FLYING DOWN THE AIRLANES OF MEMORIES
"I Wish I Could Do It All Over Again"
In His Early "Crate"
Thrills on Log's Anniversary
Gordon K. Hood Reviews 26 Years of Air
Endeavor and Wishes He Could
Do It All Over Again
"Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight---
Make me a kid again just for tonight"
And that, paraphrasing Elizabeth Akers Allen, was the wish of
Gordon K. Hood, aviation pioneer in Syracuse, yesterday, on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the first time he
ever flew an airplane.
It was in the days when the mere thought of airplanes made conservative people shudder only 10 years after the Wright Brothers had made the first flight ever made by humans at Kitty Hawk, when aviation was in its infancy.
On May 14, 1913, to be exact, Gordon Hood, at the age of 18, and with the aid of a boyhood friend, Al Hunter, who later was killed in action in France during the World War, put the finishing touches to their first airplane, built only for the fun of it.
And on that historic day in Hood's life they flipped a coin and he flew the airplane for the first time.
DOESN'T RECALL TURN.
"I don't know now whether that coin fell heads or tails, nor do I remember whether I won or lost the toss but I was elected to take her up for the first time," Hood recalled.
And so, without a word of instruction in the art of flying, simply because there were no instructors in those days, especially in Toronto, Ont., where he was born and where the flight was made, Hood "took her up."
It was an old, home made, pusher-type of ship that he flew, made entirely out of raw materials, such as silver spruce wood, gumwood and steel tubing, and powered by only a 60 horsepower Maximotor, built for airplanes, but hardly strong enough to propel an automobile or a motorboat. That inadequate motor was cooled by a radiator taken off an old Oakland automobile, which was equally inadequate. But the one-seater ship flew and Hood was at the controls the first time, sitting ----- forehand so she wouldn't take off and ran the ship across the field two or three times to learn the fundamentals of handling an airplane on the ground with the motor wide open, and then we made ready.
"We backed her up against a ditch at one end of the field to get the greatest possible running distance so that we could take off and land immediately without making any turns, because we didn't know anything about turning in those days. In fact we didn't know anything.
FOUND IDEAS WRONG
"We thought we could fly if they were flying in other parts of the world but we thought it took all kinds of control to handle a ship, so I over-controlled it.
"I pulled the stick way back and she went straight up. Then I pushed the stick way forward and she went straight down. I headed for a telephone line at the end of the field and thought the end was near, but the ship went right under that wire by some miracle. Then I began to get her tamed down a little and landed on the other side of the wire in some rough ground but
without any damage."
"I was up about 15 or 25 seconds but they were the most thrilling seconds of my
BECOME MORE AMBITIOUS
About July 1, 1913, he said, they began attempting more ambitious flights, flying in ever-increasing circles until they were far from their landing field, but always returning to it rather than risking strange terrain.
"There was no such thing as cross-country flying in those days," he said. "None of the early fliers ever thought of it, and none of us had any idea of the commercial value that would become attached to aviation in later years. We were just getting a kick out of flying for our own amusement, like younger boys might enjoy flying kites or airplane models today.
TURNED SHIP AROUND
"However, we didn't think much of the accomplishment at the time and we turned the ship around and rolled her back to the ..
You see, we were creeping before we walked."
"Yes, " he mused in his office at 127 S. Franklin St. as the unique anniversary date drew near," I certainly wish I was a kid again and could do it all over again.
For 26 years ago yesterday Hood did what every boy of his time, as well as boys before and since, have always dreamed of doing flying in the sky like a bird--soaring like Penrod in some of his fondest dreams--long before aviation was the accomplished science it has become now.
..Hood, then, recalled, how, he grasped the fundamentals of flying with no other teacher than experience and from day to day flew more and more until after about six weeks he and Al began to think they were "good."
"I don't think I flew more than 10 or 20 minutes at one time from the day of that first solo hop in 1917, and during those four years I flew that original ship only, which we kept in a rough shelter on the farm outside Toronto."
MADE VAIN ATTEMPT
At the outbreak of the World War, Hood made a vain attempt to organize a Canadian Royal Flying Corps to go to France, but, failing went to Chicago in 1915, and used that city for his headquarters in extensive barnstorming throughout the Midwest.
He flew at fairs in Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas, signing contracts for 10-minute --- wreck of an Curtiss-D pusher., with a Kirkham engine of 60 horsepower, which he constructed in 1917 before going into the United States Army Air Service in Texas as a civilian flying instructor of army pilots.
"There were only about 30 pilots in the country in those days, and we taught the army how to fly," he recalled grimly. "in two years we wound up with about 10,000 pilots."
In 1919 Hood came to Syracuse as operations manager of the old
Syracuse Aero Club, which had a landing field in Thompson Road known as Bethka Field.
Members included a Captain Young, member of
the Royal Flying Corps; Morrell K. Brewster, former Mayor Charles G. Hanna, Donal M. Dey, Richard Pass,
Oscar Hines, W. W. Ward and Thorpe Hiscock of Jamesville, who
built the first airport. In the winter of 1919-20 the Syracuse Aero Corporation was formed and took over
operation of the club.
CLUB BUYS 3 PLANES
The club bought three planes in New York City and Hood flew them to Syracuse, coming here from Texas flat country and almost coming to grief on the contrasting rough country about Poughkeepsie.
The Syracuse Municipal Airport at Amboy was opened in 1927 by Mayor Hanna, with Hood its first manager, and he served in the post from April, 1927, until July, 1929, when he became general manager of the Curtiss Flying Service, Syracuse branch, first real commercial flying organization in the city.
Money showered upon Syracuse's first pilot in his early days here, especially with the old Syracuse Aero Club, for which he took passengers up at the New York State Fair for 15-minute rides at $1 a minute. He estimates that he took in $25,000 in two weeks in both 1919 and 1920 at the fair and avoided $25 acrobatic rides whenever possible because "they took too long and money was coming in too fast."
HAD ONLY SHIP HERE.
Both of those years, Hood recalled, he had the only ship in Syracuse, the club's two other planes having cracked up, and it was a virtual monopoly.
Possibly one of the outstanding examples of the safety of aviation, in view of the fact that he has survived its greatest trials for more than a quarter century, Hood nevertheless knows that in the early days it was nowhere near as safe as it has become today. Forgotten perils flashed across his eyes as he said:
"I seemed to have an awful lot of luck in the old days when things were tough aside from the fact that I tried to fly as safely and sanely as possible. My closest shave came when a ship I was flying and one piloted by E. Hamilton Lee, mail pilot with the greatest number of mail-flying hours, who is now on the Chicago-Omaha run, nearly crashed in midair over Ellington Field at Houston, Tex., in 1918. That one took my breath away."
"But now the whole setup is changed and I'm a genuine example of being born 30 years too soon. I'm 44 years old and that's too old for the flying game any more. I haven't even been off the ground in a couple of years, but I don't think it'll be long before I go up and get my hand in again on somebody's ship, because once flying gets in your blood you can't get it out.