Black Aviators & Emory Conrad Malick

It appears that Ernie may have worked with another man to establish Flying Dutchman Air Service, a man named Emory C. Malick. According to Mary Groce, interviewed in Air & Space, Malick received a pilot's license in March 1912. Later, Malick worked in the Philadelphia area, doing aerial photography for Aero Service Corporation and Dallin Aerial Surveys, and he "worked for the Flying Dutchman Air Service, which offered flight instruction, aerial photography, and passenger flights. Some of the family’s papers indicate that Malick helped establish Flying Dutchman with Ernest Buehl, something Groce is hoping to confirm."

Emory Conrad Malick's story is stunning, and has caught everyone flat-footed. Even aviation historians at the Smithsonian are surprised by the recent evidence discovered related to Malick.

Malick graduated from the Curtiss Aviation School, in San Diego, in March 1912 and received International Pilot's License #105. This is impressive by itself, but did I mention that Emory Malick was African American?

His claim for primacy among black aviators re-writes the history books. Never mind the issue of race, Malick was among the earliest licensed pilots in the United States and even in the world. Recall that in 1905 the fact that Wilbur Wright demonstrated sustained, controlled flight (flying 24 miles around New York City) was considered a big deal. He was able to fly around the city, all alone in the sky, going where he wanted to go, and was able to land when he wanted to. Other great pioneers, such as Alberto Santos Dumont or Louis Blériot, who first flew across the English Channel (1909), were in the air not much before Malick. Also, it is worth noting that Malick had been flying for years before he went to Curtiss.

We believe it likely that Emory Malick and Ernie Buehl worked together at some point, perhaps during the time Ernie was working for Brock & Weymouth and when Malick was working for Dallin Aerial Surveys, both of them doing aerial photography. This would have been between 1926 and 1928. During his lifetime, Malick told people that he was a partner in establishing Flying Dutchman Air Service.

The problem we have is that no one has any clear documentary evidence that Ernie and Emory worked together. We know from the stories Ernie told that before he bought his own airplane in 1928, he had a partner who owned the airplane Ernie used for giving lessons. Ernie stated that his partner's plane was a KR-31. However, no one in the family can recall the name of the partner and no one can find any surviving records of this arrangement. Also, there are no photos in Ernie's collection that clearly include anyone of Malick's description. In Malick's collection, there is no evidence that Malick ever owned a KR-31. After 1928, Ernie did not have any partners; after 1928, business papers show that he was the sole owner of Flying Dutchman Air Service. (These papers are now in the possession of Ernie Buehl, Jr.).

However, we have to note that Ernie rarely spoke of his work training black pilots. He never even mentioned his work with any of the Tuskegee Airmen. We know of that work because the Tuskegee airmen provided that documentation through interviews they gave. The situation is similar in Malick's case. It is Malick who preserved what little information we have of their association. He spoke of the association of himself with Ernie, and he saved a photo or two that links himself to Flying Dutchman Air Service.

There is no reason to question Malick's word in this, and what evidence we have supports his claim. It is our intention to try to clarify the nature of their relationship if we are able to do so.

Mary Groce, whose grand uncle was Emory Conrad Malick, has been in contact with us and she sent a copy of the photo below. It clearly shows Ernie standing near the Challenger.

Visible below the sign are a few more people, and it is possible that one of them is Emory Malick. It is a photo that Malick owned and saved, and that in itself suggests some association. 
There is a website devoted to Emory C. Malick, at This website has some very nice photos, well-written stories, and links to show documentation. There is one student photo of Emory Malick sitting in a Curtiss aircraft, and there is another photo of Malick and his graduating class at Curtiss. An additional surprise: among the graduates is a woman. Although only one is pictured, there were two women who graduated with that class: Julia Clark, and Mrs. W.B. Atwater. A curious tidbit about Julia Clark is that she died in an airplane accident only about a month after receiving her license, which was issued in May 1912 by the Aero Club of America. Flying was extremely dangerous and many of the graduates in Emory's class of 1912 died in flying accidents.

Underlining the bit of circumstantial evidence we have that Ernie and Malick were in business together is that both of them kept copies of the photo at the left. After Mary Groce sent a copy, we located the exact same shot among Ernie's collection.

After the Second World War, we know that Ernie was involved in training a number of black aviators. One, Walter (Toby) Tolbert, first soloed from Buehl Field in 1956. In April 2012, Ernie's granddaughter, Rosanna, was invited to give some remarks about her grandfather at a presentation to the Bensalem Historical Society about Malick by Mary Groce. Mr. Tolbert introduced himself and showed Rosanna his log book and some other materials related to her grandfather. As he described it, Mr. Tolbert asked Ernie to teach him how to fly and Ernie quickly agreed. Ernie became what Tolbert described as a significant "mentor" to the young man. Ernie cautioned that it would be unlikely that as a black man Mr. Tolbert would be able to find a job flying airplanes for major airlines, but was very encouraging of Mr. Tolbert's interest in flying. As Mr. Tolbert recalled, Ernie told him "If you've got the guts to come out here all this way from South Philadelphia, I will teach you how to fly. I am going to make you one of the best damn pilots around". Tolbert said, "Ernie was a hell of a good guy to me."