Saturday, November 16, 2019

Raleigh Aviation Meet

November 16-17, 1910

“Soaring way up into the blue, dashing low over house tops, skimming the ground as birds ready to alight circling in swift flight through miles …  .” This is the way the Raleigh News & Observer (17 Nov. 1910) described the flights of Eugene B. Ely and J. A. D. McCurdy, the stars of the two-day Aviation and Automobile Meet at the NC State Fairgrounds. 
            Incoming trains, both regular and special, had brought large crowds for the event. The streets were crowded, and there was a rush for the cars going to the Fairgrounds. Conditions were excellent for the flights they had come to see.
            On the first day, between 4 and 6 o’clock, both Ely and McCurdy made successful flights. McCurdy flew first. He circled the race track and flew some distance to the east, but, when he made his descent, he alighted at such high speed that he would have crashed into the race track fence, but for the fact that the machine careened and the right wing dug into the earth, smashing the wing and otherwise damaging the machine. McCurdy was not hurt.
            Ely made two flights. The second was described: “Mr. Ely’s machine circling high in the air like a mighty eagle, curving gracefully and landing perfectly.” [News & Observer: 17 Nov 1910]
Douglas McCurdy. From Wikipedia:
The Flights Were Daring.
            On the second day, Ely flew the same plane he had used the day before. McCurdy used a plane repaired with parts from several other planes.
Both aviators made daring flights. Ely went higher and made the longest sweeps in his longer stay in the air. At one point he was “fully a thousand feet in the air, rising from the ground as a bird, sailing high up in the blue, and descending as gracefully as any bird of the air.” [Ely’s first flight lasted three minutes and covered about three miles. His second flight lasted 4 ½ minutes and scattered a flock of buzzards.]
McCurdy made time in low flights that were at terrific speeds. Though his machine met with several mishaps he showed that he is an aviator of skill and daring, forcing his disabled composite machine into the air and landing each time in safety
            During Mr. McCurdy’s first flight, as he turned from the northeast back to the Fairgrounds his machine made a perceptible lunge and drop, but he righted it and came with ease to the ground, but, “as he landed, the machine rushed along on its bicycle wheels and the wooden rim of a rear wheel split, and the tire slipped off.” [News & Observer, 18 Nov 1910]The wheel was quickly replaced and McCurdy was ready for another try. . [McCurdy’s flight lasted 2 minutes, 42 seconds.]
Aeroplane Against Automobile.
            There was intense interest in a planned race between an automobile and McCurdy in his airplane. The sharp turns above a half mile track were obstacles to McCurdy, but he was game and prepared for the race as the Hudson 20 horse power automobile sat at the starting point, ready for the five mile contest.
            A band played stirring music as McCurdy in his biplane made a start, but the intermittent sound of the engine gave notice of trouble and instead of rising in the air, Mr. McCurdy ran it down an incline, the engine having failed to give the necessary power.
            But McCurdy did not give up. His machine was pulled to the starting point again while the automobile stood panting for the word to be off. This time the plane took the air, but flew low as it rose near the east end of the field. For a moment it seemed as if it would soar, but in another it began to descend, its engine again failing. It landed at the end of the Fair grounds in a cotton field. Again, Mr. McCurdy landed without injury to himself or to the biplane.
Ely and his wife. From Naval History and Heritage Command:
Ely in a Great Flight
There was no time left for the race between Mr. McCurdy and the automobile; but hardly had the biplane made a landing outside of the grounds before Mr. Ely’s machine was in the air in the greatest flight of the meet. He took the air in splendid style, and kept mounting higher and higher as he circled above the Fair grounds over Oberlin and again over buildings of the A. & M. College [NC State University]. 
The great crowd gazed up in breathless interest as the aviator went up and up until he was over a thousand feet in the air. Then from away to the northeast he began his descent, coming down with a rush, till near the earth, when he skimmed his biplane just above the earth, settled down on it as if landing on eggs and came to a stop, after a short run, perfectly made. “It was cold up there,” said Mr. Ely as he spoke of the conditions a thousand feet above the ground in the great flight which brought to a close the great and successful Aviation Meet. [The flight lasted 3 minutes.]

[News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) 17, 18 Nov. 1910; Charlotte News (Charlotte, NC) 17 Nov 1910]

Note: Ely was killed in a crash in October, 1911

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