Herbert Munter
THE YOUNG FLYER took off frm a sand flat on Harbor Island,
where he had planked a runway.
Pioneer Seattle Aviator Learned How to Fly in Homemade Plane CONTINUED
     It was a great day when the body of Herb's first plane rolled out of the building on 24th Avenue.
     "He trucked it to Harbor Island and put the wings on," Milton said. "The move was not difficult for the plane was incredibly light in weight. The heaviest part was the motor."
     The "airfield" the would-be pilot selected was a sand flat on Harbor Island with prevailing onshore winds adjacent to what is now the East Waterway. Here he planked up a runway about 250 feet long.
     "Herb had hired a man who said he would teach him how to fly," Milton said. "Herb was to stand on the ground and observe the tactics. The 'instructor' wrecked the plane on landing after his first flight!
     "While repairing the plane, Herb vowed he would teach himself how to fly. And did!
     Herb's method was to make a straight run into the wind, lift the plane slightly off the ground, and land again. Each time he raised the craft a little higher. After a couple of days' practice, he achieved sufficient altitude to make a turn in the air. From then on, his flying attracted crowds of spectators.
     "The year was 1912," Milton said, "and Herb was 17 years old. He worked in a garage at 12th and Pine Street, and spent his day off flyng. Many a Sunday, streetcars on their way to Luna Park and Aiki Point (a popular recreational spot of that time) lined up on a trestle, waiting for their passengers to see my brother's airplane take off or land."
     About a year after Munter learned to fly, his mother became possibly the Pacific Northwest's first airplane passenger.
     "Mother was quite a girl," Milton said. "The plane had no fuselage, but that didn't daunt Mother when she dicided to see what Seattle looked like from the air! She sat on the leading edge of the lower wing, adjacent to the motor, and clung to a rope stretched between the struts. Another rope provided a brace for her feet."
     "She was outfitted in a football helmet and goggles. Bicycle clamps held her navy blue pleated skirt from billowing while Herb took her on a 20-minute flght over the town. I would have gone up at a moment's notice-any time-but had to wait almost six years before the opportunity was given to me!"
     Munter's exhibition flying as a means of earning a living began in 1912. Frequently his landing field was one of the many fairgrounds or race tracks about the Pacific Northwest. His procedure was to take the wings off the plane (with the help of a mechanic he took with him) ship the parts by train in a baggage car, reassemble the plane for the demonstration, then move on to another town.
     "An example occurred in 1914 which pilots today might considered impossible." Milton said. "A movie was filmed at Scenic, in the Cascade Mountains and the company hired Herb to do some flying for the picture. He took off from the roof of a long snowshed in the vicinity of Scenic Hot Springs, near Stevens Pass.
     "On the first flight, Herb was caught in a downdraft, hit a stump and was thrown from the plane as it crashed. The engine landed in the seat he vacated!"
     Another unusual early day event Milton recalled was, "the candy-kiss flight." For a publicity stunt, sponsored by the management of a traveling stage show, Herb was hired to fly over Seattle and scatter candy "kisses" from the air. Some of the pieces of candy contained numbers inside their wrappers entitling the finders to admission tickets to the show.
     Munter's three years with the Boeing Airplane Co. as test pilot, 1915-1918, are covered in Harold Mansfield's book on Boeing entitled "Vision."
     Munter entered the airplane passenger charter business operating from a cow pasture near Auburn, which he had leased for the summer of 1919. His plane was a war surplus "Jennie," a training plane with a fuselage and two seats.
     Passengers paid $10 for a 15-minute flight and the thrill of being airborne.
     In the spring of 1920, Munter was disappointed to learn that his "airfield" of the previous summer was not again available for lease. The farmer asserted that the plane scared his cows and prevented them from giving milk.
     The charter service thereupon was moved to a cow pasture near Kent, where Munter operated in 1920 and 1921. By then he had a partner Frank Miller, three "Jennies," and a large plane built for him by Boeing. A hangar and a shop were added to the operation.
     "Herb made several flights of peculiar note during this period taking our brother Arch, a hobby photographer, with him." Milton recalled. "One was the first flight ever made over Mount Rainier. It as reported with pictures on the front page of the local newspapers.
     "Another was nonstop from Seattle to Spokane--the longest nonstop flight on record for the West Coast at that time."
     On still another notable--occasion, Herb flew a "Jennie" nonstop from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle.
     ""Permission had been granted to end the Vancouver flight on the Jefferson Golf Course." Milton said. "I skipped school and went to wtch the plane come in."
     "I can remember a man asking me to caddy for him. Any other time I would have jumped at the chance! But that day, I refused, explaining that I was waiting for my brother to fly in from Vancouver. Needless to say, the golfer thought I had excaped from a mental institution!
     "But before very long, Herb glided onto the 18th hole (out of gasoline since passing over the University District) an hour and 20 minutes after leaving Vancouver.
     An incident recalled by Herb's sister, Vivian, (Mrs. Hadley Clark of Seattle), might be a contender for "The oddest race" ever held in the state. Herb competed his airplane against an automobile.
     "This contest of speed was held in Tacoma," Mrs. Clark said. "I was young and very excited. I had intended to meake the trip to Tacoma by boat, but somehow missed connections. I hurried from the dock in Occidental Avenue and took the next interurban.
     "The fare was more than I had figured on; and I arrived in Tadoma out of money--so had to walk to the race track. You could say 'I also ran!' But when I got there the race was over. It had been stopped because of rain, and declared a tie."
After three years of charter service in the Kent and Auburn area, Munter's flying suffered a major interruption. HIs hangar burned to the ground one night, destroying all the planes and equipment. This loss, combned with his wife's worry over his safey, made him decide to give up aviation as a career.
     For the next 12 years, Munter and a partner, "Heinie" Pratt, owned and operated the Seattle Auto Rebuild.
     Even so, the air still held its spell for the veteran flyer. Occasionally Munter flew the mail plane (a flying boat) to Victoria, B. C., when Eddie Hubbard, the pilot, wanted a vacation or a day off.
     As luck would have it, Herb was flying the route January 29, 1921; the day a storm, which became known as "big blow of the Olympic Peninsula," hit with winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. Munter was forced down in the San Juan Islands. A wave punched a hole in the plane, but he was able to beach it on a small island.
     There was no communication with the "outside." Munter remained for a week, patching the hull. When he brought the plane into Seattle, he was surprised to find that he had been given up for lost.
     In 1935, Munter went back to charter flying in Ketchikan, Alaska. Two more decades of piloting experiences, almost as colorful as his first ten years of flying, rounded out his participation in the aviation industry, which grew from an emgryo to a colossus in his lifetime.
Newsclipping from THE SEATTLE TIMES, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1960 Courtesy of Karen L. Johnson, 12-3-04

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