Pages 15 & 16
There I was first in this country to use the Deperdussin type of operating controls instead of the customary Curtiss Shoulder Yoke type used in this country. Unfortunately, after long practice with it on the water I thought myself sufficiently adjusted to make a short air hop. Habit is not easily overcome as I discovered when a few feet airborne I became all mixed up and in attempting to land had one wing too low and ended up with a stove in hull which began to fill. While the mechanic and I vainly tried to keep the water from rising, the Harbor Patrol, seeing our misfortune, sped to our aid and threw us a tow rope which the mechanic fastened through the nose ring and jumped to safety. I followed just as the Betty V began sinking nose first with the tip wing spanking me gently as I clung stomach down on the patrol boat stern. She was towed to a dock, raissed by a derrick and taken to the Curtiss factory where Macurdy had complete repairs made. During the two weeks of repair work, and while I was using a compay "boat" for instructing, a small tornado levelled the hangar and damaged all equipment. When the Betty V was relaunched I took plenty of time practicing and had no more trouble to find the "Dep" far superior to the Curtiss Shoulder Yoke.
Of a total of eighty students taught the first class of ten were to distinguish themselves in the conflict and I was much gratified that they wrote me of their experiences in England and on the front. Only three survived the war. Macurdy became and still is Canada's number one aviation citizen. At a dinner one night the Aero Club of Canada was formed to which Macurdy and insturctor pilots Carlstrom, Jannus, Guy Gilpatric (the author whose many stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post) and I were invited and made honorary members.
Before cold weather stopped operations G. H. asked me to join his Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station, Newport News, Va., as an instructor and test pilot, and mid-December found me there with Captain Thomas Baldwin, of balloon fame, in charge and with a large hangar nearing completion.
At Hampton I rented a four bedroom home as Valerie had blessed us with her arrival during the winter and we needed more space. Betty V was put in storage as I was to use company planes entirely, both land and water types. Pilots of national reputation joined us: Victor Carlstrom, Bert Acosta, T. A. Macauley, Walter E. Lees, Stephen MacGordon, Jimmy Johnston, and Bert Cogswell. We were to teach not only our national guardsmen and civilians, but Canadians as well.
One day the Navy's lone aircraft carrier North Carolina, which carried her flying boats on deck and launched them by derrick, anchored off our station. The pilots aboard were to be trained to use of the "Dep" control in "boats", but Walter Lees and I were the only "boat" pilots and he used on the Curtiss Shoulder Yoke, so the job fell to me although in the midst of a testing program. Such conversion did not take long as those navy pilots were really good. I was sorry Lieut. Towers was not one of them, but recently retired Admirals Read, Bellinger, and Johnson were and I spent much time aboard ship and made some good friends.
Another day a spick and span army major arrived to take lessons, Major William Mitchell, who was to become a general of world fame, but the victim later of inter-service rivalry as to the merits of bombing warships by airplanes. Billy Mitchell's courtmartial was a terrible injustice and I value greatly a letter he wrote me - a prized possission. While not his instructor, I did have the pleasure of giving him some check rides in a J.N. How well I recall his solo flight witnessed by a small group of instructors and students at our flying field. When landing from his solo flight the Jenny nosed over on her back and as we ran to help him, fearful of fire, he dropped on his head and shoulders as he released his safety belt, but was quite uninjured. He immediately made another and more successful flight in a standby Jenny. That was Billy Mitchell all over.
Another remembered day was when Irene and Vernon Castle registered at the famous Chamberlain Hotel, Old Point Comfort, and soon reported to us for flight instruction. Dancing man or no he was all man and much liked and respected by us all. Weekends, the Castles drew quite a crowd to the hotel dance floor where I had the pleasure of a dance with Irene. Vernon was killed that winter while instructing a student at the Canadian Flying School in Texas.