Charles Walsh
Charles Walsh's Second Aeroplane - 1910
Collection of John Stewart, 11-21-06
     The instructions were followed carefully and before Walsh could realize it, the Curtiss, still carrying the Dominguez Entrant No. 6 on the rudder, was rocking down the field for a takeoff. The engine spark was applied full as they headed into the wind. It was breathtaking as they rushed forward into the clean fresh air. The wires began to sing, a signal for Hamilton to pull back the control yoke. The engine noise subsided and the cutting wind tore violently at their clothing. Suddenly the ground dropped beneath them and ride became unbelievalby smooth and quiet. Like a big bird they sailed over the crowd of people, over the shore and the ocean. "Walsh remarked later," "It was exhilarating--an experience I'll never forget." Hamilton would tell Walsh now he was going to turn, go up or down, then demostrate with movements of the controls. Charlie absorbed the lessons well. Hamilton pressed home one thing about aviating which stayed with Walsh when he said. "Until you have plenty of experience always make a turn to the left, because the gyroscopic effect of the propeller has a tendency to turn you to the right all the time." All too soon they were headed in a steep angle for a landing..."A most terrifying experience" the young redhead related. "It shall take some getting used to this part of flying.
     "How much would Mr. Curtiss charge to build me a plane like this?" Walsh asked. "About $5,000, complete with the latest 50 hp motor," Hamilton replied. Walsh swallowed hard, thought a minute then blurted, "I think I can make my own for a lot less than that." "Probably can" Hamilton smiled, "but you'll be running a risk. The Curtiss machines have been designed and built from years of experience. Mr. Curtiss knows about aeroplanes and motors." "Well, I'd like to have one but I can't afford it now, I'm going to build one of my own first." Walsh chided and walked away, head down, hands in his pockets and deep in thought.
     For days Charlie could talk of nothing but his ride in the famous Curtiss Rheims Racer. He had made good friends iwth Charles Hamilton and this would stand him in good stead for the future. Charlie was fired up now and returning to the Walsh home he immediately set to work on a Curtiss-type pusher airplane of his own. The first few days were spent bringing back bits and pieces of the wrecked monoplane. Over strong protests from his father, Charlie proceeded to dump every thing in the backyard. In the evening he made sketeches and drawings of his new plane. Everything seemed much simpler this time. Using what could be salvaged from the scrap pile, the Walsh pusher emerged in just 31 day with the help of his wife and one neighbor.
     "Won't that boy ever grow up," Walter would ask. "Seems like he should settle down to a regular job like Robert." Mother and Alice always interceded and gave Charlie one more chance. When the plane was about finished, he packed up his family and moved to Imperial Beach where flight tests could be conducted free of in-law remarks, and joking neighbors. The plane was relatively small but an excellent copy of the Curtiss machine. Alice sewed the unbleached muslin on the wings, while Kenneth helped his father install the bicycle wheels. The same Cameron 20hp auto engine was installed, with the propeller connected directly to the engine drive shaft. Charlie was exceptionally proud of the hand carved propeller. It consisted of five laminations of wood, glued, and pressed special by the Baker Boat Works of San Diego.
     During the summer the family lived in a tent pitched on the beach. In the evenings the airplane would be rolled inside and all would sleep under the wings. About mid-summer John Rhoerig, ( Editors Note: this may be Bernard Roehrig)who was also bitten by the flying bug, pitched a tent along side the Walsh's. John had some ideas he wanted to try too. They pooled their resources and knowledge. The families lived off the sea. Alice and the children would fish from a nearby pier every morning and evening. One day Alice came screaming back to camp. "There's a whale down at the pier." she cried. Everyone rushed to the scene but no sign could be found. That night heavy lines iwth special lures were put out to sea. Some men kept vigil all night. The next day--nothing. The news had spread however, and two truck loads of fishermen arrived. They scoured the waters for the sign of a whale. It wasn't the season for the great gray whale to migrate past the California coast, but a stray calf could be floundering in the area. Toward the end of the day a yell was heard from one of the fishermen, a short distance up the shore. He had caught a fish, a big fish. Men came with nets and boats. Some 10 minutes later, they had hauled ashore a 365 pound tuna. Within the hour it was divided between the group of people and one of the biggest fish-fries ever held on Imperial Beach was enjoyed that night. From the pier, the water had magnified the great silvery tuna into the apearance of a whale. "Well, Alice," Charlie commented, "you didn't see a whale, but you sure saw a whale of a fish."
     For weeks Charlie had taxied his plane up and down the beach...Each time at a greater speed. Then one day when the conditions were right, he happened to tilt the elevator at just the right angle and he was in the air at an altitude of about 20 feet. Charles Walsh had soloed in a powered flying thingamabob. "It would be hard for me to describe the sensation that I experience," he related, "I might say that I was overjoyed to think that I had at last succeeded in accomplishing the thing that I had dreamed about so long. But I must add that this feeling was immediately surmounted by the desire to return to terra firma as soon as possible." As his courage improved he was making extended flights and shallow turns as part of his repertoire. On weekends he would await the beach crowds and pass the hat for a demonstration flight. This extra money bought gas and oil and put change in the food kitty. One fellow who never failed to show up was pioneer aviator, George Hallett. He had a steady job at the Baker Boat Works in San Diego and greatly admired Charlie's work. He always had a 50 cent piece to defray costs. In the meantime Rhoerig wasn't having any success with his flying machine and began to get cold feet at the thought of being up there with no protection, tearing through the air at 35 mpg. He packed up and went back to work.