Thursday, April 27, 2006

History Calls

What happened to Charlie Zmuda? I may be the world's leading historian on the lives of the birdmen, but some of those lives just slip through the slip stream (or cracks, if you must have cracks). What we know of Zmuda is this: He took Clem Sohn's job. Sohn, the worlds first bat-wing jumper, died two days and sixty-nine years ago when neither his main parachute nor his reserve opened at a jump just outside of Paris. Sohn's pilot from the beginning was the World War I ace and airplane racer Art Davis and after Sohn's death, Davis needed another bat-wing jumper. Sometime within the next two years he signed Zmuda to the job and together they started appearing at air shows and air races. I strongly suspect that in the photo shown above Zmuda is wearing Sohn's actual wings (though not the wings Sohn died in): The shape is identical. Zmuda made winged jumps with the similarly obscure Elmo Bannister and, alas, little else is known about him. Did he retire from his bat-wing career unscathed? Is he still alive? I'd like to know, if only to keep typing the name "Zmuda."

If you're a Zmuda with a dim recolection of some skydiving relative of yore, do send me a line.


Rachel said...

Hello! I got your comment on my livejournal about the Zmudas! As far as I know (from what my father told me) is that our family was still over in Poland around that time. Sorry I couldn't help you more with my background but I do know some other Zmudas that are not related to me and I can point them in this direction for you. Good luck with your search!

-Rachel Zmuda
North Tonawanda, NY

Anonymous said...

oh how could you use my last name

Bev Hofman said...

Charlie Zmuda is my father, he died April 7, 1959. We have a scrapbook with a lot of the airshow info and history.

jim west said...

to Michael Adams
My aunt married Elmo Bannister. I remember he was a avid productive fisherman. He was in his barnstorming days when he met and married my aunt. Do you have any photos of him and/or my aunt. I think my step mom has pics of my aunt and Elmo in jump suits.

Mark Solper II said...

Are there any other pictures available of Bannister's Batwings other than those on the book?

Anything would help!


R Moss said...

See Arthur Elmo Bannister's Find A memorial. He is buried at Weaver Cemetery in Comanche County, TX. There is a picture on there that a man received from Elmo. Wilmer Price lived near Elmo's parents in Iuka, Mississippi and wrote an article about Elmo in 1938 for the County newspaper.