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Remembering Emory Conrad Malick, The First Licensed African American Aviator

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Emory Conrad Malick was a pioneer in aviation from the state of Pennsylvania. On March 20, 1912, he received his International Pilot’s License (FAI #105) from the Curtiss Flying School. Malick was the first officially sanctioned Black Aviator. He was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, on December 29, 1881, as the third of six children to Darius Malick, a racially mixed carpenter from the same area, and Susan Conrad, a white woman. Emory Conrad Malik and one paternal aunt, Alice Malick, lived as Black/racially mixed people, while the rest of the family pretended to be white, as was common for many racially mixed people in Pennsylvania at the time.

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Malick’s interest in flying was first mentioned on July 22, 1911, when he was building a biplane in Seven Points, Pennsylvania. He flew his engine-powered “aeroplane” successfully two days later. Malick’s experience sparked a lifelong interest in aviation and prompted him to pursue formal flight training.

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Malick, then 31, enrolled in the Curtiss Aviation School on North Island in San Diego, California, in 1912. He became the first black man in the United States to obtain a pilot’s license after successfully completing the course. Malick bought, built, and flew a Curtiss “Pusher” biplane over Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, after earning his pilot’s license. He was the first pilot in that Pennsylvania region.

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Emory C. Malick, Third From Left, near the Curtiss Pusher airplane in undated Photo (public domain)

 

Malick also flew from airfields in Philadelphia and Camden counties in the Delaware Valley. Malick became the first African American pilot to receive a Federal Transport License, #1716, and a Federal Mechanics License, #924 in 1927, when the first-year federal aviation licenses were issued. These licenses were issued by the Department of Commerce’s Aeronautics Branch (later FAA) and were required for him to continue working as a pilot for the Aero Service Corporation and Dallin Aerial Surveys. On weekends, he ran his Flying Dutchman Air Service with pilot and mechanic Ernest Buehl.

Malick took two passengers for a short flight in his Waco three-seater on March 4, 1928, at an air show in Camden, New Jersey. The engine failed just as they were about to take off. To avoid the onlookers, Malick swerved to the left. Unfortunately, the plane was caught in the wind and crashed. Both passengers were hurt. Malick crashed again later that year, injuring himself and killing his passenger. Despite the fact that the cause of the crash was unknown, Malick never flew again.

Malick, then 77, slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in Philadelphia in December 1958. He died later in the hospital. His body remained unidentified in the morgue for more than a month until his identity was discovered on January 23, 1959. Emory Conrad Malick, with 3,000 hours of flight time, is considered one of aviation’s true pioneers.

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Written by How Africa News

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