Nebraska's Flying Doctor


photo taken 1919

 Below is another article written about Dr. Brewster, photo and article courtesy:
 NAHF Enshrinees from Nebraska:
BRUKNER, Clayton John

STATE OF NEBRASKA'S MOST SIGNIFICANT
CONTRIBUTION TO AVIATION

Proving Grounds for Aviation's Practical Use

 Dr. Frank A. Brewster recognized the difficulty of traveling muddy roads and infrequent trains particularly for the delivery of medical services. With the persuasion of his neighbor Wade Stevens, a WWI pilot, Dr. Brewster bought a Curtiss-Wright JN4D. The aircraft, delivered by rail in two large boxes, was assembled and flown on May 19, 1919. Dr. Brewster responded to the first medical emergency by air on May 23rd, when Wade Stevens flew him from Beaver City to Herndon, Kansas. The doctor performed successful surgery to remove a piece of steel from an oil field worker's skull.

By 1920 the Transcontinental Air Mail was operating but was restricted to day time only. At night the mail was transferred to trains resulting in little time savings. Night Air Mail made its debut on February 21-22, 1921 with Jack Knight flying from North Platte to Chicago, Illinois with the aid of bonfires by local citizens. The success of this flight solidified confidence in aviation for practical use and federal funding was approved to continue the air mail.

In 1923, experimental night flights began on a route from North Platte to a landing field 25 miles away. The experiment used rotating beacons, routing markers, terminal and emergency field lighting and aircraft lighting. Based on these experiments the first lighted airway, an 885-mile stretch, was established connecting Cheyenne, Wyoming to Chicago, Illinois.

On May 23, 1919, Dr. Frank A. Brewster of Beaver City and pilot Wade Stevens took off on a flight to Herndon, KS. There, Brewster performed emergency surgery to save the life of an injured man. This flight attracted world-wide attention and Dr. Brewster was regarded as perhaps the first physician to use an airplane for professional purposes. The plane was a Curtiss JN ~ 4D "Jenny", which the doctor had purchased a few weeks earlier. Brewster's airstrip and hangar, located near here, was among the first private airports in Nebraska.
One of the few surgeons serving the area of Nebraska and Kansas, Brewster was quick to adopt time-saving innovations. In 1906, he purchased the first automobile in Furnas county. However, back roads were a constant problem which led to Brewster's use of an airplane in his medical work.
After moving to Holdrege, NE, Dr. Brewster regularly flew to visit the several hospitals he had built in the two-state region. At age 71, he received his own pilot's license and was an active flier until his death at age 89 in 1961.

 


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