Ernie opened his flying school in 1927. Years later, he advertised that his was “Philadelphia’s oldest flying school.”
This is not to say that Ernie claimed to have opened Philadelphia first flying school. That particular honor appears to go to Frank Mills and other members of the Aero Club of Pennsylvania, who established the Philadelphia School of Aviation at Essington, south of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, on the banks of the Delaware River, in 1916.
It appears, though, that the Mills facility was taken over by the Army in 1917 and renamed Chandler Field. There were never any runways there, as the facility specialized in the operation of “flying boats.” The aircraft would simply land in the river. The Army moved the whole operation to Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1917 because that winter the river froze and planes could not land. At the end of World War I, Frank Mills leased the Essington facility and again started a flying school. On December 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbor Attack, the Seaplane Base was closed again, as was every other private air facility in the region. This interruption in service at the Mills facility seems to have given Ernie the opening to make his later claim for being the “oldest” flying school in Philadelphia.
Ernie actually attended Frank Mills’ school and it was there that he was recommended for his first official pilot’s license. Ernie’s first license was actually a “hydroplane” certificate, and this is because Frank Mills operated a seaplane base.
In a situation that is somewhat parallel to that of Ernie’s when he came to Frank Mills for help getting his license, Ernie helped to train Frank Mills’ son, C. Robert Mills. Just as Ernie had been flying for years before he came to Frank’s school, Bob Mills was already a very competent pilot before he came to Ernie’s school. Bob had flown in World War II, and in 1944 was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bob merely lacked the license he needed to pursue a civilian career in aviation. A 2008 website discussing Bob Mills’ career states:
“Bob remembers getting his recommendation ride for his commercial license from Ernie Buehl, who Bob had watched solo one of his father's airplanes many years before.”
A book, published in 2006, includes a photo of Ernie waving from the driver’s seat of an open-air automobile. The photo caption states “The Flying Dutchman, a flying school operated by the Flying Dutchman Air Service, began in 1927, the same year the world celebrated the first solo transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh. The airport was located at the southeast corner of Street Road and Hulmeville Road in Bensalem Township. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Bensalem.)”
It appears that Ernie was in business with a partner at this time, in 1927. He spoke of going into business with a man who had purchased a KR-31 Challenger and who offered Ernie a deal: he would provide the airplane if Ernie would provide the flying. It was this partner who promoted Ernie as the "German ace." He started piloting passengers at the old William Penn Airport (Boulevard Airport). Ernie left the partnership in 1928, purchased his own Challenger, and started his airport at Somerton.