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Aviator Frank Clark flies his plane off the roof of the 10 story Railway Building at 11th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Archive

Frank Clark's aircraft is prepared for flight off the Railway Building in Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Geoerge Watson / Watson Family Archive

Portrait of Frank Clark before his flew aircraft off the roof of the 10 story Railway Building.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Archive

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Aviator ‘jumps’ off building

Dec. 14, 1920: Stunt pilot Frank Clarke flies an aircraft off the 10-story Railway Building in downtown Los Angeles during filming for the movie “Stranger Than Fiction.”

Under the headline “Aviator Jumps Off Building,” the Los Angeles Times reported the next day:

Frank Clark (later Clarke), 22-year-old stunt aviator, yesterday ‘jumped’ off the 10-story Los Angeles Railway Building at 11th Street and Broadway and thereby pioneered the airway for the tired businessmen who would get home early.

Clark’s plane a J.N. 4 Curtiss, equipped with a L-4 Liberty motor developing 150 horsepower, with a wingspan of 43 feet, is said to be much larger than any biplane that ever hopped off a battleship’s deck.

The intrepid aviator had his plane clear of the building before it had gone 90 feet….

…At the time the plane left the edge of the roof it was going  about 90 miles an hour.

The stunt was filmed for the Katherine MacDonald Pictures Corp. movie titled “It Could Happen.” The movie, with Clarke’s aviation stunt, was released in 1921 as “Stranger Than Fiction.”

Clarke went on to a career as a stunt pilot and actor in several Hollywood movies. Clarke was the chief pilot for the 1930 film “Hell’s Angels” by director Howard Hughes. He died in a non-job-related plane accident in 1948.

Los Angeles Times staff photographer George Watson took these three images of Clarke’s take-off. The portrait of Clarke, cropped to a headshot, and the lift-off image accompanied the next day’s Los Angeles Times story.

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1 Comment

  1. December 14, 2010, 3:27 pm

    Very cool.


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