In the fall of 1909, a restless teenager named Elling Weeks cast aside his father's plow, released his horse
and strode across the furrows of his family's Iowa farm,. Not once id he glance back.
He intercepted a grain train and rode in a bed of shucked corn to Chicago, where he enrolled in a chaurreur's school. While ther, he joined an original cadre of fledglings who pioneered the birth of aviation. Weeks and his conspicuous pilot f\riends were to become well known as the "Early Birds."
The Early Birds were flying Wright Brother's Flyers and homebuilt innovations. The pilot controlled the aircraft with canards,
wing warpers. and ruddders.
Lacking a seat belt, he was balanced precariously in his seat, his legs non-judiciously poked out in front of its lower wing. Close behind his shoulders, two partially guarded motor-cycle chains hummed, indiscriminately spraying
oil as they drove the hand-carved propellers.
The Flyer demanded over 68 feet of wing to leave the ground. With heart thumping fallibility, no favorable wind to assist, the underpowered aircraft strained to clear the wires surrounding the airfield. The untrustworthy engine's radiator, often fuming, was at the pilot's right elbow. Its streamlined gas tank brushed the tip of his right ear.
If an accident were inevitable, the pilot would tightly grip the aircraft's frame hoping the resulting impact wouldn't be too painful. And crashes just happened.
There was no room aboard for an instructor; therefore, there was zero actual practice time before first solo ride. Listen carefully to the other fledglings, observe their shaky takeoffs, uncoordinated turns, and crude landings.
Then, it's your turn. Climb on the peculiar seat, lock your heels in place, adjust your goggles, and gather your courage before sweeping forward the engine's spark control.
Uncle Elling described his first solo in May 1910 :
"Unexpectedly, a delegation of Chicago citizens and reporters came out to our airfield at Cicero. The group insisted upon seeing a flying demonstration. No pilots were available. I had never flown before. Against my better judgment, I decided I would give them a very limited demonstration, anyway.
I planned to hop the aircraft a few feet off the ground, then land immediately, just to satisfy them. Unfortunately, I froze on to the stick and went airborne. I was forced to ‘zoom up' to escape hitting a string of telephone wires. I had no idea how to bring the ship down. I soared and fell, then finally ' pancaked ' it in. The crowd had the impression that I had been stunting.
They gave me a big ovation I did not deserve."