North Carolina Centennial of Flight

Belvin Maynard

Belvin Maynard was born in Sampson County on September 28, 1892. Raised in a strictly religious household, Maynard attended a Baptist boarding school before enrolling in Wake Forest College to pursue the ministry. In 1915 Maynard was ordained as a Baptist minister, but he lacked finances and had to withdraw.

At the start of the war, he joined the army but was soon transferred to the air service. As a test pilot, Maynard honed his flying skills, sometimes performing tricks for small crowds. On February 12, 1919, Maynard broke the record for outside loops when he made 318 in 67 minutes. Later that year, the expert flyer won a thousand-mile race, completing the course in just seven hours and forty-five minutes. Maynard had beaten members of the Lafayette Escadrille, as well as famous pilots Elliott Springs and Carl Spaatz.

In October, Maynard flew from New York to San Francisco and back in the Double Transcontinental Aerial Derby. Maynard's plane was a DH-4 called the Hello Frisco. He had two passengers, William Klein, a mechanic, and Trixie, a German police dog who rode in the cockpit. Despite foul weather and numerous mechanical problems, the Hello Frisco crew won both the eastern and western courses of the race, completing the roundtrip journey in 67 hours, three minutes, and forty seconds. By the end of the race, twelve of the participating pilots had died in crashes and the army received much criticism for sponsoring such a dangerous event. Nevertheless, Belvin Maynard became known as "the greatest pilot on earth."

In the wake of his triumph, Maynard was commissioned by the army to recruit young pilots, and he began giving both lectures and sermons in New York. In late November, the flying parson made a grave mistake. Apparently, Maynard attested that many military airmen were accustomed to flying drunk, and that drunkenness was the cause of the twelve deaths during the recent aerial derby. In a sermon just days later, he condemned the women of New York for their lack of clothes and frivolous lifestyles. Maynard had both offended the people of New York and seriously damaged the army's reputation.

After months of public scrutiny, Maynard was discharged from the army. His family moved to Queens, New York, and he later took up aerial photography, occasionally performing stunt flights. On September 6, 1922, Maynard crashed and died during a circus show in Vermont.