Scott Air Force Base News

This month in Scott AFB history: Remembering Scott’s namesake, Cpl. Frank S. Scott (1883-1912)

Corp. Frank S. Scott is pictured with Private 1st Class James O’Brien on the ground at the controls of a Wright Model B Flyer at College Park, Maryland, in 1912. File photo courtesy of the 375th Air Mobility Wing History Office
Corp. Frank S. Scott is pictured with Private 1st Class James O’Brien on the ground at the controls of a Wright Model B Flyer at College Park, Maryland, in 1912. File photo courtesy of the 375th Air Mobility Wing History Office

Frank S. Scott was born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 2, 1883.

He was orphaned at age 6 on May 31, 1889, when both of his parents were killed in the Johnstown Flood, which took more than 2,200 lives. From then, he was raised by his aunt.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Field Artillery at Fort Slocum, New York, at the age of 24. A lengthy illness in July 1911 led to his reassignment to the Signal Corps Aviation School at College Park Flying Field, Maryland, where he later served as the Chief Mechanic for one of the Wright Type-B biplanes.

Interested in flying, Scott asked student pilot, 2nd Lt. Lewis C. Rockwell, to take him along on a flight. The opportunity came Sept. 28, 1912. First, Rockwell made a solo run over College Park in Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 4 at then-remarkable speed of 40 miles-per-hour with a crowd of 300 watching.

Confident everything with the airplane was in good order, Rockwell landed and took Scott aboard. After reaching 150 feet, the pilot leveled off and soared uneventfully for about 10 minutes. But, as he brought the plane in for a landing, the craft developed engine trouble and crashed to the ground in a pile of splintered wood and torn canvas.

Scott was killed instantly, and Rockwell died later that evening. Both men were buried in nearby Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Oct. 1, 1912. Less than five years later on July 20, 1917, the decision to name the new World War I flying training field near at Belleville after Scott in a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives during the early years of military aviation. Rockwell Field (now Naval Air Station, North Island) in San Diego was named after the pilot—Rockwell.

The land known as Scott AFB was initially leased in June 1917, and on July 20, 1917, it was officially established as “Scott Field.” Scott AFB is the fourth-oldest continuously active base in the U.S. Air Force and is the only Air Force base named in honor of an enlisted member.

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