I need a photo of him. If you can help, please contact me

via email from Collin Witwer, 10-7-05
     I am the great grandson of Charles Hink. My brother and I live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Once in a while I pass through Grinnell. I think I may have met you a couple of years ago when I was doing some work for Grinnell College. I was impressed with the display and information you have at the airport. Charlie was still alive when I was young and I have a lot of fond memories of him. I have a lot of information on my great grandfather and have learned many things about him since his death.
     I am told I have a lot of the same interests that Charlie had. I am a mechanical engineer and have electronics and ham radio as hobbies. I have a lot of the books an information he used as references for his inventions. I am amazed at some of the books he had and I still find the information facinating.
     Anyway, it is getting late. Just thought I would let you know that I was impressed to see some information about him on the internet. You did a nice job on the webpage. I am sure Charlie would be impressed with the work you have done. Having known him, he would be absolutely amazed with the internet. Too bad he did not live to see it. Take Care.
     My mother and father are Dean and Susan Witwer of Cedar Falls, Iowa. My grandfather was Paul Holtz, who lived with Charlie and his wife in Grinnell.

Charles Hink & Billy Robinson
     When the motor age began, Billy switched from bicycle repair to working on one-cylinder automobile engines, and began experimenting with flying machine engines. Eventually, in partnership with an expert mechanic, Charlie Hink, he bought the repair shop where they worked, and continued his experiments. He soon built his first flying machine, a monoplane, molding his own castings, welding the iron, and constructing both the motor and plane according to his own ideas. His first engines failed, but eventually he produced one of the very earliest successful radial engines of 60 horse power, and pioneered the way for the modern radial engines of today.
     Billy had a plane but had not yet learned to fly, so in the Spring of 1912 he became a mechanic for Max Lillie of Cicero, Illinois, a then well known aviator. The two went to Florida for a year where Lillie taught Billy to fly. Billy made his first solo flight on August 3d using a Lillie-Wright aircraft, and on the 22nd, obtained pilot license No. 162. He left Lillie and spent several months flying exhibitions for the National Aeroplane Co. of Cicero, flying Curtiss, Beech-National, and French Nieuport planes.
     Billy achieved his greatest success on October 17, 1914. Sponsored by the Des Moines Capital and the Chicago Tribune, he took off from Des Moines for a non-stop flight to Chicago, carrying a package of letters from Des Moines and Grinnell. Somewhere about thirty miles west of Chicago, the weather closed in and, fearing that he might fly over Chicago and fall into Lake Michigan, he swung to the south and landed at Kentland, Indiana. He had been in the air for 4 hours, 44 minutes and traveled approximately 390 miles at a rate of 80 miles an hour, thus exceeding the American non-stop distance record by 125 miles.
     Having established the distance record, he turned his attention to altitude. In 1916 the record was 17,000 feet and Robinson had been to within 3,000 feet of that. On March 11 he met his death attempting to beat the record, while his wife and most of Grinnell watched. About 4:00 pm people on the ground heard a break in the steady throb of the engine and soon Billy's biplane was seen tossing in apparently aimless descent, obviously out of control, and crashed. Billy burned with the aircraft.
     Just what happened, heart attack, mechanical failure, cerebral hemorrhage or other, was never determined. The plane and instruments were a complete loss, but a duplicate engine was preserved as part of the Physics Museum of Grinnell College, and is now on permanent display at the Grinnell Regional Airport and Billy C. Robinson Field.
     The preceding is a quote from an article in THE PALIMPSEST, the official journal of The State Historical Society of Iowa:

  Chapter 17: Charley Hink
an excerpt from
The Grinnell Herald-Register
July 24, 1995
Courtesy of Lorraine Hink McLeod, 10-10-06
Charley Hink, an early Grinnel inventor blessed with a fertile mind, churned out many inventions in his lifetime, often seeing pieces and parts of ordinary machinery as inspiration for the development of far more interesting apparatuses.
     Hink regarded his accomplishments as commonplace, refusing to patent at least one of his inventions because, he said, he didn't want to deprive others of the joy of creating the same piece of machinery.
     His creative energy was further sparked early in his life by an intrepid aviator-mechanic named BIlly Robinson, whose name was given to the airfield at Grinnell Regional Airport, and the history of the two paralleled the lives of brother aviation legends, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who made their first flight in 1903.

Gauge followed motor
     A wheel-alignment gauge Hink developed, 50,000 fo which were bought by the United States armed forcdes during and following World War II, was almost a sequel to a more-important earlier development; The invention of an air-cooled radial engine with Robinson, the pioneer aviator who flew one of the firsst cross-country mail delivery routes and later died while trying to set an altitude record in his biplane.
     Born Aug. 18, 1886, in teh Chester vicinity north of Grinnell and raised on a farm, Hink had a restless mind with which he sought new and improved methods for doing things throughout his lifetime until his death in 1975 at the age of 88.

Graduates from GHS
     He graduated from Grinnell High School in 1907 as valedictorian and president of his class. One of his classmates was Harry Hopkins, who later became an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
     But his closest friend was the pioneer aviator Billy Robinson.
     Fascinated by "things that go," Hink and Robinson were youthful partners in a bicycle and auto repair shop in the first decade of the century.
     The year was 1909 when the two purchased the Walter Preston bicycle shop on Fourth Avenue. Hink was the first acquaintance Robinson had made when he moved to Grinnell in 1896 at the age of 12 with his widowed mother and three brothers,
     In brief memoirs written at Grinnell General Hospital not long before his death, Hink recounts that a man by the name of Craven as bringing his Stanley Steamer automobile over from Kellogg for a tuneup and that "after Billy got everything in order we went out for a ride. Boy! That was some thrill, riding under power! There were a few single-cycle gasoline cars out then but the steamer would go twice as fast and fly up steep hills as long as the steam pressure lasted."
     Sometime later Hink's father decided to get a car, Hink wrote, and "Bily and I went to Cedar Rapids and drove home a Maxwell Touring Car. This was the first car in Poweshiek County to be owned by a farmer."

Seek greater challenge      Bicycles and engine repairs soon did not prove challenging enough and "Billy and I spent considerable time discussing how to fly," Kink reported. It occurred to them that there was a real need for a light-weight airplane engine. Undaunted by what would faze more mature inevntors, the two "drew up plans for a 6-clinder engine. In our spare time we proceeded to build the radial engine." They machined parts and assembled a radial air-cooled engine and "After many nights working, the engine was completed in 1911>"
     "We were using about all the money we took in to build the plane, so I gave Billy $500 for his share in the auto repair business." With this money, they started a factory north of town. Robinson carried the first or second airmail in the United States to Chicago in 1914, delivering mail form Des Moines and Grinnell. "There were many flights, testing out the plane, and he decided to make an altitude record," Hink wrote. "This was his last flight. He went too high and evidently could not stand the thin air. So much for my friend, Billy."

     If you search the net using Google on "Charles Hink", (10-8-05), you will find about 17 links. Only a few of them are relevant.
Grinnell Regional Airport
Billy Robinson Field
     You will find a brief mention of Charles Hink on this website. It offers the fact that it was he, with his partner BIlly Robinson, founded the Grinnell Aeroplane Company. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

The Billy Robinson Story
Grinnell's Pioneer Aviator
     This page offers only the briefest of references to Charles Hink's relationship to BIlly Robinson. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

Grinnell Airport
Grinnell Airport, 2002
Photo from the Billy Robinson Field Collection

died on March 11, 1916

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