Wings Over The Valley

Early Aviation Around and Above Broome County, New York

By William L. Camp


First in the air in Broome County

Broome County officially entered the Air Age in the fall of 1910. The first public exhibition and flight of an "aeroplane" in Broome County occurred during the annual Binghamton Industrial Exhibition at the Stow Park fairgrounds. Officials arranged with the Thomas brothers of Hammondsport, N. Y. to exhibit their flying machine, a copy of the latest Curtiss design. Walter E. Johnson, their pilot and a former student at Syracuse University, had taken flying lessons from aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss.

After arriving at the fairgrounds on September 28, the Thomas crew began assembling the machine for its Friday flight. On September 30, a strong wind from the south delayed the first flight. At 4:30 in the afternoon, the aircraft remained parked in a tent while a steady stream of visitors paid ten cents a head to view the machine. Fair manager J. P. E. Clark made his way to the tent and reminded the Thomas brothers and Johnson that their payment depended solely on a successful flight.

Hurriedly the men pulled the machine from the tent and moved to a spot on the north end of the grounds. A flight path to the south would clear a smoke stack near the grounds. Crews removed several tents to open an area for the takeoff. The few policemen at the fair had problems with keeping the path clear of the curious crowds. Finally, in front of 10,000 spectators, the motor was started, the propeller began whirling, and the machine started moving along the ground. As he accelerated along the ground, Johnson veered slightly to the right to avoid the crowd, and then jogged a little to the left. As the machine reached takeoff speed, it rose six to eight feet into the air. As it neared the stock tents lining the west side of the grounds, the lower right wing hit the first tent. As the wing tip dug deeply into the tent, the biplane pirouetted to the ground. Spectators quickly freed Johnson from the wreckage. He suffered no serious injuries. No one else was injured, but the aircraft was heavily damaged.

By the following Sunday, October 9, the machine had been repaired for a second attempt. At 8 o'clock in the morning, a short test flight was attempted. Starting from the south end of the track, Walter Johnson lifted his machine about 30 feet in the air. But trees and a power line in his path forced an abrupt turn and a rough landing in a field. One wing tip was slightly damaged. The Thomas Brothers and Johnson resolved to stay in Binghamton until they achieved a satisfactory flight. They felt the failures had tarnished their reputations. Many people doubted their machine would ever leave the ground.

They decided to move the flight attempt to a more open area. In the early morning fog, the workers removed the aircraft from its tent, placed it on two boats and towed it up the Chenango River. They selected a spot north of DeForest Street on the Horace Conklin farm. This area sported a large open field perfect for the flight. As soon as the fog lifted, Johnson started the engine and began moving north from his spot between Front Street and the river. This time the machine rose perfectly and continued north for a mile and a half. Turning near Cutler's pond, he returned to the starting point and shut off his engine to glide to a landing. Suddenly a gust of wind forced the aircraft down to the ground smashing the right wing. Johnson was uninjured, but felt vindicated that he had shown the people of Binghamton his machine could actually fly. Unfortunately, very few people witnessed the flight and many remained skeptical of the flight results.

Cromwell Dixon Flies High

In August 1911, fair officials made with the Curtiss Exhibition Company to supply the aircraft and pilots. Both the Wright and Curtiss companies formed exhibition teams to display the performance of their aircraft and to encourage the development of flight in this country. The fair organizers hoped to get Lincoln Beachey, the most famous of the early fliers, as the star attraction. The local event occurred at the same time as another meet in Chicago offering $80,000 in prize money. Beachey wanted the opportunity to perform on a bigger stage. Backup flier Charles K. Hamilton was also unavailable. A telegraph arrived from the Curtiss Company; "Hamilton failed to make the New York to Philadelphia flight and we therefore cannot count on him as being reliable. We are therefore sending C. C. Witmer and Beckwith Havens, two of our most successful aviators…" Third-stringer Beckwith Havens had not shown up by the day before the event. The two pilots who did show up were C. C. Witmer and Cromwell Dixon. C. C. Witmer had suffered serious injuries in an accident the previous Fourth of July in Pittsfield, Mass. He had been out of the hospital only a week. Cromwell Dixon would be the only available, healthy pilot. At 19 years of age, Cromwell Dixon was the youngest licensed pilot in the world. He had received his flying license only two weeks before the Binghamton exhibition. Only one aircraft was delivered. It had been used by J. D. McCurdy to fly from Key West to Havana and later flown in exhibitions by Lincoln Beachey. Cromwell Dixon had never flown it. Each Curtiss exhibition aircraft was balanced and adjusted for its particular pilot. Flying someone else’s machine was a tricky feat even for a seasoned pilot.

On August 11, 1911, the crew moved the aircraft into position at Stow Park. As a tire was inflated, it burst with a loud bang. A second worn spare tire suffered the same fate. Dixon and his mechanic, George Hallett, quietly fashioned a replacement tire from rope and a section of garden hose. Fearing cancellation of the day's flights, the crowd became restless. Even the "autoists" at the track began to honk their horns impatiently.

With the makeshift tire in place, a limping Witmer circled around the machine carefully examining each fitting, each cable, each turnbuckle. He finally gave his approval for a flight. Dixon, wearing a blue serge business suit and bright, plaid cap climbed behind the controls. Hallett made final adjustments to the motor and gave the propeller a spin. The engine roared into life spewing smoke into the air. Helpers leaned on the front edge of the wings straining to keep the machine from lurching forward. At Dixon’s signal, they moved aside and Dixon began to roll across the ground. He lifted off the field and climbed slowly into the sky. On the return leg to the track, he climbed higher, shutdown his engine and dived toward the crowd like a giant, lumbering bird. As he pulled from the dive, he powered up his engine, circled the field and landed. On his second flight of the day, Dixon climbed high over Stow Park, performed several figure-eight maneuvers and spiraled down almost on wingtip before landing.

After the day’s flying, Cromwell Dixon talked to reporters about his earlier years. At the age of ten, he met Capt. Thomas Baldwin, a famous balloon/dirigible pilot. The magic of flight intrigued Dixon. With the help of his mother’s sewing ability, he spent the next two years constructing a large balloon of silk coated with varnish. He suspended a metal support structure below the huge gasbag. Dixon took the pedaling mechanism from a bicycle and used it to drive a propeller. When he was twelve, he began to fly his "Skycycle" at shows around the country. He later enlarged the balloon and used a 2-cycle motorcycle engine for power. In July 1910, he met Count Jacque De Lesseps in Montreal at an air meet. De Lesseps was the grandson of Ferdinand De Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. Jacque De Lesseps made the first flights over Toronto and Montreal. As Dixon admired the Count’s Anzenini-Bleriot monoplane, De Lesseps asked him to take the seat in it. The Count started the motor and allowed Dixon to give it a short ride on the ground. Dixon reached out and pulled the wrong lever and soon began moving faster. Suddenly he was flying over the crowd. He continued to climb over the grandstand and landed safely three miles away in a cornfield. From that point on, Dixon knew the aeroplane was the way of the future for him.

The following day, two replacement tires arrived from the Curtiss factory. At 3:30 p.m. Dixon started the engine and moved toward the north end of the track. A lack of wind made the takeoff longer. He barely cleared the fence at the north end of the track. His first flight was a short cross-country traveling north to Port Crane and back flying low over the Chenango River. Before his next flight, Dixon put three oranges into his coat pocket. After climbing into the air, he returned to the fairgrounds and attempted to drop the orange in the center of a target on the ground. His closest "bomb" hit about 10 feet from the center. The third exhibition flight was a race with a Buick driven by Harry Dougherty. By maintaining 65 miles-per-hour above the track, Dixon managed to lap Doughty before the end of the two-mile race. Dixon dropped his machine lower and lower until he was only twenty feet above the track at the end of the race. He climbed his ship to about 3,000 feet on the last flight of the day passing over the west side and downtown.

During his stay in Binghamton, a reporter asked Dixon about the future of the "aeroplane." "Do you feel it has the potential to be become a commercially practical machine?" Dixon responded, "Sure I do. But not for general passenger traffic. We will see 'planes that will carry perhaps as many as 10 or 12 passengers, but I don't expect that they will go beyond that with heavier than air machines. For carrying freight, however, the aeroplane will be invaluable. For instance, a 'plane some day will carry a ton of mail matter from New York to Chicago without a stop at 70 miles an hour. The air line will beat the railways all hollow. It is along that line in fast messenger service that I believe the 'planes will be useful commercially."

In early October 1911, less than two months after his flights in Binghamton, Cromwell Dixon flying career came to an abrupt end. After his Binghamton engagement, Dixon headed west becoming the first flyer to cross the Continental Divide. At a fair in Spokane, Washington, Dixon took to the air on a gusty day. As the Curtiss biplane climbed into the sky, it rocked and weaved in the air currents. A sudden downdraft sent Dixon and his machine spinning toward the ground. Dixon could never regain complete control before the airplane smashed into the earth. At age 19, Cromwell Dixon, America's youngest pilot, was dead.

A Passing Conversation

Aviation exhibition teams sponsored by companies had the luxury of a special train to carry aircraft, parts and personnel between distant meets. On the afternoon of August 23, 1911, the train carrying the aviation party of Wells-Fargo stopped for a break in Binghamton. The train was traveling from the Chicago meet to another one in Boston. Freight cars behind the engine carried the planes of Earle Ovington, Tom Sopwith, Eugene Ely, A. B. Stone and George Beatty. Curtiss-Bleriot monoplanes occupied another car. After the pilots, mechanics and family members dined at a local restaurant, reporters converged on A. B. Stone for comments. When asking Mrs. Stone if she had any desire to fly alone as a pilot she answered, "No." Her husband elaborated, "No, Mrs. Stone will not fly alone because I won’t let her. I fly a monoplane, having three machines with me now, and with a Gnome engine it is hazardous for a woman to fly in an aeroplane of this type. The action of a monoplane is much different and much more difficult to control than that of a biplane and woman’s strength is not equal to the task. To my mind the fate of the Misses Quimby and Moisant, who are flying monoplanes, appears inevitable. They will surely be dashed to death if they persist."

Stone took a few minutes to explain his limp to the reporter. On a recent flight while traveling at 3,000 feet over Lake Michigan, a sudden gust of wind pushed the monoplane’s tail upward. The balance of the machine was upset and the plane plunged toward the water below. He continued, "I was thrown forward on my engine and with intense relief I saw that I was to drop into the lake. Intuition told me that to save my life I must jump. The machine was about 150 feet above the water and with every fibre of my body tense, I sprang from it. As I jumped I caught my foot in some part of the mechanism and the flesh was torn deep to the bone." After an hour in the water, he was rescued.

At six o’clock in the evening, the train pulled out of the rail yard heading for Albany on its way to Boston.

The Great Race

In 1910, newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst offered a prize of $50,000 for the first flight across the country in less than 30 days. By September 1911, three aviators were ready to risk their lives to capture the prize. Robert Fowler in a Wright biplane would fly east from San Francisco. Of the two westbound flyers, James J. Ward and Calbraith P. Rodgers, Ward was the first to take to the air. On September 13, Ward lifted his Curtiss Model D from Governor's Island and headed westward. In these earliest days of aviation, navigational beacons or aerial and even road maps were non-existent. Following railroad tracks was the only way to navigate cross-country. Ward planned to follow the tracks of the Erie Railroad northwest and west across New York. His first stop was scheduled for Middletown, N. Y. with additional stops at Callicoon and Susquehanna, Pa. He did not plan to land in Binghamton. On September 16, he departed Callicoon at 10:05am and an hour later landed in Susquehanna. Leaving there at 2:17 p.m., Ward passed over Great Bend and Kirkwood before approaching Binghamton. Thousands of people crowded rooftops and other vantage points to cheer on the young aviator as he meandered through the clouds and air currents over the city. Noise from whistles and bells followed his slow moving aircraft as it continued to the west toward Owego.

In Owego, hillsides and building tops were covered with hundreds of people straining to catch the first glimpse of Ward’s machine. A tiny speck soon appeared in the east. It grew in size until everyone could see the plane’s outline. Ward passed over the center of town and continued west. Suddenly, he circled around and dropped for a landing on the Leonard farm in Tioga. A motorist drove him back to Owego where he ate a hurried dinner before returning to his plane. He wanted to get to Corning before dark. While Ward was in Owego, an assistant arrived at the Leonard farm and filled the machine with gas and oil. When Ward returned to the field, the engine was quickly started and Ward took his seat and adjusted his flying helmet. A large crowd had gathered to watch the action. Ward moved the plane into position and started to roll along the ground. As he rose into the air, Ward began a slight left turn to clear trees at the end of the field. The engine sputtered and lost power. The plane’s rear wheels snagged the top of a fence. It lurched to a sudden stop. Ward was not injured, but the lower wing was badly damaged. It took a crew from the Curtiss factory two days to fix the damage before Ward could continue his trip westward.

The third entrant in the competition, Calbraith Perry Rodgers, had the best chance of winning the prize. He had enlisted the sponsorship of the Armour Company, which was marketing a brand of grape soda called "Vin Fiz." Rodger's airplane, a Wright EX, was decorated with the "Vin Fiz" emblem. Besides the potential contest prize money, Rodgers would receive $5.00 from Armour for every mile traveled. The company also supplied a special train to follow Rodgers across the country. This train carried spare parts, equipment, and passengers including company officials, Rodgers wife, his mother, and Charley Taylor, the personal mechanic of the Wright Brothers. Another thoughtful touch was the inclusion of a high-powered automobile on the train. In case of an accident, it would transport Rodgers to the nearest hospital.

Rodgers left the Sheepshead Bay Speedway on September 17 and headed west along the same route taken earlier by James Ward. After an overnight stop in Middletown, Rodgers' airplane suffered heavy damage as he flew into tree on takeoff. His arrival in Binghamton was delayed for three days. The delay offered the advance advertising crew of the Armour Company ample time to place additional Vin Fiz decorations around the city and at all the soda fountains. The company had budgeted about $100,000 to exploit the Vin Fiz trip across the country.

On September 21, Rodgers left Middletown and flew to Hancock covering the 96 miles in little over an hour. His landing there was forced by engine problems and his machine suffered a cracked frame and damaged front end when it landed heavily in a field. He had to wait for the train to arrive from Middletown with the needed parts.

The next day Rodgers lifted the Vin Fiz into the air at 11:15 a.m. and headed west along the tracks. He passed over the village of Deposit at the eastern edge of Broome County. After following the tracks into Pennsylvania, Rodgers made a slight mistake at Lanesboro taking the tracks south toward Carbondale and Scranton. Upon landing Rodgers was surprised to discover he was in Scranton rather then Binghamton. After a quick lunch, a glass of water, and a fresh cigar, he lifted off at 1:30 p.m. and headed north. Over the next hour, he passed over the villages of Clarks Summit, Dalton, Nicholson and Alford. He made a brief stop at Great Bend before leaving at 3:35 p.m. for Binghamton. Twenty-five minutes later, he circled Stow Park twice and landed. His stop in Binghamton was a brief one—for refueling only. By 4:30 p.m., he was ready to move on. He started his engine and began moving slowly along the ground. Within 50 yards, the aircraft lifted off and climbed slowly to 600 feet. Later as he rested in Elmira, Cal Rodgers could look back on a rather unique day where a planned 110 mile trip became 208 miles long.

James Ward returns to Binghamton

Barely a week after Cal Rodgers' brief visit, an opportunity arose for residents to view James Ward close-up. J. P. E. Clark, Manager of the Binghamton Industrial Exposition, had negotiated with the Curtiss Exhibition Company for another flight demonstration on September 28-29, 1911 during the event. This time Curtiss dispatched Ward to Binghamton for the flights. A week earlier, Ward had been forced to abandon his quest for the Hearst prize after problems in western New York. When asked by a local reporter about his attempt, Ward commented:

I don't know how to describe the difficulties I encountered. They were numerous and they were incomprehensible. Not one of them would happen to an aviator once in six months, and here they bunched on me until I just naturally had to quit. That's it – jinx; it was a plain case of jinx. And then I was handicapped by insufficient financial backing. I spent $21,000 in my attempt – my own money. Nobody put up a cent for me. I was assessed and taxed on every hand. Nearly every time I landed, the owner of the property that I descended on wanted damages, and if I wanted to send a telephone message to the house on the hill or send a message down the road it was $2 or more.

Binghamton was sore because I didn't land here; people said I sailed high over the town because I couldn't get any money for stopping and that I stopped at other places because inducements were offered. Let me tell you now that all the money I got in that way you could put in your vest pocket. I sailed high over for a very good reason. The higher my altitude, the greater would have been the radius of territory open to me for landing in case my engine stopped or some other trouble developed.

Compare my case to Rodgers; he hasn't a thing in the world to worry about; expenses all paid; everything provided for and getting so much per mile. Rodgers is a mighty fine fellow and I wish him all kinds of luck, but he won't reach the coast within the specified time. To win that $50,000 he's got to complete his journey Oct. 10. He can't do it. He'll get through all right, but not by that date.

James Ward was correct about Cal Rodgers chances of completing the journey. C. P. Rodgers did press on across America. But a continuation of crashes and mishaps slowed his progress. By the end of the thirtieth day, he was only as far as Oklahoma. With the support of the Armour Company, Rodgers crashed on to the West Coast arriving in Pasadena, California on November 5. At this point after 49 days, the only original parts remaining of his aircraft were the vertical rudder and two wing struts.

On September 28, a very large crowd began forming at the Exposition grounds for the day's events. Almost 30,000 people crammed into grounds and overflowed into the infield where Ward's airplane was sitting. By 4 p.m., workers cleared enough space to allow Ward to lift his machine into the air. He traveled north and circled Mt. Prospect and passed over the grounds twice before realizing a landing could not be made there without endangering the crowd. He flew two miles north and landed in an open field. After landing, he walked back to grounds and was introduced to the cheers of the crowd.

John Normile presented a different form of aerial stunt following Ward's flight. After rising to a high altitude suspended beneath a hot air balloon, he released his attachment and floated to earth under the billowing canopy of a parachute. As Normile's performance ended, the crowd began to thin out. Ward returned to his airplane in the field, started the engine, and flew back to the Exposition grounds. This time he found enough clear space to execute a smooth landing.

On the second day, heavy rain in the morning made the track impassable and the horse races were cancelled. The crowd of 4,000 people waited patiently until early afternoon to see the first of Ward's three scheduled flights. At 1:35 p.m., he lifted off from the infield and climbed to 1,500 feet. He circled the area for 17 minutes before landing. During his second flight, air turbulence buffeted his aircraft at 2,000 feet. He landed safely after only 6 minutes in the air. Later in the afternoon, as the flags atop the grandstand flapped in a strong wind, Ward decided to cancel the third flight. The wind was too unpredictable, too puffy.

William B. Hemstrought and Dr. C. S. Decker

Up to this point, the aviators flying the skies over Broome County were all visitors. One of the first Broome County residents to successfully take to the air was William Hemstrought. He served as secretary of the Broome Motorcycle Club and raced in many motorcycle races. He had a relentless desire to go fast. When Cromwell Dixon flew in Binghamton the previous August, Hemstrought was one of the thousands of spectators. He liked what he saw and he knew he had to try his hand at flying. As many of the early aviation enthusiasts did, he traveled to Hammondsport, New York to take flying lessons at the Glenn Curtiss flying school.

Hemstrought knew he had prove to the instructors at the Curtiss school his desire to be a pilot:

When I took my first lesson I went up alone. I didn’t want anybody to go along with me and I made up my mind that I would either fly the thing or smash it. It flew all right. The second day I was there I made my first trip in a machine.

They gave me an old four-cylinder machine to begin with and I got along with this fairly well, only it didn’t have power enough. Once when I was flying over the lake a sudden puff of wind tilted the planes down and I shot down toward the lake at a spot some little distance from land. If I had had more power I could have straightened the thing up again but I didn’t have the power and she kept right on, headed for the lake.

I struck the water at a slant and even then I thought I could get up in the air again but the minute the propeller began to churn the water I knew it was all off. So I shut off the power, climbed up on top of the thing and waited for them to come and get me in a boat.

After completing his training, he was asked to join the Curtiss exhibition team. During his travels, he piloted a new Curtiss aircraft owned by a Binghamton dentist, Dr. Charles S. Decker.

Dr. Decker paid the Curtiss Company $5,000 for the flying machine. In anticipation of joining the exhibition circuit, Dr. Decker ordered a special tent from the Eureka Tent and Awning Company for housing the aircraft. It was 40 feet square, 20 feet high at the peak, and seven feet high at the sidewalls. A block and tackle arrangement raised the tent quickly. Dr. Decker planned to join the circuit in Texas during the winter of 1911–12. An epidemic of spinal meningitis forced officials in Texas to prohibit large gatherings of people in the affected areas. Dr. Decker stored the plane away for the winter.

In April 1912, Dr. Decker talked to Jerome Fanciulli, general manager and H. W. Sutton, exhibition manager of the Curtiss Company. He wanted to present an aerial exhibition in Binghamton within two months. He was adamant in having Lincoln Beachey, the country's foremost exhibition aviator, appear with Hemstrought at the local exhibition.

In early June 1912, Hemstrought flew his first flights as a Curtiss pilot at an exhibition in Lima, Ohio. He was teamed with veteran pilot, Charles F. Walsh. On his first day, Hemstrought made three successful flights despite a 35 mph wind. He duplicated every maneuver done by the more experienced pilot. Over the next two days, he improved his technique and impressed everyone with his flying skills.

His next engagement, with Lincoln Beachey, was at the Knights Templar conclave in Elmira, New York on June 18–19. At the performance in Elmira, Hemstrought had a narrow escape as his engine faltered on takeoff. His propeller struck a high-tension wire sending a surge of electricity into his body. Temporarily stunned, he was unable to control his machine as it settled into the Chemung River and overturned. He was pulled from the river and treated by Dr. Decker and Dr. Charles Wilson. He suffered serious burns on his leg and bruises from the fall. The painful injuries prevented him from being a part of the exhibition the following week in Binghamton.

After a short recovery period in Binghamton, Hemstrought returned to flying. In September, he entered the flying competition at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. His competition consisted of Charles F. Walsh, Beckwith Havens, and John D. Cooper. Hemstrought did manage to win the precision landing contest. A week later, he performed flawlessly at the Oneonta, N. Y. fair. Hemstrought often teamed with Lincoln Beachey in exhibitions throughout the Midwest and the Northeast. During many of these flights, Hemstrought showed support for women’s suffrage by displaying a "Votes for Women" pennant from his lower wing.

Lincoln Beachey

Lincoln Beachey, without Hemstrought, came to Binghamton’s Stow Park. Unlike James Ward's weather shortened flights the previous year, Beachey welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate his flying skills in less than perfect weather. On June 21, 1912, in front of a sparse, rain soaked crowd, Beachey wheeled out his Curtiss biplane and pointed the front wheel to the north. After a thorough inspection, he climbed aboard the machine, started its engine, and headed across the soggy infield. Clearing the fence at the edge of the track, he gradually rose higher into the air. After climbing even higher, he returned to the air above Stow Park and executed several graceful figure eight maneuvers. He climbed to about 2,500 feet as circled between the Park and the downtown area. Often his airplane disappeared from view as he flew through the rain clouds overhead. After about 11 minutes in the air, he descended and made a smooth landing.

On Saturday, the weather and the crowd improved. Over 1,500 spectators entered Stow Park to watch Beachey fly again and to stay for a series of motorcycle races. Lincoln Beachey performed three flights described by Curtiss officials as the prettiest flights ever made. He "sailed over the heads of the spectators, making dips from great heights and close to the ground, turning quick corners, rocking gracefully as if on an ocean wave, spiraling from high altitude and giving the crowd an idea of what can be done with a humanly constructed bird." A five-lap race between Beachey’s airplane and a motorcycle concluded the day’s action. Beachey’s machine crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of the motorcycle.

D. C. Patmore

D. C. Patmore, a pilot for the Thomas Company of Bath, New York, piloted a converted hydroaeroplane at the Broome County Fair in Whitney Point. This is the first appearance in this section of the state of the type of craft that can normally takeoff from water. For his flights from the fairgrounds, his aircraft was equipped with regular wheels. He arrived on August 13, 1912 and began setting up his flying machine. On his first flight the next day, Patmore headed north after lifting off from the fairgrounds. A strong wind interfered with his ability to maneuver the plane and after a few minutes he returned to the grounds. Engine problems prevented any more flights. The next day was not much better. The plane was moved outside the grounds where a longer takeoff run could be accomplished. He climbed to about 60 feet when a cylinder failed and he dropped to a safe landing. On a later flight, he managed to reach 75 feet before a strong wind began to bring him lower. Skimming across a cornfield, the plane’s propeller hit the top of the stalks and flipped it over. Patmore was not injured. But the damage to the plane prevented any other attempts at flight.

At the Boonville, N. Y. fair a week later, D. C. Patmore’s luck didn’t improve. While trying to takeoff, his plane’s wheel hit a hole in the ground. Patmore was thrown forward injuring an eye and his nose. He was unable to continue his flights.

C. Ray Benedict

C. Ray Benedict, the son of A. E. Benedict of A. E. Benedict & Co. of Binghamton, began flying in 1911. After graduating from high school in 1909, he worked for the Fiat Motor Company in Poughkeepsie, N. Y. He moved to Indianapolis and became a mechanic for the Cole Motor Car Company. He became interested in aeronautics and joined the Chicago Aero Company. During the winter of 1911-12, he flew in Florida for the company. In May 1912, he went to St. Louis and acquired a six-cylinder, 75 horsepower Benoist biplane. His intention was to fly non-stop from St. Louis to Binghamton with a passenger breaking the existing distance record. But the flight never materialized. He did continue flying exhibitions in the West and South.

In October 1915, Ray Benedict had an inauspicious return to Binghamton. As he and his mechanic, Robert Watt, worked on assembling his new aircraft in L. W. Springstein’s garage at 408 Chenango Street, the police entered and arrested the two men. They were accused of stealing the aircraft engine they were just beginning to attach to the airframe.

Ray Benedict’s problems began the previous summer. The Loraine Hydro and Aero Company employed Benedict as a pilot of a Benoist hydroaeroplane (flying boat) at the Cedar Point, Ohio resort on Lake Erie. Over a three-month period, he made hundreds of successful flights with passengers. When his contract began, he was told he could buy the plane’s Roberts 2-cycle engine after the flights. After the season, the company reneged on the offer.

Benedict went to the head of the Roberts Motor Company and asked for the loan of another engine. The company’s officers felt his original contract with the aero company entitled him to that particular engine. At that point, he and his mechanic packed up the engine and shipped it to Binghamton.

In Broome County Court, Benedict’s lawyer, George LePine, claimed the contract specified no payments were required until two flights after delivery of the engine. Although details of the resulting legal actions are lacking, the charges were apparently dropped and the two men remained in Binghamton.

They returned to Springstein’s garage and continued assembling the new aircraft described as being similar to a Stupar or German Taube. On November 9, 1915, they moved the machine to the fair grounds for a test flight. But the owners of the property, the Binghamton Railway Company, requested a bond in excess of $100 to cover potential damages. Benedict decided to look for a site outside the city limits.

The next day Ray Benedict took his new airplane into the air from a field on the Cutler Farm off Upper Front Street. But as he passed through 300 feet, a wire between the magneto and a spark plug broke. The loss of power forced him to glide to a landing in a field near the County Farm. After a repair, his airplane returned to sky above the Chenango River and the city of Binghamton. With winter approaching, Ray Benedict planned to re-locate to St. Augustine, Florida. He intended to set up an aviation school and start a passenger carrying line with a newer model flying boat.

Earl V. Fritts

For the 1913 edition of the Binghamton Exposition, a pilot based in Oneonta, New York was hired to entertain the crowds. Earl V. Fritts made two flights during the afternoon of September 30. Both flights were very conventional with no acrobatic or low altitude maneuvers. The next day’s flight presented the crowd of over 18,000 with a little more excitement. As Earl Fritts’ machine turned above the crowd and headed north, the crankshaft of the engine broke freezing the engine. The plane’s propeller was thrown out of alignment and shattered. As wooden fragments flew through the air, Fritts guided the quickly descending machine over the Floral Hall and managed to land safely in a field north of the midway. After sliding to a stop at a fence, he calmly stepped from his plane to light up a cigar and to survey the damage. A replacement engine was not available in time to continue the flights during the Exposition. Fritts placed the plane in a tent for public display during the last two days of the fair.

Curtiss Aviators Visit the City

In early November 1913, while on an automobile trip from Hammondsport to New York, three of the Curtiss Company’s most experienced pilots stopped in Binghamton to visit Leonard Wales. J. Lansing Callan had previously resided in the city for two years. He was an exceptional athlete and an accomplished long-distance runner. As an instructor at the Curtiss Aviation School, he had flown nearly 11,000 miles during the year. He was heading for San Diego, California to open the Curtiss winter school primarily to train Japanese military officers.

Beckwith Havens was one of the most publicly visible of the Curtiss pilots. He held many records for flights in conventional airplanes and hydroaeroplanes. Completing a recent aerial trip from Detroit to New York by way of Buffalo and Albany, he was asked if he had any problems, "No, there was nothing really sensational about the trip, unless it was when I got lost over New York Bay and nearly ran into the Statue of Liberty. It was so foggy and dark I couldn’t see a thing and had to take a chance." He knew when to take a chance during normal flying, but Havens would never consider doing loop-the-loops and the other maneuvers being performed by Lincoln Beachey. Havens felt these displays did not advance the cause of aviation and were merely gimmicks—vaudeville acts.

The third member of the group, W. Ellwood Doherty, was on his way to Cuba as the Curtiss representative to the Cuban government. Doherty was the first pilot to get a license for a hydroaeroplane. On a recent trip above Lake Erie, he was skimming along the surface of the lake when the water torn an opening in the hull. The crew of a revenue cutter used boat hooks to pull him from the water.

All three gentlemen were guests of Leonard Wales while in Binghamton.

Lincoln Beachey Returns

Lincoln Beachey returned to Binghamton two years after his initial visit. By this time, Beachey had expanded his aerial repertoire to include inverted flight, loop-the-loops, corkscrew spirals and the tail slide. On June 23, 1914, a large crowd was on hand at Stow Park and on the hillsides to witness Beachey at his best. This day featured performances by Lincoln Beachey with his Curtiss airplane and Barney Oldfield with his racing cars. Oldfield started the program by setting a track record for the mile on the Stow Park half-mile course in his 100 hp Fiat Cyclone. His time of one minute and six seconds cut 13 seconds off the old record. Meanwhile, Beachey prepared his aircraft for a short test flight. During a five-minute flight he headed north while climbing to 3,000 feet. He turned and flew across the track at a steady altitude. He turned once more returning over the crowd. Suddenly his engine went silent and his machine dived ominously toward the ground. All breathing stopped. Gradually the nose of the machine began to rise and the descent rate slowed. Beachey glided to a perfect landing.

A while later, after Lincoln Beachey’s first flight, Oldfield wheeled out his 300 hp Christie front-drive racer and trimmed another second off the track record. Beachey's second flight started at 4:23 in the afternoon. After liftoff, he headed north, then made a wide turn to the left and climbed to 3,000 feet over Mt. Prospect. His machine disappeared among the clouds as he continued rising to over 6,000 feet. As the speck of the man/machine moved through the clouds, Beachey later claimed he flew upside-down for three minutes. However, no one on the ground could verify it. Returning to the area of Stow Park, Beachey shut down his Gnome engine and quickly dropped 2,000 feet where he twice flipped his craft upside down. After righting the airplane, he started the engine, continued a steep drop toward Stow Park, and landed smoothly. "It was cool up there," he commented to reporters. To prove his point, he handed his gold pocket watch to bystanders. Although the day's high temperature was in the mid 80s, the watch was icy to the touch.

His third flight of the day was the main event of the day's performance—a mile race around the track with Oldfield's Christie racer. Flying at 300 feet over the track and banking sharply around the corners, Beachey's Curtiss easily beat Oldfield's automobile. After the race, Beachey continued his aerial performance with his most dangerous maneuvers. Climbing to 3,000 feet, he first dived, then pulled the aircraft up and over into a loop. He repeated the loop again. He finished the show with a back slide from 2,000 feet and a corkscrew loop before landing. A combination of good weather and an excellent show made this particular exhibition a memorable one among the residents of Binghamton and Broome County for many years afterward.

George L. Newberry

Another local aviator, George L. Newberry of Binghamton and Kirkwood, followed a path similar to Hemstrought's early aviation career. Growing up in Kirkwood, N. Y., a few miles east of Binghamton, George Newberry developed a love of machinery. He came to Binghamton and found work as a machinist. He later moved west to Painted Post and Hammondsport, where he trained at the Curtiss school. Afterwards he joined with aviator Earl V. Fritts of Oneonta, New York in giving exhibitions at county fairs throughout the state. And like almost all the early aviators, Newberry soon discovered the dangers of his chosen profession.

At a county fair in Plattsville, New York in August 1914, as he was taking off, a team of horses suddenly crossed his path. He veered into the fence at the edge of the racetrack. The crash wrecked his aircraft and Newberry suffered a fractured skull. Although close to death for several days after the accident, he vowed from the hospital to continue his flying once his recovery was complete. But George Newberry didn't cheat death for much longer. Near the end of May of the following year, Newberry was performing at Renssalaer Park in Troy, New York. As a crowd of nearly 20,000 spectators gazed upward, a loud explosion sent flames shooting from his aircraft’s engine. His plane suddenly twisted and plunged 400 feet to the earth. His unconscious body was pulled from the wreckage and taken to a hospital where he died a short time later. His wife, parents and three brothers survived him.

Early Aircraft were extremely dangerous to fly. The airplanes manufactured by the Wright and Curtiss companies and others were not much more than powered box kites. To entertain the crowds, exhibition pilots put their craft through maneuvers these machines were never designed to do. Loop-the-loops and high-speed dives placed stresses on both pilots and equipment beyond stress limits. Even more experienced pilots than George Newberry could not overcome these weaknesses and continue to tempt fate.

On April 3, 1912, Cal Rodgers met a similar fate in the surf near Long Beach, California. As he flew through a flock of seagulls, one of them became jammed in his rudder and his aircraft crashed into Pacific Ocean close to the spot where he had finally ended his cross-country flight a few months before.

Even a pilot as skilled and experienced as Lincoln Beachey could not recover from the structure failure of these early flimsy machines. For an exhibition flight in San Francisco, Lincoln Beachey decided to switch to a new monoplane rather than use his older biplane. The flight was uneventful until he climbed to 7,000 feet and began his famous "drop" maneuver. As he tried to pull out of the dive at 4,000 feet, his aircraft wavered then crumpled like a discarded sheet of paper. The wreckage plunged into San Francisco Bay. At 5 o'clock on the afternoon of March 14, 1915, Lincoln Beachey's body and aircraft were recovered from the Bay.

Victor Carlstrom

Victor Carlstrom, a rising star in the aviation field, briefly excited the residents of Broome County. He made an unscheduled appearance on Thanksgiving Day 1915. On a flight from Toronto, Canada to Governor's Island, New York, a combination of bad weather, cold temperatures, muscle cramps and mechanical problems forced Carlstrom to make an emergency landing on the Alhambra Farm (site of the Binghamton Country Club) at Hooper in Broome County. Carlstrom, one of the best Curtiss pilots, was in charge of the Curtiss aviation school in Toronto. He was flying a new Curtiss R.8 to New York City for demonstration purposes. The Curtiss Company quickly dispatched mechanics from Buffalo and Hammondsport to the farm to begin repairs. By 3 p.m. on the next day, November 11, 1915, the repairs were completed and Carlstrom resumed his flight.

A year later, Victor Carlstrom’s name was again on the lips of many of the local residents. In a stunt appropriate for the age, the New York Times sponsored an experimental airmail flight from Chicago to New York City. Victor Carlstrom flew the planned "sunrise to sunset" flight. Only four years before, Cal Rodgers took many days to complete the same distance in his cross-country trip. Aviation had progressed a great deal in an amazingly short time.

Early on November 2, 1916, he placed the mailbag in his airplane and headed east. After refueling in Erie, Pennsylvania, he headed again toward New York City. He encountered engine problems forcing another landing. Local authorities thought Carlstrom would try to land in the Binghamton area and spend the night. Before anyone finalized plans for his visit here, he set down in Hammondsport disappointing our welcoming committee. Many local residents were unaware of the problems of the flight and assumed he would be passing over the city in the darkness. People lined the bridges and the rooftops hoping for a glimpse of history. However, the primary show that evening was the planet, Jupiter, hanging low in the southeastern sky. It faded in and out of view as clouds drifted by giving viewers the impression of a moving light. Many people assumed the "moving" light was Carlstrom’s plane. Meanwhile Victor Carlstrom, resting in Hammondsport, readied his aircraft for the resumption of his flight in the morning.

At 6:35 a.m., Carlstrom continued his flight. By 6:57 a.m., he was passing Elmira. Seventeen minutes later, he was over Owego. In Binghamton, observers on the roof of the Press building were surprised to see his aircraft passing to the south of the city at 7:25 a.m. They assumed he would be following the railroad tracks bringing his flight path through the center of town. He chose a route taking him three miles south crossing over South Mountain and House’s Hill. By 8:55 a.m., he landed at Governor’s Island and received an enthusiastic welcome. A representative of the Post Office took the mailbag and headed for the New York Main Post Office. Army Major General Leonard Wood greeted Carlstrom on his arrival. Augustus Post and Alan Hawley of the Aero Club of America also welcomed him. Carlstrom completed the 315-mile flight from Hammondsport at an average speed of 137 mph, a new speed record. Although he failed to complete the trip in a single day, his actual flying time was less than nine hours.

Among the many letters carried on the trip were two special ones. The first letter was a greeting from Chicago Mayor Thompson to President Wilson. John R. Clements, a Binghamton resident visiting Chicago, sent the other to William F. Seward, Librarian of the Binghamton Public Library. Clements’ short message read: "Dear Mr. Seward – I send you, by the courtesy of the Postmaster at Chicago, this greeting via the Experimental Mail Carrying Aeroplane Service established for a day between Chicago and New York, ‘between sunrise and sunset,’ in the hope that you will find it an interesting relic for your library archives. Very truly yours, John R. Clements." Of course, the letter’s aerial journey ended in New York City. The final trip from there to Binghamton was by conventional railroad mail service.

With the entry of the United States into the Great War the following spring, experienced aviators were in sudden demand as flight instructors. In April 1917, Victor Carlstrom was appointed as a first lieutenant in the army aviation reserve corps. He trained future army aviators at the Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station at Newport News, Virginia. Like so many of the early pre-war aviators, a long, happy life for Victor Carlstrom was out of his reach. On May 9, 1917, as he took a student up for a training session, the right wing of his machine suddenly crumpled and separated from the fuselage. The two aviators died in the mangled wreckage.

Ruth Bancroft Law

Within three weeks of Carlstrom’s airmail flight; Ruth Law attempted the same route. She hoped to complete the Chicago to New York City flight within a single day. Unlike the enclosed fuselage aircraft flown by Carlstrom, Ruth Law was flying an older Curtiss scout biplane where the pilot sat in front of the engine and wing facing the elements unprotected. She had asked Glenn Curtiss to sell her a new machine with twice the power and more comforts but he declined. He explained "You’re too little and not strong enough. I don’t think you could handle the big one."

At 7:37 a.m. on November 19, 1916, she took off from Grant Park on Chicago’s Lake Front and headed east. A strong lake breeze forced her to stay at 1,000 feet as she moved across the city of Chicago. As she moved inland, the wind diminished. She climbed above the low altitude winds and reached 5,000 feet headed east. Her plane carried fuel for six hours of flight, enough time to reach Hornell, New York. Unfortunately, she lost her tail wind in a wind shift and her fuel-starved engine sputtered and stopped two miles from Hornell. Trading altitude for speed, she glided to a safe landing at the fair grounds. Officials at Hornell planned to mark the center of the fair grounds with a cross of white stones. During the night, a light snow fell covering the stone cross. They quickly replaced the white cross with a black one. As morning worn on, the warming sun melted the snow and no clear markings were visible to Ruth Law as she landed. On this leg of the trip, Ruth Law had covered 578 miles in a little less than six hours easily breaking Victor Carlstrom’s record of a few weeks before. This was an amazing accomplishment for a pilot whose longest previous flight was 25 miles.

After refueling the aircraft with fuel and eating lunch, Ruth Law again climbed her old Curtiss into the crisp November sky bound for New York City. Taking off from Hornell at 3:10 p.m., she passed over Waverly at 3:30 p.m. continuing to the east. An approaching Binghamton she began to realize flying over the mountains of eastern New York at night might be too hazardous. She began looking for a landing spot. As she approached the west side of Binghamton, she spotted a clear area north of the river large enough for a landing.

In Binghamton, when it became clear her flight would pass near the city, large crowds began to congregate on rooftops, along bridges and across hilltops. At 4:15 p.m., a speck in the sky appeared in the western sky and soon the drone of her engine echoed across the valley. Her aircraft descended from 5,000 feet and disappeared behind the trees along Riverside Drive.

Seeing a racetrack and large buildings nearby, Ruth Law assumed the site she had selected for landing was the Binghamton fairground. But Willis Sharp Kilmer’s Stock Farm became the ending point of Ruth Law’s first day of flying. The "Swamp Root" king was out of town at the time and was unable to fully appreciate the hundreds of visitors spilling onto his property during that evening and the next morning. Samuel H. Dailey, manager of the Binghamton Light, Heat and Power Company and chairman of the Glad Hand Committee became the first one to greet Ruth Law. He escorted Miss Law to the Arlington Hotel where she was given a room and access to a telephone. She spent over an hour calling associates in Chicago and New York discussing the day’s flight and plans for the next day. The rest of her evening was spent having dinner with Samuel Dailey and his wife and talking to local newspaper reporters.

A police detail guarded the machine during the night. The Curtiss factory dispatched a mechanic to check over the aircraft’s engine and prepare it for the next day’s flight. People began arriving at the field at 5a.m. Ruth Law arrived early and helped the mechanic set up the plane for flight. At 7:20 a.m., she gave the signal to start the engine and guided her flying machine toward the west into the morning wind. Rising slowly, she climbed to the west, then turned to south for a short distance and turned left again to an easterly track. Within a few minutes, her aircraft disappeared over the hills.

Her flight from Binghamton to New York turned out to be more challenging than the previous day’s adventures. After leaving Binghamton, she headed east for a short distance and then followed a southeasterly compass heading. But the morning fog obscured landmarks forcing Ruth Law to fly lower than she wished. She passed over Port Jervis and Suffern before encountering the Hudson River. Following the center of the river south, she soon began to pass over the buildings of Manhattan. Her engine began to sputter from fuel starvation. To force fuel from the tank to the engine, she began dipping the nose down until the engine revived then leveled off and continued forward. She used the last of her fuel to climb as high as possible. When her engine finally died, she glided the last mile across the bay to a landing at Governor’s island.

Major General Leonard Wood, other military officers, and officials of the Aero Club of America, greeted her. At a reception at the Aero Club, Victor Carlstrom and other aviators congratulated her.

Earl Raymond Southee

Earl Raymond Southee, a Binghamton native, worked as a mechanic for Lowell & Hammond, dealers of Overland and Willys-Knight automobiles. In 1915, Southee traveled to Buffalo and joined the Curtiss Aviation School. He became an aircraft mechanic there and served at the Curtiss Flying School at Newport News, Virginia. In 1917, when Curtiss received a contract to establish a flying school at Princeton, N. J. for college students, they were one instructor short. Southee had impressed pilots with his eagerness to learn new things and with his desire to become a pilot. He was given flying lessons and soon soloed. He went to Princeton as chief mechanic and the fourth pilot.

At Princeton, he took part in a test flight using a gasoline substitute called gasofoam. This product, invented by Henry T. Caullet, had worked successfully in automobiles, had never been used in aircraft engines. After filling the fuel tank with the new product, Southee started the engine. It ran smoothly. Taking his airplane into the air, the engine continued to perform with no problems. Southee climbed to 4,000 feet and circled the field for 45 minutes before landing.

After leaving Princeton, Earl Southee spent some time at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio and then at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. In April 1918, as a Second Lieutenant flight instructor, he experienced a serious crash. His student froze at the controls forcing a nosedive. Southee was unable to wrench the control stick from the rigid grip of the student. The plane plowed straight into a ditch at the edge of the field. The student was not injured. Southee spent several months in the hospital in traction and undergoing plastic surgery and skin grafts to his face. Once he recovered, he eagerly returned to flying.

Katherine Stinson Pays an Extended Visit

Two years after Ruth Law’s appearance in Binghamton, another famous woman pilot made an unscheduled stop in the Triple Cities—Katherine Stinson. In 1912, she became the fourth American woman to earn a pilot’s certificate. She belonged to a famous family of early aviation pioneers. Her sister, Marjorie, also learned to fly and helped the family operate a flying school in San Antonio, Texas. In 1925, her brother Eddie started an aircraft factory building a well-regarded series of aircraft.

Katherine Stinson planned to make a non-stop flight from Chicago to New York City. She was specially designated as an airmail pilot by the Post Office Department to carry a load of mail between the two cities. She had been previously been sworn in as a postal clerk. Obtaining War Department approval delayed the flight a week. On May 23, 1918, the flight began at 7:37 a.m.

With a full tank of fuel and a strong tail wind, she hoped to complete the trip to New York by early evening. She headed east and by 11 a.m. was 50 miles west of Toledo, Ohio. By 12:35 p.m., she was nearing Cleveland, Ohio. Once past Erie, Pennsylvania, her plan was to follow the Erie Railroad tracks across the Southern Tier Of New York.

Unfortunately, the strong tail wind faltered. As she neared Elmira, she discovered only two gallons of gasoline remained in the fuel tank. She planned to stop in Binghamton to refuel and continue from there.

Having never flown to the area before, she was unfamiliar with the topography of the country below. She was looking for a dry level field to set down in. The Conklin flats area near the river appeared muddy and unsafe. She spotted a meadow on a hilltop and began to descend toward it. Curiously, Katherine Stinson did not fasten her seat belt as she began her flight, she may have wanted to change positions in the cockpit during the long flight ahead. But a few hours into the trip, she had a premonition to buckle up. While flying with one hand and fumbling with the thick leather seat strap with the other, it took her an hour to secure herself to the seat.

At 6:45 p.m., residents heard a plane approaching from the west. It turned toward the north after crossing the center of the city. It headed for an open area on the hilltop north of the Binghamton Brick Works near Old State Road.

Unfortunately for Miss Stinson, the "dry" meadow she selected for a landing consisted of wet, boggy soil. As the airplane settled to the ground, the plane’s wheels dug into the soft dirt pitching the nose down and shattering the propeller. The fuselage continued over and flipped onto its back.

The first motorists on the scene found a dazed, but uninjured pilot surveying the damage. Besides the broken propeller, there was some damage to the wing and tail. Miss Stinson was escorted to the Arlington Hotel where she called the Willys-Morrow Plant in Elmira asking for a replacement propeller and other parts. Their chief mechanic and his assistant loaded a car with parts and left immediately for Binghamton. Locally, the Endicott Johnson Company supplied some mechanics with engine experience and offered equipment to move the flying machine from the field and down the hill to Port Dickinson.

Katherine Stinson ate dinner at the hotel then returned to the field to help the workers fix her airplane. She stayed until 4 a.m. then returned to the hotel for three hours sleep. The next morning she began looking for a spot to takeoff from. The fairgrounds did not have enough length for a heavily loaded airplane. Ultimately the Horace Conklin farm offered the best space to operate from.

Although her goal of a non-stop flight between the two cities wasn’t achieved, Katherine Stinson still managed to set a non-stop distance record of 783 miles. In addition, she broke her own endurance record by remaining in the air for 10 hours and 15 minutes.

But Miss Stinson’s stay soon became longer than she had planned. Although the wings and tail surfaces were repaired quickly, problems with the motor delayed the continuation of the flight. When the engine pushed into the soft ground, dirt was forced into the radiator and cooling system. The engine would not run for long periods without overheating. She was not happy with the pulling power of the new propeller and requested a special one from New York City.

On May 28, after several test flights the day before with light fuel loads, Katherine Stinson had 37 gallons of fuel put in the tanks and prepared to leave for New York. At 10:55 a.m. she climbed into her Curtiss machine and soon began moving rapidly across Horace Conklin’s field. As it rose slowly into the air, a crosswind pushed the nose down. Suddenly it dipped to the ground and flipped over in a potato patch. As the crowd, including Earl Southee, who had met Miss Stinson for the first time that morning, reached the plane, she climbed out and viewed the damage. When asked if she was injured, she replied only her pride was hurt.

After repairs were made and a new propeller installed, Katherine Stinson succeeded in getting into the air at 5 p.m. She intended to head for New York but the engine began misfiring and vibrating. She landed so the engine could be adjusted. Around 6 p.m., she went into the air again. This time the airplane functioned perfectly but it was too late in the day to start out for New York City, so she returned to the field. Unfortunately, the next day the wind did not cooperate. She needed to takeoff in a steady headwind if she hoped to get airborne with the weight of a full fuel load and her heavy flying suit. She did not relish the thought of having to fly in a strong crosswind as she had during the first part of her trip. She kept busy in Binghamton giving talks for the benefit of the Red Cross and advocating the need of a decent landing field in the area.

On May 30, having spent a week in Binghamton, she attempted another takeoff. The heavy fuel load and the warm temperatures produced a long run along the ground to reach takeoff speed. This time she selected a diagonal, longer path across the field. Unfortunately, she ran out of smooth surface and came into an area of taller grass. Her momentum began slowing through the grass and she ran into the plowed field beyond. Once again, she and her machine flipped over damaging the propeller. This time she needed help to clear herself of the cockpit. At this point the score was Binghamton "3", Katherine Stinson’s pride "0."

She hired a car and scouted the area for a field with at least 1,000 feet of space. On May 31, she made a change in plans. Taking off from the Conklin field with a light fuel load, she flew west over the hills about two miles to the Catholic Country Club grounds (formerly the Davis farm) in Hooper. She landed there successfully and added gas to the 37 gallon point. With the longer field available, she took off expertly and climbed very slowly barely clearing the trees at the edge of the field. She headed east following the Susquehanna River to Great Bend, Pennsylvania. From that point Katherine Stinson turned to the southeast toward New York City and to a very belated welcoming celebration.

That's all for now.


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Orig. Upload: December 11, 2003
Latest Update: August 31, 2006


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