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Witnessing Aviation As It Was 100 Years Ago

We take for granted most of the technical achievements that have occurred in the last 100 years. How many of my Upstate New York readers board a commercial jet when the weather turns a bit nasty in the winter and head to Florida’s warmer temperatures? It’s an easy two and half hour flight from Rochester, NY to most of the major Florida population centers.

In July 4, 1908, Glenn H.Curtiss flew his June Bug aircraft (click here) in the little village of Hammondsport, NY in what was the first pre-announced flight in America. Four years later, he flew his first Model E flying boat or what we know today as a seaplane which can take off and land on water. Hundreds of people came today to the village of Hammondsport, NY to witness a replica of Glenn’s Model E flying boat take to the sky. And I expect that there were more than few people in the crowd who (like me) wondered if such a contraption could really fly!

We watched a parade of modern seaplanes at Depot Park in Hammondsport, NY. Curiously enough, a number of those planes were designed in much the same fashion as Glenn’s Model E flying boat design with the hull of the plane serving as the float and the motor mounted in reverse fashion up and behind the pilot.

The star of the show, Glenn’s Model E flying boat, was hidden from public view behind some trees and a few strategically placed tractor trailers. Members of the Glenn H, Curtiss museum were working all morning making the final engine adjustments.

The pilot flew a Cessna 180 to test the air on the route that he was to take the Model E. At approximately 3:30 pm in the afternoon, the Model E was ready. The engine was warmed up and the pilot summoned. He kissed his wife goodbye, preformed a final walk around the aircraft, donned his helmet, goggles, and gloves, and then climbed into the wooden cockpit.

The Model E which rested on a dolly, slowly moved down a little incline and into Keuka Lake where it floated free from the dolly. The mechanic and his assistant guided the plane into deeper water as the pilot gunned the engine to full throttle. After a long long taxi down the lake, the Model E bounced several times between air and water and then finally stayed airborne as the pilot and plane slowly climbed into the mid-September sky. We just witnessed aviation as it was 100 years ago!

2 thoughts on “Witnessing Aviation As It Was 100 Years Ago”

  1. Lee, it was a real thrill to have been there at the event. And the day was not without some difficulties. The head mechanic(man in red cap)helped guide the plane off the dolly into deeper water. He had his arm wrapped around one or both of the two tail support bars when the pilot opened the throttle! The plane drug him out into deep water before he managed to free himself. The machine did fly, but it sort of bounced itself into the air. The pilot kept it low to the water. The ailerons are controlled by leaning into the direction that you want to turn! All of Glenn Curtiss’s early planes worked that way!

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