Cyrus K. Bettis

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Cyrus K. Bettis
Cyrus K Bettis.png
Born (1893-01-02)January 2, 1893
Carsonville, Michigan
Died September 1, 1926(1926-09-01) (aged 33)
Walter Reed Hospital
Washington, DC
Cause of death Spinal meningitis following an aircrash
Other names Cy Bettis

Lieutenant Cyrus K. Bettis (January 2, 1893 – September 1, 1926) was an American army aviator who won several races and set the then airspeed record for a closed-circuit race in 1925. He died after he crashed his aircraft less than a year later.[1]


Bettis was born on January 2, 1893 in Carsonville, Michigan to John C. Bettis and Mattie Crorey. His grandfather, David Crorey was an Irish immigrant who founded the "Exchange State Bank" in Carsonville, Michigan. Cyrus was brought up on a farm, and after high school he worked for a telephone company.[2] He joined the army in 1918.[3] He was the winner of the 1924 Mitchell Trophy Race and the 1925 Mackay Trophy.[4] He was also a winner of the Pulitzer Trophy in October 1925, flying a Curtiss R3C-1 racer. In winning the trophy, he set a new airspeed record of 248.99 mph for a closed-circuit race.[5] The record was broken shortly after by Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle.[6]

On August 23, 1926, he was leading a formation of three army planes leaving the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia heading toward Selfridge Field in Michigan when in heavy fog he hit a tree and crashed on Jacks Mountain near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.[3][7] He was seriously injured, including two broken legs, and after waiting in vain for rescue he crawled two-and-a-half miles to a road where he was found by highway workers. He was admitted to Bellefonte Hospital and then airlifted to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington where he was expected to recover, but he died on September 1, 1926 of spinal meningitis.[3][8]


Bettis Field in Pittsburgh was named in his honor.[9] When Westinghouse bought the site in the 1948 and closed the airfield, they named their Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory after him.[3][10]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Cyrus Bettis Collection 1924-1926". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2011-11-26. Cyrus Bettis (1893-1926) was one of the leading Army Air Service pursuit pilots in the early-to-mid-1920s. Born in Carsonville, Michigan, Bettis entered the Army as a flying cadet in February 1918. He attended the school of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois and was sent to Camp Dick, Dallas, Texas in April of that year. ... 
  2. ^ Cohn, Gene (20 October 1925). "Pioneer Spark Turned Farm Boy to Air Hero". The Evening Independent. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Stearns, Bob (28 August 1976). "Cy Bettis... 'The Look Of A Bookkeeper But The Soul Of A Conqueror'". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Cyrus K. Bettis". Early Aviators. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  5. ^ "American ace sets air mark in big races". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 13 October 1925. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Nalty, Bernard C. (2003). Winged Shield, Winged Sword 1907-1950: A History of the United States Air Force. 1. The Minerva Group, Inc. p. 90. ISBN 1-4102-0901-6. 
  7. ^ "Lieutenant Bettis Last Seen in Dangerous Pennsylvania Mountain Section. Won Pulitzer Trophy. Started From Sesquicentennial for Michigan -- Companions Retrace Route Without Avail". Associated Press in the New York Times. August 24, 1926. Retrieved 2011-11-18. Lieutenant Cyrus K. Bettis, the army flier who left the Sesquicentennial Exposition grounds yesterday morning in an airplane for Selfridge Field in Michigan, is missing. He was last seen west of Lewiston, Pa., heading for Cleveland, as he disappeared in the fog near the eastern slope of the Allegheny Mountains. Lewiston is nearly 200 miles west of Philadelphia. 
  8. ^ "Bettis Has Bad Turn. His Parents Notified. Injured Army Flier Develops Spinal Meningitis in Washington Hospital". New York Times. September 1, 1926. Retrieved 2011-11-18. Lieutenant Cyrus K. Bettis, army aviator, injured in a crash in Pennsylvania last week, has developed spinal meningitis and his condition is critical. ... 
  9. ^ "Flying Field to Be Named for Bettis". New York Times. November 3, 1926. Retrieved 2011-11-18. The Pittsburgh-McKeesport airport near Dravosburg, Pa., is to be named Bettts Field in honor of Cyrus K. Bettis, noted army pilot who lost his life in ... 
  10. ^ "Bettis: From Airplanes to Atoms in 10 Years". The Pittsburgh Press. 1 December 1958. Retrieved 24 November 2011.