Lt. Col. Frederick John “Fritz” Schwaemmle, Sr.

Lt. Col. Frederick John “Fritz” Schwaemmle, Sr.

Frederick Schwaemmle was a pioneering aviator. In his youth he witnessed a Wright Flyer actually in flight that inspired him to learn to fly as an Army aviation cadet at Brooks Field, San Antonio, Texas two classes ahead of Charles Lindbergh. His civilian pilot license is signed by Orville Wright and he barnstormed and hopped passengers to build hours. Fritz inaugurated the northbound mail from Miami to Jacksonville for Pitcairn Aviation (which became Eastern Aviations). Fritz logged 3000 hours in the Pitcairn Mailwing and “the monotony”, he says, “was something out of this world.” Nevertheless, it must have been exhilarating. He followed the beach, flying so low a Palm Beach resident complained, “If it wasn’t for the fact he had doors on his patio closed, the damned mail plane would have flown right through his living room.” Subsequently, he was one of Delta Air Lines earliest pilots and is credited with several “first” flights.

Lt. Col. Schwaemmle’s wartime service with the Air Transport Command spanned three and a half years and embraced five continents. His most significant contribution to the war effort was as a Chief of Navigation and Briefing, in Marrakech, French Morocco where he was responsible for dispatching 6000 aircraft to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the British Isles and some more to the 12th and 15th Air Forces in North Africa. Among his other decorations, Schwaemmle was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his outstanding achievements during the northern Italy and African campaigns.

Following the war, Schwaemmle returned to Delta and at mid-career as an airline pilot, Schwaemmle suffered a setback pilots dread. He lost the sight of an eye and became medically unfit to fly. In his words, “that ended my career and that broke my heart at 46 years of age.” Undaunted, Schwaemmle redirected his energy and talent into public relations and ultimately retired as Delta Air Lines’ Director of Public Relations. Calling on his experience as a pilot, Fritz developed a unique visual aid to use in talks explaining the ILS for bringing aircraft safely down through the weather. He figures he gave speeches six or seven days a week, sometimes two or three in a day, to over 500 groups. American Aviation Magazine named him one of the top five pilot’s for exceptional contributions to piloting and to the industry” in 1950, for his contributions as a pioneering pilot, aviation proponent, and longtime Georgia resident.