AKA Frank Coffin

Frank T. Coffyn
Frank T. Coffyn
Frank T. Coffyn
About 1898
Photo Courtesy of Jim Stratos
About 1910
Photo Courtesy of Jim Stratos
Kitty Hawk Dinner
EB CHIRP, Jan. 1960

The Knoxville Journal,
Knoxville,Tennessee, June 29, 1910
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 10-16-03
Montreal, Que., June 28. - "The aviation meet was delayed by a heavy wind until 5:30 this evening. Walter Brookins, of the Wright team, started before the heavy wind had gone down, remaining up nine minutes, 50 seconds. In a second ascent he mounted to an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet and was in the air twenty minutes and thirty seconds.
Count DeLesseps made two exhibition ascensions. On his second flight he ascended higher than he has yet done in Canada and in both descended in his usual graceful way. Lachappelle, a member of the Wright team, made good time in speed circles, doing the first lap in two minutes, two seconds."
Frank Coffyn, another Wright man, and Walter Brookins, went for a trip together, stayed up for fifteen minutes, twenty-five seconds. This was the first double ascent of the meet."

"Will Try Flight of 130 Miles With Passenger,"
Knoxville Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: March 30, 1911,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 8-3-05
Aiken, S. C., March 29. - Frank Coffyn, the Wright aviator, announced today that he would attempt a flight with a passenger from here to Charleston, S. C., a distance of 130 miles. He intends making the start as soon as conditions favor a long cross-country trip. It is probable that Thomas Hitchcock, Jr., will be the passenger."

"Coffyn Takes Bride on Perilous Ride in an Aeroplane,"
Knoxville Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: March 31, 1911,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 8-03-05
"Augusta, Ga., March 30. - In a high wind, the violence of which is attested by uprooted trees and property throughout this section, Aviator Frank Coffyn, of Wright brothers staff, accompanied by his young wife, made a flight from Augusta to Aiken, S.C., this morning to keep a breakfast appointment with friends. No woman in America, under any weather conditions of any sort, has ever made a flight of this length, the airline distance being twenty-eight miles and the time of the flight 41 minutes.
      It was found impossible to take a straight course because of the direction from which the wind came. Several times on the trip it seemed as if a landing must be made but each time no available spot was in sight."

Note from Bob Davis: Your article says 41 miles, newspaper says 28 and there are few other towns around in that part of South Carolina, but flying stories like fishing tales, grow with time!

Winnipeg Free Press
July 12, 1911

Clipping Courtesy of Jim Stratos
       Frank T. Coffyn, safest of aviators on the continent, and holder of the world's record for endurance with a passenger on his aeroplane, arrived in town this morning for the exhibition and was engaged all morning in directing the unloading of his aeroplane at the exhibition siding.
     He presents a striking figure as he directs his operators. tall and slim, he is not perhaps a robust athlete, but his clean cut features and eager eye mark him off as one who is alert and alive to all that is going on around him. He shows not a sign of reckless daring, but of a calm readiness and promptness to meet with every situation.
     Coffyn has made himself a name all over the continent: as the steadiest of the bird men---witness the fact that last month at Detroit he carried in three days as many as 45 passengers, twelve of them ladies.
     He has only been a year in aviation, but from his earliest days he had always taken a keen interest in machines of all kinds. About eighteen months ago he was introduced to the Wright brothers and was immediately selected by them as one of their first team of six. Of that team Coffyn is the only one still in the limelight, the others being the victims to the cause of flying, or having retired from the field. Alone among them, Coffyn has preserved a unique record of steady and certain flights without incurring any serious accident.
First Appearance
     Exactly a year ago he made his first appearance in Canada, at Montreal which was his second anywhere, having previously appeared at Indianapolis. At Montreal he made a flight every day of the week, but to the Free Press this morning, he said laughing, "I have learnt a good deal about flying since that time.
     During the past winter he has been engaged in the Wright instruction camp at Aikens, South Carolina, and also in military endurance tests at San Antonio, Texas. It was at this latter place that he made the world's endurance record with a passenger. He took up with him Lieut. Foulois. Just after they ascended, it began to rain, but the two determined to remain up as long as possible. They kept in the air for an hour and 36 minutes, the world's record.
     Last month Coffyn was flying at Detroit, under the auspices of the Michigan Aero Club, and he comes here direct from Troy, N.Y., where he made several flights last week.
Wife of an Aviator
     Mrs. Coffyn too, though she has not come to Winnipeg, is an expert aviator, and with her husband holds the world's record for a flight from Augusta, Ga., to Aikens, South Carolina, a distance of 41 miles in 35 minutes.
     There was a good deal of hustling at the grounds this morning getting the machine into its tent in front of the corona. This afternoon it will be put together, and will be in readiness for the flight, which will take place in the infield about 5:30
     "Does it always blow like this here?" said the daring flyer. He was asked if such a wind as today would prevent his flight. "Oh, no," he replied. "It is , of course, safer without the wind; but your wind here seems to be steady and there is not so much risk."
     The machine will be open for public inspection. It is made of spruce wood ---the lightest procurable --- and sail cloth. The whole machine weighs about 350 pounds and with aviator and gasoline less than 1400
Remarks Upon Grandstand
     Remarking on the new grand stands Mr. Coffyn said their erection was a great testimony to the energy of the city. When told there can be no covering he said that was a good matter as the roof would have hidden the birdman from the majority of those in the stand.

"Aviators Soaked,"
Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: Sunday,October 8, 1911,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 8-17-05
"Detroit, Mich., Oct. 9. - After making several successful flights in his biplane equipped with pontoons for alighting on the water, Captain Fred M. Alger and Aviator Frank Coffyn dropped into Lake St. Clair yesterday. The fall was only a short one and neither men was injured."
by Bob Davis
      As I recently obtained a single engine seaplane rating, this is what could have happened when landing on a very smooth surface. Your height is impossible to detect and the pilots would either stall a few feet above the water or get caught by the water if they flared out too late. The latter is the most damaging. The technique to set up a steady descent from a known height over the adjacent shore is in the current training syllabus.

Coffin's Aeroplane
from the George Grantham Bain Collection
in the Library of Congress
Courtesy of Bob Davis, 7-31-05

Coffin's Aeroplane
from the George Grantham Bain Collection
in the Library of Congress
Courtesy of Bob Davis, 7-31-05

Coffin's Aeroplane
On the Dock, Minus Pontoons
from the George Grantham Bain Collection
in the Library of Congress
Courtesy of Bob Davis, 7-31-05

     If you search for "Frank Coffyn" using the Google search engine, (9-21-03), you will find about 130 links.
     Preeminent among the sites is the following, an especially exciting and precious new addition to the online resources.

     "What was it really like to be a pioneer aviator? The Frank Coffyn Collection of the Empire State Aerosciences Museum tells the real life story of the people who helped introduce the airplane to America. Once an abandoned scrapbook, the collection is now available to the public for the first time. Learn about the project, explore the collection, and see Coffyn's flying machine come back to life."
     You will want to visit each of the following sections.
About the Project
     You will want to visit each of the categories; The Project, Who was Frank T. Coffyn and the Wright Exhibition Team.
The Collection: Introduction
The Frank Coffyn Collection is part of the Research Library collection at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville, New York. It is actually the contents of a scrapbook kept by Coffyn of his early days as an aviator. When it was discovered, most of the images had come away from their original paste mounts and were in no recognizable order. With the images now identified, the collection has been sorted into the main categories below. As study of the collection continues, further identifications will be added and published in this system. We welcome information from the public that may help in this effort.
     This section is divided into several categories: Highlights, Stories, Aircraft, People, Locations, Photographers, Images types and "View all Images."
Coffyn's Flying Machine
The Wright Model B aircraft was designed, built, and flown during Frank Coffyn's time with the Wright Company. It was the first airplane to go into mass production, and was the most successful of the Wright company's machines. The Wright Experience has been building authentic static reproductions of the Model B since 1994, and in 2003, completed a flyable version. This airplane used the same engine Frank Coffyn used on a Model B in 1912. Join the Wright Experience as they rediscover this airplane, and meet the challenge of learning to fly Coffyn's flying machine.
     This section is divided into four categories: Rediscovering, Building, Testing and Flying.
Click on the title above to begin your visit!

       Frank T. Coffyn, president of the Early Birds in 1942-43, died Dec. 10, 1960, at Palo Alto, Calif. Eighty-two years of age, he was the last of the five original members of the Wright Brothers exhibition flying team and the oldest pilot in the United States.
     Orville Wright himself taught Coffyn to fly in 1910, and he became a member of the Wright team. He took the first motion pictures from an aircraft in 1912, after he had left the Wrights.
     Among his achievements in aviation developements were: He helped produce an electric camera for use in planes; he participated in making the first aluminum pontoons for aircraft; he pioneered the mapping of air mail routes, though he never flew the mail.
     During World War I, Coffyn served as captain in the Army Air Corps. After the war he became a free-lance pilot. In 1944, at the age of 66, he qualified for helicopter licence No. 3. He held pilot's licence No. 26. He was employed in 1946 as public relations adviser for Hiller Aircraft Corp., a position held until he retired in 1956 at the age of 78.
     Among his survivors is his widow, Mabel Coffyn.
     Interment was at Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, Calif.
From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, March, 1961, Number 65

Editors Note: Mr. Jim Stratos has kindly supplied the two photos and the following news clipping to this site from his extensive collection of the personal memorabilia of Frank. He came into possession of the collection by chance and hopes to contact any of Frank's descendents who may be interested in claiming the many photos and personal effects.
Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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