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There is no biographical file for pilot Campion in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.




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Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.


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John L. Campion, St. Louis Dispatch (MO), March 25, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
John L. Campion, St. Louis Dispatch (MO), March 25, 1929 (Source: Woodling)




John Campion learned to fly during WWI holding a commission as second lieutenant. After the War he worked for the state highway department (Missouri?) for a while, then went back to aviation. He took instruction from the Robertson brothers in St. Louis, MO to brush up on his flying skills.


According to local news accounts, he lived in Clayton, MO, now a western suburb of St. Louis. He had a wife and young son. The photograph, left, is from the St. Louis Dispatch of March 25, 1929. It shows an interesting juxtaposition of class and trash.


Campion signed the Tucson Register once on Thursday, July 19, 1928 at 9:00AM. He carried passenger Fred Stone in the Travel Air that Campion identified as NC4320 (a model 4000, S/N 373). Based in New York City, they arrived at Tucson from Imperial, CA. They departed Tucson at 9:30AM eastbound to El Paso, TX.


Passenger Fred Stone (1873-1959) was a comedian and actor who employed Campion as his flight instructor and personal pilot. During Stone's flight instruction he met with an accident as documented in the Waterloo, IA Evening Courier, below.

Waterloo Evening Courier (IA), August 3, 1928 (Source: Woodling)
Waterloo Evening Courier (IA), August 3, 1928 (Source: Woodling)


Stone was soon on the mend, however, as reported in The New York Times just four days later, below.

The New York Times, August 7, 1928 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, August 7, 1928 (Source: NYT)
















I do not know if Campion suffered any repercussions from the legal aspects discussed in the last paragraph of this article. I am quite sure the FAA today would find Stone at fault.


Stone's accident was reported in the federal accident reports for 1929 as follows. I'm not sure of the make, model or registration number of Stone's aircraft, but since the accident report states that it was a Travel Air, it could be the Travel Air that Campion identified as NC4320 when he visited Tucson with Stone about three weeks earlier. Stone's is the 9th record, below.

Accident Report, Fred Stone, 1928 (Source: Woodling)

About eight months after his student crashed, Campion was killed in an airplane accident on March 25, 1929. The Gettysburg Times (PA) reported this story on March 26th. It made mention that Campion was well-known in the Gettysburg area, having landed a the local airfield several times with his employer, Fred Stone, in Stone's airplane.

The details of the accident were published in the Huntingdon Daily News (PA) on March 26, 1929, below. According to the article, at the time of the accident, Campion was the eastern factory representative for the Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis. Indeed, the Daily Ardmore (OK) of Monday, March 15, 1929 reported that he was identified in the wreckage from a card he carried in his pocket reading, "John L. Campion, eastern factory representative of the Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis." The crash airplane was a new Mahoney-Ryan model (NC7208, S/N 155), which Campion was ferrying to be used as a demonstrator in New York (see photograph below).


Mt. Gretna, March 26. -- In the second major airplane crash in this vicinity in three months, four men dropped to their deaths in a section of woodland on the Pennsylvania State Military Reservation at Mt. Gretna yesterday morning at 11:30 o'clock.

The plane, a Mahoney-Ryan monoplane piloted by JOHN L. CAMPION, wartime flier and a veteran aviator, smashed against a tree stump when a tree tore a piece of one wing off and the machine fell like a plummel [sic] in the woods.

CAMPION and three passengers who had been invited to ride with him from Columbus, Ohio, to New York City, were instantly killed. Their heads were crushed and their bodies terribly mangled. The plane was reduced to a mass of tangled wreckage, almost hidden by the thick growth of small trees, into which it fell.
The three passengers were PAUL WAGER, 23, and HAROLD GLOYD, 21, of Worthington, Ohio, and CHARLES STEWART, 27, of Columbus. Relatives of the three said that the boys were offered a ride to New York by the pilot and accepted. The plane hopped off from Norton Field, Columbus, at 9 o'clock yesterday morning under adverse flying weather.

When the party neared Mt. Gretna the sound of the plane's motor attracted the attention of farmers and employees of the military reservation working nearby. However, a low-hanging haze prevented them seeing the ship. Flying northward the monoplane emerged from the haze and the watchers saw it dip sharply and suddenly. It lost altitude, rapidly and finally struck a tree which tore away an eight-foot section of the wing.
The pilot apparently was still fighting to gain altitude and the plane zoomed slightly. But the loss of part of the wing was too great a handicap for even a veteran pilot to overcome and the blue and silver ship crashed to earth with a loud noise.

It is believed that the plane was in trouble or else CAMPION was seeking to locate his position when the ship arrived over the wooded hillside. The plane was flying at a low altitude and circled the area twice before it knocked its crippled wing against the tree.

Among the first to arrive at the crushed wood and steel that once was an airplane, Allen Lehman and his two sons, William and Jacob, found all the occupants dead and the interior of the cabin charred, although the wreck did not catch fire. The Lehman's were working in a field and saw the plane as it came out of the fog. They saw it struggle along a ravine and finally strike the earth.

Edward L. Sehreadly, Harrisburg contractor who is building stables on the cavalry grounds, saw the accident. He said the ship was flying just above low clouds and that it struck a tree and then dropped.

Maj. William L. Hicks, superintendent of the reservation, was notified and took charge of the wreckage. Word was sent to the Middletown Air Depot in hopes that officials there could help in identifying the plane and its occupants.

CAMPION was identified by a card in his pocket. The identification of the others was delayed several hours until word was received from Columbus. A briefcase found in the cabin bore the name of STEWART.

The pilot, whose hands still clutched the stick when his body was found, recently was appointed, eastern factory representative for the Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis. He was flying to New York in a new demonstration plane, having left St. Louis last Thursday.

CAMPION was 35 years old and had been a pilot for thirteen years. He served in the Air Corps during the war and is credited with at least one enemy plane. At one time he was pilot and instructor for Fred Stone, the actor.

CAMPION was a friend of Colonel Lindbergh, is survived by his widow and two children. His mother and other relatives live in Philadelphia.

Coroner J. Herbert Manbeck, of Lebanon County, was called and after inspecting the wrecked plane, removed the four bodies to an undertaking establishment in Lebanon.

Similar to Stone's accident, the federal annual report of aircraft accidents for 1929 reported his on page 184, below. He is listed fourth from bottom.

Campion Accident Report, 1929 (Source: Woodling)

Campion's crash airplane, NC7208, is below. The photograph is ca. 1929.

Ryan_Mahoney B-1, NC7208 (Source: Woodling)



The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Campion and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


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