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Dakota Datebook

Maurice Miller and George Lowers

 

In 1930, 22-year-old pilot Maurice Miller disappeared in a snowstorm when flying to Baudettte, Minnesota, from Penasse island in the northwest angle where he delivered mail and supplies. Searchers struggled to find him. It was an area described as "sixty miles of the wildest country in northern Minnesota...thickly timbered and cut into a labyrinth of lakes and islands."

However, good news hit newspapers on this date. Miller was okay! His experience could have been much worse. He had been forced down at Hay Island, landing without trouble, but after he spent the night and next day at the home of a nearby settler, he was unable to restart the plane's engine. So, he walked 14 miles to Oak Island, from where he could send a radio message about his need for assistance.

Grand Forks pilot George Lowers responded, using his winter-ready plane, equipped with skis, successfully ending Miller's plight.

Lowers had also had a flying adventure the previous September in 1929. He made news when he flew through a storm, reaching an altitude of 14,500 feet, establishing a new altitude record for that area.

In recounting that episode, the newspaper reported:

"The first snowstorm of the present season was encountered by the plane passengers, who left the municipal airport at 3:30...  the ship ran into a snow flurry... followed by a heavier snowstorm at 11,000 feet, and a blizzard at 14,000 feet... near the top of the strenuous climb." 

The plane had also encountered hail and several showers of rain, disturbances they flew through again when making a harrowing descent. After Lowers had achieved 14,500 feet, the plane had "slipped into a spin," went vertical and began to dive, but Lowers got the plane level again. He said this little "thrill" of the trip occurred because he was flying blind, unaware if he was still ascending or if he was descending, due to the air speed indicator freezing. He continued the descent carefully to avoid another spin.

Once they got below the clouds, he found his compass was not working, and he was unable to navigate by the sun due to the overcast. Despite this, he found his way in a trip that lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune, September 30, 1929, p2

The Bismarck Tribune, February 10, 1930, p1

New Britain Herald (Connecticut), February 10, 1930, p18

The Indianapolis Times, February 10, 1930, p1

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