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NDOT, Division of Aeronautics
Mr. Ronnie Mitchell, Director

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Sloniger

Moorefield, Nebraska native, Eyer L. “Slonnie” Sloniger went on to have one of the more colorful and interesting carriers of any of the early aviation pioneers of the Golden Age of Aviation. Slonnie or Old Number 1 was a Spad pilot in the US Air Service during WWI, then a barnstormer, racer, test pilot, an early air mail pilot moving on to a carrier as a commercial pilot with over 24,000 hours. Sloniger learned to fly upon entering the Heavier Than Air Division of the US Army Signal Corps because he “just didn’t want to walk or brush horses.” After WWI Sloniger was a test pilot and barnstormer for Ray Page’s Lincoln Standard Aircraft Company. He flew for American oil companies in Mexico delivering their employee payroll bomber style to avoid the Mexican Banditos that worked the highways and railroads. During negotiations for an air mail contract in China, Sloniger was confused by the Chinese Army as a Russian spy, was arrested and almost shot as a spy. Employed by Robertson Airlines, he was one of the pilots that flew the inaugural flight for Contract Air Mail Route #2 with the likes Charles A. (Slim) Lindbergh and another Nebraska native, Harlan (Bud) Gurney. Robertson Airlines eventually evolved into what is now known as American Airlines with Sloniger being the first pilot thus having the seniority Number of One. After 20 years with American Airlines, Sloniger moved to Matson Airlines Director of Flight Operations and when that venture failed, he flew on demand or charter flights for Cal Eastern.

When Sloniger finally retired, he never took the controls again. He always said “When I could not do as good a job of flying as I demanded of others, I would stop. A man who keeps flying beyond his time becomes an object of pity.”

“You can always tell when a man has lost his soul to flying. The poor guy is hopelessly committed to stopping whatever he is doing long enough to look up and make sure the aircraft purring overhead continues on course and does not suddenly fall out of the sky. It is also his bounden duty to watch every aircraft within view take off and land.”

 

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