First Flight, January 1916

If you’re just joining us, we’ve recently finished up the auto racing career of my grandfather, Ivan. There are twenty posts primarily covering the 1913 - 1915 Indy 500 race photos in his collection of scrapbooks, with a few dozen photos and newspaper articles detailing some of his own career in racing.

Now, we’re transitioning into his flying career. I’ve been away from posting for a little while, and I’ve been looking for a document that my grandfather wrote around 1960, but have been unsuccessful in locating it. Ralph Cooper had a portion of the letter on a page for Ivan at his Early Birds website, but it’s a blank page there, now. I’ve tried to contact Ralph via a couple of emails, to no avail. I’m bummed, because the text mentioned how he transitioned from racing to flying, as I recall it, and it would be an excellent transition for this post. I’ll post what family folklore has been, and continue looking for this letter.

My sisters and I recall the story about Ivan’s father telling him that racing at Indianapolis was too risky, and that was Ivan’s goal with his racing career. At first, I was dubious after his early lack-luster performances at Fonda, in 1914. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “the older I get, the faster I was”? Now, after his reading about his 1915 season, I think this could have been true. If that letter turns up, it may answer the question.

In any event, Ivan was awarded $400 to go take flying lessons. This part sticks pretty clearly in my mind, and the fact that his father put up the money for it. This first newspaper article states that he travelled on the steam ship Apache. A little bit of internet searching found an article advertising the seven day voyage from New York to Jacksonville, Florida, for $43.30.

 A train probably ran the rest of the way, and his journals mention many, many train trips around the country. The last paragraph concludes with a mention of his military involvement as “musician of company H”. Ivan, in letters home from France describe the bugler as “the music”, and he used to play for us whenever we stumbled on his old bugle in the toy closet. Imagine the sound of a seventy-three-year-old man trying to play the bugle, and a small boy wondering if it was really true after hearing it.

I don’t usually include all the newspaper articles Ivan pasted in his scrapbooks, since there’s so much overlap in them, but this one adds some fascinating, and incredible news. Notice in the headline below, the words, “at Rate of Dollar a Minute.” Adjusting for 2010 dollars, that’s the equivalent of nearly $1200 per hour. My friend Simeon is a CFII, and his estimate for my area in Oregon is about $165 per hour. That covers the instruction and the plane, wet (including the fuel). If it took you the full forty hours of instruction to get a private pilot's certificate today, that would average to about $6500. That $400 in 1916 would translate to about $8,000 in 2010. Still a bit pricey, and we’ll learn soon how many hours of instruction Ivan received before obtaining a certificate.

His first logbook entry is on January 18, 1916. The heading across these pages reads “Palm Beach, Florida. - City Park, West Palm Beach, Florida. Under “Type of Machine”, he has written  “Curtiss Flying Boat”. Under “No. of Machine” it reads (this text takes up 2/3 of the page spanning the rows) “ Curtiss F. Boat formerly owned by David McCollough. Curtiss Control”. At the bottom it reads “OX motor & one O motor built into an OX.” I’ll have a great picture showing the Curtiss controls and a description in an upcoming post. He lists “20 minutes” and “1” under “Duration of Flight” and “Landings”. In the column “Height” he has written “neglected to keep record of altitude” over the first dozen or so flights. It’s interesting that Eden let him fly on quite a few trips without giving formal lessons. I’ll put all of these logbook entries in a table so that all the entries are shown. I will probably include a few scans of the logbook as well, but I don’t want to handle them too much, as they’re stitched together.

I’ll touch on what little I could find about Frederick C. G. Eden. His middle initials made me chuckle, as it may some of the pilots or aviation types following this. C.G. is pilot shorthand for Center of Gravity which is a pretty critical point for aircraft weight and balance, but Fred’s middle initials actually stood for Colvin George. He apparently was the 6th Baron Auckland which he succeeded to in 1917, and you’ll see mention of his mother, Lady Auckland in photos and newspaper stories coming up. He gained the rank of Flying Officer in the RAF volunteer reserve, and held the office of Assistant to the Air Attaché to Paris in 1940, according to one genealogy. He was killed in a German air raid on London in 1941 at the age of 46.

Here's a photo of Mr. Eden, a bit later in life I found online at http://www.npgprints.com while researching.

Many more Curtiss Flying Boat photos as well as Eden, another student, and places and people around Palm Beach, Florida in the next post.


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