Times Record - 9-14-03
by Ben Boulden
Times Record - 10-11-03
Nevertheless, the citizens of Fort Smith in May 1910 were determined to see a plane fly and pilot James C. "Bud" Mars was planning to show them one.
On May 17, 1910, a Curtiss biplane arrived at the train depot in Fort Smith in three boxes and was transported to Electric Park (present-day Kay Rodgers Park) where crowds gathered to observe the mechanics as they put it all together. Once it was assembled, Mars spun the propellor to jumpstart the motor while four men held the plane down to keep it from breaking away.
According to the Southwest American newspaper, Mars tested the aircraft for the first time and a few friends, invited guests and newspaper men were privileged to witness the flight of an airplane in Fort Smith for the first time on May 18, 1910.
It wasn't too dramatic at first as Mars and his biplane went skimming over the ground but high enough to see daylight between the wheels of the craft and the skyline, according to the American.
Both the American and the Fort Smith Times Record described it as not only a first for the city but a first for Arkansas as well.
The first flight occurred not at Electric Park where the flying machine was assembled but at the nearby Fort Smith Country Club.
Mars' public exhibition of the biplane, sponsored by the Fort Smith Light and Traction Co., was held May 21 at League Park, the baseball field next to Electric Park.
May 21 also was the birthdate of the biplane's creator, Glenn H. Curtiss, and the anniversary of Curtiss' first flight.
Lynn Bauter, formerly Curtiss' mechanic, was on hand to explain the unfamiliar machine to the public.
Mars made two successful flights at an altitude of 75 feet.
The American said, "The spectacle of witnessing a man flying in the air with the ease of a bird was indeed thrilling to the spectators."
Two circular flights were made in a half-mile circuit which gives Mars a world record for making an accurate flight in a circuit of one-half mile, as all previous flights have been made in not less than one mile circuits.
Pilot J.C. Mars is pictured in his plane, the "Skylark," which he demonstrated for thousands of Topekans on June 9, 1910. Shortly after the photo was taken, Mars crashed the plane. Albin K. Longren, a young Kansas National Guard soldier who had been present to help with crowd control, helped rebuild the plane, sparking a lifelong interest in aviation.
Before he took off, Mars' wife broke a bottle of wine on the engine of the machine saying, "I christen
the Skylark; may she fly long and high."
In the next day's exhibition flights, the Skylark improved on its performance, reaching an altitude of more than 200 feet and a speed of 40 mph. Mars' maneuvers took the plane over the park and surrounding fields as well as the trolley line in a flight lasting more than 10 minutes.
Although the following day's exhibition was canceled, the Times Record estimated that a majority of the city's residents had journeyed to the park to observe the first manned flights in Arkansas on May 21 and May 22.
Only a few weeks later, on June 9, 1910, Mars crashed the Skylark in Topeka, Kan., at another exhibition. He survived the crash, and after being reassembled and repaired, so did the biplane.
Mars went on to participate in aviation meets and exhibitions throughout the United States and Asia.
He was one of the first eight licensed pilots in the United States and was taught to fly by Curtiss.
William J. Ballard, D.D.S.
Editor's Note: If you can help Dr. Ballard in his search for information, please contact me. I will forward your messge to him..
via email from Robert Neff, 3-16-06
I hope to hear from you soon - I am very excited about the possibility that Mr. Mars was in Korea during this period.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Editor's Note: I have not been able to find any references for Bud and his probable activities in Korea. If you can help Robert and me in any way, we will both be very grateful. I will be happy to forward your messge to him..
via email from Michael Keckhaver, 8-5-08
I am including a photograph of Mr. Mars in our Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture website entry on aviation. Do you happen to know what his wife’s name was? She appears in a Library of Congress photograph of Mr. Mars, but the title just says “his wife.”
Editor's Note: You can enjoy the full size photograph of Mars and his wife by clicking on the link above. If you can help Michael to name Mrs. Mars, please contact me. I will forward your message to him. Thank you..