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September 2010 Newsletter

by John M. White |

Lincoln Beachey, Professional Aviator
You probably never heard of Lincoln Beachey, but in the early part of the 20th century he was well known in the United States and by January of 1911 was considered by all a "professional aviator". Born in San Francisco on March 3, 1887 as the son of a Civil War vet who was blind, and Lincoln and his brother Hillery had to help provide for their family by earning money at a very young age. By the close of the 19th century San Francisco had seen a lot of aerial experimentation, and the Beachey brothers were very interested in everything aerial. By the time the Wright Brothers stunned the world with their controlled, heavier than air flight Lincoln Beachey was already involved in aviation working with airships and captive gas balloons. 1907 was known as "The Year of The Airships", and Lincoln had become well known as a successful airship pilot, and after one of his flights met Wilbur and Orville Wright. His brother Hillery had transitioned into heavier than air ships, and at the 1910 Los Angeles International Aviation Meet Lincoln took several flights in a Gill-Dosh Curtiss-type Biplane, and after that never flew an airship again. During 1911 Lincoln became famous throughout the United States, in particular for flying over Niagara Falls in a business suit, and then setting a new world's altitude record at the Chicago International Aviation Meet. He was compensated well for his exhibitions of flight and his fame grew as he was regarded as one of the most accomplished aviators in the United States. 1913 brought a lot of personal and professional difficulty as many of his fellow aviators died while the press cruelly blamed Beachey for their deaths saying his dangerous flying manner was setting a terrible example for the others. In reality aviation has always been dangerous, and the early days of aviation were no exception. Some pilots preferred to fly low, straight and level and with wide sweeping turns, while Lincoln explored the outer edges of aircraft performance. As Beachey flew at higher altitudes he developed gliding procedures for engine failures, including the "spiral glide" which became a hallmark of his fling exhibitions. In truth Beachey valued safe flying procedures with well constructed and maintained equipment for his steeds. In 1914 Lincoln Beachey became the first pilot to loop an airplane, and in fact performed that particular maneuver over 1,000 times during the period 11-1913 and 11-1914. He would race with car driver Barney Oldfield, but the onset of World War I put a temporary end to civilian flying. Oddly enough, many of the "safe and sane" pilots lauded by the press quickly died in aerial combat, falling victim to pilots who embraced the steep turns and other aeronautical maneuvers developed by Lincoln Beachey and others. Lincoln Beachey had become known as The Man Who Owns the Sky, and was recognized everywhere by sight and noteriety. He continued to push the envelope of flight, and by 1914 had earned a great deal of money and ordered a Taube monoplane with an 80hp engine in order to carry out his next great feat, upside down flight. Lincoln had tested it at low altitude, and on March 14, 1915 took the aircraft up to the delight of a crowd of 50,000 paying customers (and another 200,000 on the San Francisco hills) to fly upside down over San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, due apparently to poor planning, he flew too close to the Bay upside down and when he pulled on the controls of the aircraft to end his inverted flight both wings sheared off and Beachey fell out of the crippled aircraft into San Francisco Bay where he died from drowning, thus ending a wonderful aviation career.
Great Poems: "The Angel"
The Angel, Come now and now my love, And leave your dying desert to the rain. Give up your treasured wounds Let go the tempting memory of the pain. Give up the vows you've taken And you will live And you will learn to fly again And you will fly. And you will live my love, And see the stars regain your starless night. And you will find your sun And know the magic meaning of its light. All souls will be yours to cherish Rising, falling in their earthly flight And you will fly. And I would love my love, And she would seek a refuge in my eyes. But no resource of love Could keep her from the fire Where loving dies. And I would reach out my hand as she was Falling, falling to her home on high And she would fly. by Ed Freeman
What's New
As 2010 heads towards its close many are speculating on the number of aircraft accidents and deaths, and the causes thereof. A recent series of articles in USA Today by Alan Levin discuss the issue of simulator training. It has been amazing to see the advancements in simulator training over the last 50 years, and no doubt it has added to the excellent safety record enjoyed by aviation. Aviation has always been a leader in technological advances, and simulator based initial and recurrent training has certainly been one of those advances. However, to rely solely on training in a simulator may not be the answer to training pilots. Today many pilots receive their type ratings in aircraft without ever flying the actual airplane itself. And, of course, the cost of operating aircraft has risen dramatically in recent years, making in-flight in-aircraft training very expensive. But one is forced to wonder if some in flight training in the aircraft on a regular, recurrent basis wouldn't make sense. I am not suggesting crews practice slow flight or stalls while enroute with passengers; however, sometimes dollars shouldn't drive all training decisions. Aviation remains one of the safest forms of travel available today, but there will always be accidents. Seeking to improve that record is laudable, and should be pursued, but in the final analysis pilots are human, aircraft are mechanical and the sky is unforgiving.
Photos of the Month
Lincoln Beachey, The Man Who Owns the Sky Lincoln Beachey, The Man Who Owns the Sky
Lincoln Beachey and his aircraft Lincoln Beachey and his aircraft
Beachey flying in his suit Beachey flying in his suit.
John M. White, Editor Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation. You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog: All Things Aviation Check Out Our Newsletter Archives

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