  Kudos to my colleague Joe Kubal for getting the deed done and to Keith Yearman for nagging us until Joe got going at Chase Bank.  With any luck, perhaps we can get a headstone ready in time for next year’s anniversary.

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Stinson Airport tragedy:  Socialite goofs, her rescuer dies on Route 66

We’ve just had another piece of U.S. Route 66 history that we’ve researched hit print.  Well, so to speak:  our co-author Keith Yearman just got a story about the Stinson Airport tragedy of July 1930 published on the website of The 66 News and its sponsor, the Route 66 Association of Illinois.  It was posted by 66 News editor Gina Blitstein (thank you, Gina!).

We also have a podcast about the Stinson Airport tragedy on Podbean, courtesy of the Illinois Geographical Society.  Thanks, guys!

Aerial view of Stinson Airport in 1938; Route 66 is the diagonal separating the south side of the McCook Quarry from the airfield on the north.  (1938 USDA Aerial Photography Project)

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