William Aitken
GLIDER PILOT, William H. Aitken

     Among Early Birds whose first flights were in gliders is Bill Aitken, now of Jacksonville, FLa. In 1909, he parlayed a 40-second glider ride at the Philadelphia country club into a three-years job demonstrating and selling gliders at $75 apiece. Bill talked of his gliding experiences last fall before the Blue Angels, jet pilots in Pensacola, Fla.
From the Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, March, 1961, Number 65
  William H. Aitken was born on March 8, 1887 at Milton, Massachusetts. Died at Jacksonville Beach, Florida on January 18, 1964
     He finished school in 1907/8. Aitken received glider instruction from Charles R. Wittemann and began demonstration of a Wittemann-built Chanute "hang" type glider at the Philadelphia Country Club, making his first glider flight solo on June 26, 1909
     At the Second Air Show in Morris Park race track, in the Bronx, New York City, in 1909 he won first prize for a towed glider flight behind an automobile. In August, 1909, Aitken won a cup for making two hops off the beach cliffs at Cafe des Beaux Arts, Huntington, Long Island, N. Y.
     Next came the Boston indoor show with Aitken on the outside demonstrating in Franklin Park, where he covered some 600 feet, towed my manpower through two 100-foot sash cords. He even flew a glider on Broad Street in Philadelphia in 1910 --- towed --- of course.
     A feature of the Philadelphia Air Show, November 2, 1910, held at the old Armory building at Broad & Callowhill Streets, was roping off and closing Broad Street, so Bill Aitken could make a glider flight of several hundred yards on Broad Street.
     After doing some work with Hamilton Beachey, Baldwin and Cliff Harmon, he built his own airplane. Then came the Curtiss-type biplane with a Smalley engine (4 aluminum cylinders) which first flew at Fort Madison, Iowa, in 1911.

From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, December 1964, Number 71

William Aitken died in 1964 and is buried in Delaware County, PA
Personal communication from his son, Robert Aitken.7-5-03
Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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