Meet your new flight instructor.

Walter Lees at Newport News, April 1916

Meet Ivan's instructor at Newport News, Virginia - Mr Walter Lees.  Ralph Cooper has dedicated a site to this man, who happens to have been Ralph's father-in-law, and was also an Early Bird.  I hope he was less intimidating than this photo of him!  I think this photo also contains the world's smallest prop spinner.

This photo seems a fitting way to open up the blog on Ivan's time spent in Newport News, Virginia: The instructor, and the flying field.  If you're able to see them in the photo, there are some very interesting planes outside of the factory.  The one outside the main opening has interplane ailerons similar to a Model F.  I make out a Model F at the end of the ramp at the water's edge, and another closer to the factory.  The tail of on JN has the number 2 with a circle around it.  Anyone have info on these planes? (edit: I discovered that one of them is probably a Model R with a single cockpit, and behind it I can make out the fuselage of a S-1.  An R-2 is to the far right)

The Curtiss Aircraft Factory at Newport News, Virginia - April 1916

By the way, I don't mention this very often, but all of these photos are available in my galleries at Smugmug.com. You can view the photos at full resolution there.  I'll put a link up somewhere more conspicuous before too long...

Ralph Cooper also created the site dedicated to the Early Birds, and I found this snippet on one of Ralph's pages that my grandfather wrote in the publication they called "Chirps".  Unfortunately, the page dedicated to Ivan on the Early Bird site has been blank for some time now, and it contained some great info.  I'm not sure if Ralph is still maintaining the site.
As I had very little experience on landings, I decided to go to the Curtiss School of Newport News, Virginia. Capt. Thomas Scott Baldwin, manager and friend of Glenn Curtiss, made me a proposition. --- be Walter Lee's mechanic and give him $150 and they would make me into a real pilot. So from early April until early June 1, I did hundreds of landings to a buoy and figure eights galore in another F boat with Glenn Curtiss' original control wheel to rudder, and shoulder yoke for ailerons. Also the boat had a foot throttle. They gave me a letter of recommendation as a careful pilot and a mechanic who could take care of his plane as well, signed by Walter Lees and Capt. Baldwin; also a beautiful diploma from the Curtiss School of Aviation.
If you look closely at the photo of the factory, you'll see the buoy that Ivan mentions just offshore.  I also have the letter he mentions and the proof that they made him into a real pilot - the diploma, signed by Walter.

We have a plethora of photos of JNs and various Curtiss models in the coming posts!


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