Ed Korn  
Shelby County's Korn Brothers pioneered in aviation
by Clarence B. Raterman
from The Sidney Daily News, July 1, 1976
Springfield, Ohio
Courtesy of Steve Koons, 12-14-2004
MONTRA -- On Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Wilbur and Orville Wright made their successful flight in a full-sized airplane. The machine was a biplane, and on the first day the Wright brothers made four flights, the longest lasting 59 seconds at a speed of 30 miles per hour. Inspired by the feats of the Wright Brothers, a Shelby Countian, living one mile south and one half mile east of Montra, by the name of Milton Korn, decided to try his hand at the new adventure. In 1908 he built a flying model aeroplane powered by rubber bands that flew successfully. When his brother, Edward, came home from college and saw his brother's plane, the two decided to build a full-sized plane using the model as a guide. Ed had some training in blue printing, and drew up the plans. Small steam engines were molded with babbit metal and each little engine that was made would run when a steam hose was attached to it. Thus began the flying career of the Korn brothers covering a period of five years, and ending with the tragic death of Milton Korn in August, 1913.
Before this ill fortune, Shelby County's earliest contributors to aviation history:
----- Had a short sustained flight in July, 1911 with a home built monoplane (one of the first successful pusher types ever built).
----- Had contributed radically built ailerons to the industry.
----- Did the first exhibition flying at the Shelby County Fairgrounds in November 1912.
----- Worked on an early Benoist plane that became the take-off point for the first parachute jumps in the world.
----- Helped build the second of the world's seaplanes.
----- Pioneered in aerial photography, and were the first to take a self-portrait while flying.
----- Became one of Uncle Sam's early air mail pilots.
----- Had the honor of having made Shelby County's first contribution to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
----- Helped establish Shelby County's Korn Air Field as one of the oldest airfields in Ohio.
Edward Korn, according to Irvin Korn, of near Jackson Center, is still living and sent Irvin a Christmas card last year. He is now 90 years of age. He lives at East Orange, N.J. and has practiced as a chiropractice physician at this address for the past 43 years.
Still bothered
In a letter written in August, 1973, he stated that he was still bothered with the after effects of the accident that killed his brother in 1913, adding, "I haven't flown a plane or rented one since 1916." He, however, answered many questions concerning his and Milton's careers. The brothers' first machine, modeled after the rubber powered model built by Milton in 1908, had no instruments in the pit except a throttle and steering wheel. It used regular auto gas and oil. They had no success with this machine nor the next one they built. They were high wing pusher monoplanes using two-cycle, 30-horsepower engines. They proved too heavy and the engines not powerful enough to make them fly. They achieved some success with their third ship, which reportedly glided "the length of one of the fields on the Korn farm." Not dismayed by their failures, the brothers tried again and on July 2, 1911, made a sustained flight. Ed Korn wrote, "The first two weeks in July, 1911 were spent by Milton and I trying out our successful monoplane on the old home farm. The field was one-half mile long. The take-off and landing was within that one-half mile limit. Therefore sustained flight was less than one-half minute."
Remembers event
Irvin Korn remembers the event, although he did not see it happen. He said, "I heard Ed took it first and skimmed across the field. Then Milt took it up and got up about 10 or 12 feet above the ground." According to Ed Korn this first successful machine was a pusher type monoplane, one among the first in America with a wing spread of 34 feet and having a two-cycle 50-horsepower Roberts, water-cooled engine. The structure material was all poplar. The plane weighed a little over 650 pounds and had an estimated flying speed of 55 miles per hour. He also added, "We were the inventors of the Bench Type Ailerons." A "Sohio Bulletin" issued in July, 1911, says this about the early flyers and their machines. "Remember that these flyers had no aviation data available, and no one to call in case of trouble. Motor oil was mixed with gasoline, for cylinder lubrication like an outboard motor is today. The main bearings were "greased" through hard oil cups with spring tension. The starting of the Robert's cooled engines required an injection of ether before the motor would start."
Engines overheated
According to the same source, "The early planes never went higher than a few thousand feet. The engines always got so hot due to the gross limits of the crude lubrication system." Charles Linker of Montra, a contemporary of the Korn Brothers, observed, "One time they had a little fire in the airplane due to a hot motor. They let us come into the barn while they fixed it. We used to go out to the Korns on Sunday afternoons to watch them fly. They would get a couple hundred feet into the air." Ed Korn recalls that his brother wrecked this successful plane and Ed's father decided to send Ed to Kinloch Field, near St. Louis, Mo., which had a recommendation of being a good flying school. While there a local pilot sold him a French Farman type biplane for a $5 storage charge. The engine of the plane was not powerful enough to make it fly, so Ed asked Milt to bring the 50-horsepower engine used in the first successful monoplane to St. Louis. Milt did this, but the plane still refused to take off. Then Ed said, "We cut the last section off the tail, put the elevator on the rear, changed the flap ailerons to coordinating ailerons, and the little engine flew it."
Stayed as mechanic
Milton stayed at the field as a mechanic. Ed obtained his flying license by flying a Benoist school plane before representatives of the American Aviation Society on May 1, 1912, and received License No. 117. Ed then became an assistant instructor at the field. He writes, "The Benoist plane was a tractor-type biplane, one of the first and most successful. The control surfaces, ailerons, elevator and rudder were of the flexing type; besides the ailerons extended out from the end struts of each wing. It was a new type of aircraft." Milton, in 1912, worked on 12 Benoist planes and helped build the first successful hydro aeroplane. Ed said of Milton, "He was an excellent mechanic. The second flying boat in the world was built by Thomas Benoist. Milton worked on that boat from start to finish." While at the field, the brothers built their own Benoist plane. On July 4, 1912, Ed gave his first public exhibition at Anna, Ill. On July 9 he was in a smashup at St. Louis, and later the same year at Monticello, Ark. Each time he walked away unhurt. For the rest of the year he barnstormed in Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.
While at Kinloch Field, Ed became a friend of R.E. Froelich, a pioneer air photographer in World War I. He helped Mr. Froelich with experimental photography and claimed an official first by taking a picture of himself in flight. It was also at this field that Ed worked on the plane that was used to make the first parachute jumps in the world. He writes, "on March 1, 1912, Tony (instructor) flew Capt. Bert Berry over to Fort Jefferson and dropped him on the parade grounds. This followed a week of practice held the last week in February, at Kinloch Field." In October, 1912, he received a contract to carry mail to Mineola, Long Island, becoming the eighth holder sworn into the mail service.
Had made name
By this time Ed had made a name for himself. According to an ad in the Sidney Daily News of Aug. 11, 1912 advertising his appearance at the Shelby County Fairgrounds, he was referred to in St. Louis as that "Famous Ohio Aviator" with over 700 flights to his credit. His homecoming was marred with difficulties, however. According to the "News" of Sept. 11, 1912, his flight was delayed the first day by legal matters and when he finally did get into the air the engine was not working properly and he came down. No account is given for the 10th but on the 11th, the "News" reports that "Ed went up about 4 p.m., soared over the Thompson Woods for five minutes, turned around and came down. The plane tipped to one side coming down, caught on the ground, and turned completely around. One end was badly damaged and one wheel was torn off, and thrown quite a distance."
Benoist type
This exhibition plane was a Benoist Type XII, with wingspread of 35 feet, weight 1,280 pounds, two-cycle, 75-horsepower Roberts engine with a flying speed of 65 miles per hour. During the winter of 1912-13, the brothers prepared their airstrip and overhauled their plane. Milton devised a new dual control system for training purposes. Ed states, "The air strip extended south to the road, and north one half mile to the other road. This strip is where we tried out our two monoplanes in 1910 and 1911. The oldest airfield in Ohio was established at Wright Field in Dayton. However, considering the activities mentioned above, our field would have to be considered one of the oldest in Ohio."
Five circles
According to the "Daily News", Aug. 12, 1913, Ed Korn made five circles over Montra. In one circle he covered four miles in three minutes (a speed of 80 miles per hour) in a plane apparently in good condition. The next day, the 13th, the same plane carrying Milton Korn as a passenger crashed into a field, not owned by Fred Linker. As a result of this accident, Milt Korn died six days later and left Ed Korn with such severe back, head and pelvic problems that he gave up flying in 1916 and entered the field of chiropractory. In 1948 the Smithsonian Institute asked for the plane, because, as Ed states, "It was a distinct type of aircraft and the first successful plane of that type. Also, the Smithsonian has restored planes that were in bad shape in order to preserve that particular type of aircraft for posterity." This plane is now on exhibition at the new Aircraft Building at the Institution.
Stopped activity
The Aug. 13 tragedy at Korn Field stopped all activity at the place until 1946, when Arlington Korn, brother of Ed and Milt, decided to rent out the farm and revive flight activity. He remodeled the old barn and made it into a hanger. He built another hangar to the right of the barn and at one time had 15 planes on the place, including three of his own. The Korn Airfield was closed down upon the death of Arlington on April 27, 1958. The Sidney Daily News of May 8, 1948, said of the field, "Today Korn airfield is a busy spot... eight Flying Farmers use it regularly... veterans are training there under the G.I. bill... Joseph Hartzler, former Philadelphian is a full time instructor... eight small planes (three owned by Korn) are on hand... passenger, commercial and pleasure flights can be scheduled at any time.
Aircoupe planes
The paper continued, "Fourteen men have received pilot's licenses and 11 are now in training. "The field used modern Aircoupe planes and had three licensed pilots in the persons of Hartzler, Arlington and his son Wayne Korn. One of the unique customs developed was the "shirt tail" display. When a student completed his first solo flight a piece of his shirt was snipped off and mounted on a bulletin board with his name and the date of the flight. He also became a member of the "Korn Field Pilot Club", which had numerous festivities. The runways are now plowed on the 120-acre farm. "Creative Plastice", owned by Wayne Korn, and operated by James Maxwell, occupies the old hangar sites. The 120-acre farm on Snyder Road is rented to John Bensman. Wayne has a license, and occasionally flies a plane. Now 44 years of age, he is the father of four, one married, and lives in Rochester, Mich. At the present time he is also an insurance salesman for "Aide Association for Lutherans."

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