Official Nebraska Government Website
Official Nebraska Government Website
nebraska.gov

Nebraska Department of Aeronautics
Mr. Ronnie Mitchell, Director

Transparency Portal Logo - Budget Division

Jens Tinus Christensen was born in Denmark on August 25, 1890 but came to Nebraska at the age of four when his parents immigrated to America. They settled in Blair and that is where Christensen went to school. He graduated from Dana College.

Christensen joined the military in 1917, took flight training and served as a flight instructor during World War I mustering out in 1919. He continued flying, performing at exhibitions in cities around the Midwest. He hired on with the aviation mail service in 1920 and was one of the first to fly the Omaha-Chicago route, which was based at a field on the Ak-Sar-Ben grounds.

Flying the mail in 1920 was very dangerous. Pilots had no radio contact and no instruments for flying in bad weather. Thirty-one of the first forty pilots hired by the post office died in the line of duty.

Christensen was considered one of the best airmail pilots. As an experienced stunt flyer, he had a good sense of the winds a oft and set speed records for the Omaha-Chicago and Chicago-New York airmail runs. Christensen helped to found the Associated Airmail Pilots union, serving as one of it’s first presidents.

Christensen was transferred to Chicago in 1921and made his first flight on the Chicago-Cleveland route on a foggy April morning. On his approach to Cleveland, he got lost in the fog and had to fly low over the city in search of landmarks. The engine on his DeHaviland biplane sputtered and failed. Christensen aimed for the river to avoid pedestrians on the streets but crash landed and burst into flames on the railroad tracks beside the Cuyahoga River.

The funeral in Blair, gave an indication of his popularity and accomplishments as a flyer. More than 1,000 cars ( a huge number in 1921) arrived at the burial site and an estimated 10,000 people attended the services and watched as planes from the Omaha Airmail Division flew over and dropped garlands of flowers. His grave was marked with a giant propeller and in 1941 the local airfield was named for him.

Tinus Christensen brought credit to Nebraska through his service as a pioneer aviator. His accomplishments were ground-breaking and his skills landed him in the record books. He inspired others through his energy, positive attitude and love of flying.

 

Back to the Hall of Fame