AKA Bonnie
Leonard Bonney
Photo courtesy of Pat McNally, 5-9-04

from Who's Who in American Aeronautics, 1928

Airplane Constructor: born, Wellington, Ohio, Dec. 4, 1885; attended Oberlin College.
     Aeronautical Activities and War Service: 1910 and 1911, flew for Wright Bros., Simms Field, Dayton, Ohio; 1912, Sloan Airplane Co., Mineola Field, Instructor; 1913, test pilot Amas Airplane Co., Washington, D. C.; 1914 to 1915, military aviator Mexican Government under Gen. Carranza, bomb dropping and observation Tampico, Vera Cruz, Mexico City; late 1915 and early 1916, pilot and instructor General Aircraft, Detroit, Mich.; 1916 to 1917, Army instructor at Garden City Field, L. I., and naval instructor at Smith's Point, L. I.; 1918, General Mgr. Alexandria Aircraft Corp.; Alexandria, Va.; since 1925 constructing bird wing type monoplane with folding wings at Garden Ciry, L. I.
     Flying Rating: May 1910, first solo flight; F. A. I., License No. 47, Air Club of America
     Present Occupation: Experimental work. Address: 127 Jamaica Ave., Flushing, L. I, N. Y.
Editor's Note: This information comes from the CD Who's Who in American Aeronautics, 1928. It is just one of many valuable resources which are available from Steve Rhode's RareAviation.Com. It may be accessed by clicking on:

Tulsa Daily Democrat
Friday, October 13, 1911
Transcribed by Carl Gregory 11-10-04

Grounds Will Be Open Early and Later
--Lighting WIll be Excellent
Each Day a Feature
     This week will be the greatest in the history of Tulsa. The occasion is the Second Annual County Fair and the First ASnnual Industrial ......, and trade week of special inducements in out of town shoppers. Neither time, money of efforts have been spared in preparing for the events of the coming six days and not a detail of arrangement has been overlooked.
Bonnie Will Arrive Today
     Bonnie, the daring your aviator, who has been making successful airshop flights at the Muskegee fair and other exhibitions during the past summer will arrive here in a special car from Muskegee this morning. His airship, a Wright biplane, will be immediately taken to the fair ground and set up. A flight will be made on the fair grounds today. Bonnie is the first aviator to carry passengers in his machine in this state, performing this feat in Muskegee last week when he took a member of the State Board of Heath up[ in the air with him
Grounds Open a 7 a. m.

Tulsa World
Friday, October 20, 1911
Transcribed by Carl Gregory 11-10-04
Seven Alleged Writers Participate in drawing yesterday
To Ascend Four Thousand Feet.
     The first newspaper ever published in midair will be issued some time this afternoon at the fairgrounds and 4,000 copies of the "Aerial Edition of the Tulsa World", will be aerial editor today and will ascend with aviator Bonney this afternoon, the weather permitting, as a guest of Jim Gabriel, owner of the machine. The newspaper will be dropped by Mr. Lorton from the aeroplane and will be distributed by a representative of the World through the crowd in the grandstand as far as they last. As a souvenir, a copy of this edition will be almost priceless and will be eagerly sought after.
     Members of the editorial staff of the World will contribute to the different departments of the aerial edition, and there will be society, sporting and editorial departments. Mr. Lorton will edit the paper and will have a personal message to the people of the editorial column. It will be the first time a passenger has been taken up in an aeroplane in Tulsa.
     In order to have the edition a perfect miniature reproduction of a real metropolitan newspaper, a small amount of advertising space was sold, merely to carry out Manager William Smith of the Cozy Theater will have the honor of being the first man in the world to do newsppaer advertising from an airship, he having arranged for an advertisement on the back page of the aerial edition.
     Mr. Lorton, who will edit, publish, and distribute the unique paper, was selected from seven newspaper writers of the city yesterday to make the trip. Manager Jim Gabriel of the Wright flyer offered to give a free ride in his aeroplane to the newspaper man of the city, so at 2 O-Clock yesterday afternoon seven writers gathered at the aviation tent at the fairgrounds and each placed his name on a slip of paper. The slips were placed in a hat and Colonel Gabriel drew out the lucky one, which bore Mr. Lorton's name.
     Those who participated ibn the drawing were Eugene Lorton, Colonel Waters, Glenn Walker, Jesse McKeever, W. H. Peck, Vernon L. Smith, Glenn Condon and J. H. King.
     Mr. Lorton has had a desire to make an aeroplane flight ever since he saw William R. Hurst, the well known publisher and writer, make a flight during an aviaiton meet at San Francisco some time ago.
     After today's flight, Mr. Hurst will probably have to admit that he has been scooped by a fellow journalist in the little city of Tulsa, Okla. "The Town That Does New Things."

Tulsa Daily Democrat
Saturday, October 21, 1911
Transcribed by Carl Gregory 11-10-04

     This afternoon at the fair grounds, Aviator Bonney, who had been doing aerial stunts the past week for fair visitors, will make his farewell performance in Tulsa.
     Three and possibly as many as six flights will be made during the course of the afternoon. The performance was arranged by Col. Jim Gabriel, "boss' of the aviation aggregation, and will be a charity exhibition. On fourth of the gate receipts today will be sent to the widow of Aviator Eugene Ely, the noted airman, who was killed last Thursday while attempting an exhibition flight at Macon, Ga.
     Providing not too high a wind is blowing, Bonney will today carry one or two passengers up in his Wright aeroplane. A representative of the Democrat will make one of these trips and members of the local militia, which has been of much assistance to the aviator the past week in keeping crowds away from the aviation field, will draw straws to see which of their number will take a ride through the upper region.
     Aviators are human, even if they do prefer the occupation of birds. When Colonel Gabriel and Mr. Bonney heard the news of Ely's fatal accident, they were deeply affected. Not because of any personal acquaintance they may have enjoyed with the famous birdman, but more out of a brotherly feeling toward one of the scant few men who are risking their lives for the benefit of the advancement of the conquest of the air. They are not greedy, these persons who have been giving Tulsa its first exhibition of high-class aviation, and they are always ready to do the right thing for any deserving cause.
     Strangely enough, this afternoon's exhibition for the benefit of a dead aviator's widow, will probably be the most exciting performance yet given by Bonney. The young aviator will perform all the daring feats of the air through which famous birdmen earned that fame, and, with the weather conditions right, will probably go as high as 3,000 feet in the air. Flights will be made at intervals all afternoon.
     Special street car service to the fair grounds will be maintained. The first flight will take place about 3:30 p.m. No charge will be made for grand stand seats.
     Anyone desiring to go up with Bonney as a passenger today can make a trip today for a fare of $100. If the weather is nice, Mrs. Bonney, the aviator's wife, will probably have a desire to make a trip with her husband.

Excerpt from
by Bernard L. Whelan
(Around May, 1913)
Courtesy of Mary Anne Whelan
     Toward the middle of the summer of 1913 I had accumulated about eight to ten hours of flying, having added about an equivalent amount ot the $250.00 my father had given me for the first lessons up to the time I received the F.A.I. license number 247. Then an incident occurred which had all the earmarks of an opportunity to earn a living through flying. Telling of it here will introduce an unforgettable character, one of many that will come to mind as memory retraces the bygone years.
     At that time Brindley was not only the instructor at the Wright School, but was also their demonstrator for planes sold to the government. In between times he also had been flying exhibition dates for one William Jim Gabriel. Gabriel had previously been the propriator of a side show, in his parlance a "Three in one show" which accompanied the best known circuses that travelled from town to town. He had given up that circus connection and somehow acquired a Model "B" Wright and booked exhibition dates, and prior to Brindley had employed Leonard W. Bonney as his pilot. Bonney had F.A.I. (Federation Aeronautic International) license number 47, just following Brindley's license number 46. He had been an able pilot, but had left Gabriel for some better connection. Now Brindley was giving up the exhibition work and had recommended me to Gabriel. I shall never forget my first meeting with him. He had phoned me at home saying he wanted to talk to me about flying for him and that he had a date soon coming up for a two day exhibition at Medina, Ohio. He asked me to meet him at the Phillips House Hotel for a drink and to talk things over. At that time the Phillips House was perhaps Dayton's most popular hotel. There was a lobby and bar downstairs and a presentable dining room on the second floor. It was there you could go following a stage play at the Victoria Theater or from a movie and get for free a late supper consisting of a generous slice of good roast beef and a large serving of baked beans or cole slaw. You were expected to give the server at the steam table a dime - ten cents - not as payment but as a tip for his serving you. Then you would take your plate to the bar and order your beer. In the light of today's practices and prices it sounds unbelievable but it was true, they gave the food away as an inducement to sell the beer. Full course dinners upstairs were about fifty or seventy-five cents.
To read the whole, fascinating story, click on:
Bernard Whelan

OF 1200 FEET

In the Midst of a Thrillingly Beautiful Flight the Elevator on his Machine Broke Loose and he Plunged to Earth, Escaping with only serious Bruises.
The Machine is a Total Wreck

Bellefonte, Pa., September 4, 1914
Newsclipping Courtesy of Kathleen Wunderly, 1-4-04

     Aviator Bonney is in the Bellfonte hospital and his $3000.00 French Monoplane is a mass of wreckage on top of Half Moon hill, all because a slender wire holding the elevator on his machine gave way when he was 1200 feet in the air.
     His flight yesterday started most auspiciously. Exactly at 4:15 he sped away from the field immediately west of Thomas Beaver's home and had not run more than a hundred yards until he began to rise exactly like a bird. High over Bellefonte he flew directly west. When he had reached an altitude of about the height of the mountains he turned and swooped toward the fair grounds.
     About the upper end of the track he turned and started climbing higher in a westerly direction and he was well above the mountain tops skimming like a swallow when the machine turned suddenly, tilted like a bird buffeted by a strong wind, then plunged head-on toward the earth. It was horrible to look at knowing that the birdman would probably be dashed to death, but miraculous as it may seem he escaped without a broken bone and is only badly bruised and battered up.
     When seen in the hospital Mr. Bonney was more distressed because of the ruin of his machine than anything else. He owned it himself and all the funds he has been able to save were tied up in it. He said he had never known it to work more beautifully and was going to give us a wonderful show when he felt a slight jerk, looked back and saw that his elevator was gone. He knew that is was all up then. The machine was uncontrollable and it was only a question as to how much it would keep itself righted during the fall of over 1000 feet to earth. It came down head on and when a short distance from the ground took fire. He was not stunned by the fall so jumpped out immediately when it landed and escaped the flames with only a few blisters on his forehead.
     Had he been rendered unconscious by the fall he would have been burned to death for every part of the wings and tail of the machine were burned up when the first person got to his rescue.
     It was a beautiful and thrilling flght but the ending so terrible as to almost make the hearts stop beating in the breasts of all the spectators except those who yesterday called the aviator and his machine only a bluff.

In Ol' Mexico, 1914-1915
Reports On EB Flights During Revolution
by Ernest Jones
     Ernest Jones, secretary of the Early Birds, is compiling a history of the activites of American fliers in various and sundry scheduled and non-scheduled Mexican campaigns. To whet our appetite for what is to come, he sends the following tid-bits:
     "Farnum Fish, now in the lumber business in Los Angeles, was the only American pilot injured in the Mexican revolution of that period."
     "We sent him out one afternoon,' writes Lester Barlow, to the staff correspondent of Chirp, 'to make observations of Obregon's troops, with strict instructions not to fly over the troops. But all Mexicans looked alike to Fish."
     "He flew at about 500 to 600 feet and it seemed to me that every Mexican---and there were thousands of them---opened fire on him."
     "Fish was several miles from my point of observation, but I noticed the old Wright go into a steep banked turn and then start back for our lines. It came in on a long flat glide and as we ran up to the machine, Fish fell over in a swoon."
     "He was bleeding badly, and the machine clear back to the tail was spattered with blood. Only one bullet had struck him, but it made four holes. It started in the fleshy part of the leg, went in the back side of the thigh, out again and into the shoulder."
     He was not dangerously wounded, but after this his ambition for war apparently was satisfied, for he returned to his home in Los Angeles."
     "Of Masson, Lawrence Brown, Eugene Heth, Howard Rinehart, Floyd Smith, Gustavo Salinas, Leonard Bonney and others, more anon."
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright Brothers Field
Plaque with 119 Names of Flyers Who Trained at Wright Brothers Field
Photo courtesy of J. N. Parmalee
     The name of L. W. Bonney is found on the plaque pictured above among the 119 names of pioneer flyers who trained at the Wright Brothers field at Huffman Prairie. To visit the page which lists all of the flyers, and which displays several photographs of the memorial, just click on:

Gull Model
via email from Michael B. Davis, 5-1-04
     I am in possession of Leonard W. Bonney's leather flight suit and an original model of the Bonney Gull...Where would I find an intrested party to sell these items to? My Grandfather and Grandmother worked for Mrs Bonney in Oysterbay, Long Island.
Michael B Davis
     If you wish to contact Michael, send an email messge to me and I will forward it to him. To see several other views of the model, click on the title above
     If you search for "Leonard Bonney +aviation", using the Google search engine, (2-5-04), you will find about 72links. Perhaps the most helpful is the following. If time permits, you may want to visit some of the others.

Photo courtesy of Pat McNally, 5-9-04
     The following is a brief excerpt from the introduction to his website as written by Ken Spooner.
     "I just received a back issue of Flight Journal magazine from June of 2001 that had a short story by Joshua Stoff curator of the Cradle Of Aviation museum in Long Island on the Bonney Gull. It has some excellent photos of the plane that I've never seen before.
     With this being the week of the 76th anniversary of The Gull's very short first and last flight. What better time to post it? I will be the first to say when this article was published, I had never heard of the Bonney Gull or its pilot designer Leonard Warden Bonney. Most flight buffs I've asked never heard of it , and I only came into learning about it because of my studying Joseph F. Knapp and his family and their connection to it."

     To read the rest of his introductory remarks and to enter this truly remarkable resource, just click on the title above.

     You will find a reference to Leonard on the AeroFiles website including a picture of his plane. You can visit that entry by clicking on the title above. You may want to use the "Find" function on "Bonney".

Leonard Bonney died in a crash, 1928

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