Three Musketeers

United States
Three Musketeers pilots. From left to right: Cornelius, Lindbergh and Woodring, NAR 1928 after Lt. John J. Williams death

The "Three Musketeers" aerobatic team were the first US display team formed in late 1927. The team represented the 1st Pursuit Group from the Army Air Corps based in Montgomery, Alabama. The original members were Lt. John J. Williams leader, Lt. William L. Cornelius and Lt. Johnson. They flew Boeing PW-9 fighters.

The first major event that the "Three Musketeers" participated in was the National Air Races in Sept 8-16, 1928 at Mines Field (now Los Angeles Int.). Unfortunately during that demonstration, Lt. John J. Williams crashed and then died a day or two after his crash on 10 September. He was from Moab, Utah. Charles Lindbergh replaced him as a leader for the remainder of the Air Race airshows.

Later, Lt. Johnson was killed while escorting Charles Lindbergh on a Canadian tour and he was replaced by Lt. Irvin A.(Bert) Woodring.

Lt Cornelius then died from another crash on 25 Sept 1928 and he was in turn replaced by Capt. Claire Chennault. Cornelius had been killed at Rockwell Field during regular daily formation practice maneuvers when his airplane collided into another while airborne. Cornelius' parachute became entangled in the descending wreckage and he went down with it. Soon after this incident the "Three Musketeers" demonstration team was disbanded.

Lt. Woodring later died on 20 Jan 1933 during test flight at Wright Field. He fell 2000 feet and had no chance to use his parachute, even thought this device saved his life twice before.

Later, in 1932, while a pursuit aviation instructor at Maxwell Field, Capt. Chennault re-constituted the team under the name "The Men on the Flying Trapeze."

Thanks to Perry Jenks for a help to increase this page.