Captain Harry --- "King of Them All"

     A pilot of thirty years, with memories of ancient "pusher" type planes, service as a flight commander in the RAF in the first World War, postwar "crates" and the latest in modern flying equipment-- aviation of yesterday, today, and tomorrow--this, and more, comprises the story of Harry D. Copland, newly-arrived director at Georgia Aero-Tech, the government-leased flying school located about twelve miles from Augusta on Tobacco Road.
     Capt. Copland is, perhaps, the most colorful figure in American aviation today, and more than once he has been referred to as "the king of them all" when it comes to flying.
     And today, after being decorated for his services, garnering a staggering total of headlines from coast to coast, being recognized as a foremost leader in aviation, both in flying and executive capacities, Harry Copland is one of the friendliest and most unassuming fellows you have ever seen. And he is always willing to sit down and chat on any subject, except one--himself.
     To tell the story of Capt. Copland is to review the history of aviation, for he is by all accounts, one of the "early birds," and he has copped more than his share of "firsts" since he became the first flier to make a "cross-country" hop back in 1911.
     Harry Copland learned to fly when he was only twelve years old. This was back in 1908 in the days when an airplane was little more than a big kite held together with piano wire and glue. It is obvious then that he got in on the ground floor in aviation because the Wright Brothers made their memorable flights only in 1903.
     Born in Cambridge, Mass., Copland moved to Detroit in 1909. He had been interested in flying for several years then, and had already gone up as a passenger. At Detroit, with a group of older boys, he built and flew two gliders.
     In September, 1911, while still a fifteen year old high school student, young Copland was cited in a Detroit newspaper as the youngest aviator in the United states. It was at this time that he received one of the greatest of his boyhood thrills in the form of a letter from Wilbur Wright encouraging him in his endeavors.
     It was at this time that he made his memorable "cross-country" flight. He was up in one of the powered ships built by himself and his friends. Discovering that it would be impossible to land in the field from which he had taken off. Copland just pulled up over the telegraph wires and landed on the other side of the road. What was his astonishment the next morning to find himself listed in the news as the first to make a non-stop cross-country hop.
     But even with these incentives, Copland's heart remained divided between his love for flying and his equally great love for wireless radio. And because his opportunities for flying were limited, he continued to perfect himself as a radio operator, and in the summer of 1914 he went to sea as an employee of the Marconi company. For intermittent periods during the next two years, he served as radio operator on 21 different British ships and saw the world.
     When the first World War broke out, Harry Copland was aboard a British ship, and when it docked in England, he tried to sign up with the RAF. However, he was rejected as being too young for service. This was in 1916 and in the fall of that year Copland returned home and became a student at the Massachusetts Institute
Harry Copland
of technology, then located in Boston.
     In the spring of 1917 Copland decided to have another try at enlisting in the RAF; as he went to Canada. In those days there was no RCAF, but only a Canadian branch of the RAF, and this time he was successful.
     Due to the fact that he had already soloed and knew something of the theory and practice of aviation, Copland spent only one day at a flight school. He was put through the gunnery course, and, although he protested that nothing would suit him but immediate action in France, he was given the job of instructing recruits in the Royal Flying Corps.
     In May, 1918, after serving for about six months as an instructor, Copland saw his dreams come true when he was sent to England as a member of a bombing squadron. He and his fellows bombed the German North Sea ports.
     It was during one of these bombing raids that Copland had his narrowest escape of the whole war. His machine wa extremely slow, and when a German aerial gunner fired a shell through the fusilage of his plane it missed him by inches. The bullet passed in front of his knees as he sat at the controls. In this foray five of the bombers which accompanied him were shot down by the enemy.
     After the armistice Copland was engaged for a time with a Flying Boat squadron whose mission it was to detect mines floating in the North Sea. During furloughs he had time to make several flights over France.
     In 1919 he returned home to the United States. He left the army and became Chief Pilot for the Universal Aviation Company, of Detroit. He also spent time "barnstorming" around the country. He would drop over a town, land in any convenient wheat field, and take up any and everybody there who thought he wanted to go for a ride in an airplane.
     Except for a short lapse in 1922, when he turned again to his early love, radio, Capt. Copland was stuck strictly to the business of flying.
     His barnstorming in the old Jennies and Standards took him over the United States and into parts of Canada and Mexico. For two years in 1923 and 1924, he was president of Atlantic Airways, Inc., which operated flying boats out of Hingham, Mass.
     From this point in his career to the present, Harry Copland has been engaged in conducting flying schools, flying camps, and acting as representative of leading aviation concerns.
     In 1925 he formed the Copland-Brinton Air Service at Hartford, Conn., and in 1927 he sold out this business to go with Curtiss Flying Service as their Hartford manager. In December, 1926 Capt. Copland had received nation-wide publicity in making the first commercial advertising flight from Maine to Florida.
     In 1930 Capt. Copland was in Boston, as Base Manager of the Airport, when the renowned Jean Harlow came to town for the opening of her first moving picture, the famous "Hell's Angels." When Miss Harlow visited the airport, Capt. Harry Copland, ex-flight commander of the R. A. F. was on hand in full dress uniform to do the honors.
     Incidently, Capt. Copland didn't reveal this bit of information to us; we found it out from his scrapbook; therefore, we didn't have a chance to ask him if it constituted his greatest thrill. Perhaps it didn't.
     In 1934, Mr. Copland was appointed South American representative and pilot for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. He was stationed in Columbia and helped in the training of pilots for the Columbian Air Force.
     Mr. Copland's next important post was that of consultant for the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Tokyo, Japan. During his period of residence in Japan, he made test flights for the Japanese government and lectured to the heads of the air ministry as well as checked out the Japanese navy pilots who were to fly the huge twin-engined flying boat which he had delivered to them.
     When he came back to the United states from Japan, Copland worked with Dr. Alex Klemn who was associated with the famous Guggenheim Foundation. In 1936 he went to work for the Airway Traffic Control of the United states Bureau of Air Commerce and served with that organization in Newark, Cleveland, and Detroit. He was later transferred to Fort Worth, Texas.
     Early in 1940, Capt. Copland was sent to Lakeland, Florida, to become director of the Lakeland School of Aeronautics, a flying school very similar to the one now in operation at Georgia Aero-Tech.
     One might naturally wonder what a man of Capt. Copland's experience as a flyer and instructor of flying would think concerning the qualities requisite in a successful aviator. "Aviation does not require nerve so much as coolness and judgment," he will tell you anytime. "We do not want nervy men for pilots on the airways any more than we want speed-drivers on th roadways."
     An oft-repeated dictum with Capt. Copland is that "there are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there is no such thing as an old, bold pilot."
     Mr. Copland expects to bring his family to Augusta in the fall, and make his home here permanently. Besides his wife he has a son, who will be a junor at the University of Michigan next year, and a daughter, who will enter Tubman High school.
     When asked his impression of Augusta, Mr. Copland declared; I haven't been here long enough or been off from work long enough to see a great deal of Augusta, but the part I have seen and the people I have met leave me very enthusiastic over it."
     "The pertinent thing," he continues smiling, "is the fact that my wife has been in Augusta for a short visit. She is very much pleased with the city, and if she and the children like it, then I'm sure it will be pleasant for me."
Contributed by Sue-Ellyn Eldridge, 7-23-11

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