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Wisconsin First Flight
Thursday, November 5, 2009
 
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WISCONSIN FIRST FLIGHT
IN WISCONSIN REPORTS
100 Years ago Arthur Pratt Warner brought Wisconsin into the age of aviation. On November 4, 1909 he flew his Warner Curtiss aircraft from the Morgan Farm in Beloit, Wisconsin. Though he had only intended to taxi the aircraft, he "unexpectedly" took to the air. The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) is wrapping up a year long celebration around the Centennial of Flight.  EAA Chapter 60 of Beloit, WI has agreed to build a 1/4 scale replica of the Warner-Curtis aircraft.
Wisconsin First Flight
TRANSCRIPT
Patty Loew:
Our next report is all about adventures in aviation. America's Dairyland made significant contributions. This week marks the 100th anniversary of the first airplane flight in Wisconsin. Aviation buffs gathered in Beloit at the site of this historic flight to mark the occasion.

Rose Dorley:
The centennial flight, Wisconsin, November 4th, 1909 through November 4th, 2009. AP Warner, Wisconsin's first aviator.

Patty Loew:
They're now ending a year-long celebration. 100 years in the making. "In Wisconsin" reporter Andy Soth shows you what else aviation buffs did this year to honor Wisconsin's centennial of flight in Beloit.

Andy Soth:
At the Beloit chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association many of the members have built and flown their own airplanes. What they're working on now is a model.

Al Draeger:
It sounded like an intriguing adventure for us. Maybe we bit off more than we thought but I think we'll get through it.

Andy Soth:
Some of the team say a real plane would be easier. There wouldn't be the tiny pieces to fuss over, but this model of a 1909 Curtiss Pusher has special significance for flyers from Beloit because it was here 100 years ago that the first airplane flew in Wisconsin. To celebrate the centennial of the state's first airplane flight the aviation hall of fame invited the Beloit EAA to make this model. Michael Goc of the aviation hall of fame told me more about the man who made that flight, Arthur Warner.

Michael Goc:
He was a very successful entrepreneur. He had this intriguing ability to put things together, to design and build things really on the cutting edge of the technology of his day.

Andy Soth:
Warner made one of the first successful automobile speedometers, which were built in his Beloit factory. His interest in aviation was sparked when a car dealer advertised an airplane for sale as a publicity stunt.

Michael Goc:
Arthur Warner saw this ad and he said, I'll buy it.

Andy Soth:
Aviation pioneer Glen Curtiss shipped a plane to Beloit.

Michael Goc:
There it was, a couple of big crates on a freight car.

Andy Soth:
The Beloit EAA chapter at least has some instructions from a later Curtiss model to guide them but Warner was totally on his own to figure it out. On this Beloit farm he assembled the plane but didn't intend to fly it immediately. Just taxi along the field.

Michael Goc:
That's what he was doing and he turned in the right direction and the wind caught the airplane and all of a sudden as he said -- all of a sudden, I was flying. He was up in the air.

Andy Soth:
And with that Arthur Warner flew. Something only ten other Americans had ever done. And he was the first to do it in Wisconsin.

Michael Goc:
This is actually the great thing he did. Not that he got in the air but he actually landed without damaging himself or the airplane. That he survived.

Andy Soth:
And aviation has survived and thrived in Wisconsin from that historic flight a century ago. Its early years as an entertainment and recreation are documented in Goc’s book "Forward in Flight" which tells the stories of the state's pioneers of military aviation like general Billy Mitchell.

Michael Goc:
The premier aviation strategists of the early years.

Andy Soth:
And World War II fighter pilot Richard Bong. But perhaps the greatest contributor to Wisconsin's century of flight is not from an individual but an organization.

Michael Goc:
There are plenty of military heroes and extraordinary pilots and inventions but overall the most significant historical event in Wisconsin aviation history is the organization of the EAA.

Andy Soth:
The Experimental Aircraft Association started in Milwaukee and now based in Oshkosh where thousands of flight enthusiasts come every year to its fly-in. It's fitting that it’s an EAA chapter that completed this model of the first airplane flown in Wisconsin.

Patty Loew:
To mark the aviation milestone the Beloit EAA chapter presented their model of Arthur Wagner's 1909 Curtiss Pusher to the Beloit Historical Society. Fly across any part of Wisconsin and chances are you'll fly over the Ice Age national scenic trail.
 
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