06 04 2016
The 2016 National Biplane Fly In will take place Friday June 3rd and Saturday June 4th at Freeman Field in Junction City Kansas. Pilots fly to Kansas from as far as Washington State and Florida to attend the National Biplane Fly In so in that spirit we look back at a few of those who made up the history of the Biplane and the organization who works tirelessly to put on this event.
The Biplane is an early type of air craft with two pairs of wings, one above the other. In the 1890s this configuration was adopted for some successful piloted gliders. In 1903–09 the Wright brothers' biplanes opened the era of powered flight. The golden era of the biplane was from the end of World War I up to the beginning of World War II. There was approximately eleven years from the Wright Brothers first take offs at Kill Devil Hill to the beginning of hostilities in Europe that ushered in WWI.
According to the “History of the Boeing Stearman Aircraft” Lloyd Stearman was the well-known designer of the legendary Stearman biplanes, which had been in service with the first American airlines during the 1920's. Besides Sport Planes like the Model C-2 and Model 6 "Cloudboy", he designed and built the famous Model C-3 and C-4 "Speedmail", biplanes with a large compartment for mail service. The Stearman LT-1 was equipped with a luxurious, enclosed cabin for four passengers and a mail compartment, but open cockpit for the pilot (which was typical for those days)”. The Stearman aircraft were known for being sophisticated and well-made but expensive.
Albin K. Longren, born in January of 1882 near Leonardville Kansas along with his brother Ereanius (E. J.), and his friend William Janicke, built a pusher-type biplane which was called the “Topeka I”, the first Kansas-made aircraft to actually fly. They made history with a brief flight on September 2, 1911. Albin Longren then continued to make his living as a Barnstormer. Barnstorming was defined as “a form of entertainment in which stunt pilots performed tricks, either individually or in groups called flying circuses. Devised to "impress people with the skill of pilots and the sturdiness of planes", it became popular in the United States during the Roaring Twenties”.
Another set of Barnstormers were Herman and Henry Wetzig who along with their Curtiss machine made the first local flight over Fort Riley. According to Robert N. Halsted’s “Early/Current Aviation History Junction City, Ft. Riley, Manhattan, Kansas Area,” in 1910 after the arrival of 2 Wright planes at Ft. Riley as well learning that Bud Mars had received $10,000 for a barnstorming demonstration at the State Fair the Wetzig brothers set off to purchase the Curtiss aircraft and attend flight school. The brothers flew and performed at fairs in every town in Western Kansas as well as Texas and New Mexico when the weather turned cold. In 1985 the Geary County Historical Society nominated Herman Wetzig posthumously for the Kansas Department of Transportation’s “Aviation Honors Award”.
According to the National Biplane Fly In website; the Flint Hills EAA Chapter 1364 are the presenters of the National Biplane Fly In. This event is held annually on the first weekend of June on Freeman Field, 3JC, Junction City, Kansas. They are one of a worldwide network of chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, commonly known as EAA, headquartered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They have members throughout Kansas with their focus being on the communities of Manhattan, Junction City, Abilene and surrounding areas. They are a social organization serving the Kansas Flint Hills which is made up of aviation enthusiasts, aircraft builders, and pilots who get together with like-minded people to share ideas, exchange information, encourage safety and have a lot of fun doing so.
The Geary County Historical Society looks forwarding to see the historic Biplanes and reliving Kansas aviation history. Please join us for The National Biplane Fly In the first weekend in June on the Grass Runways of 3JC, Freeman Field Junction City, Kansas, June 3rd and 4th, 2016
Albin K. Longren's No. 6, Model G Airplane
Photo Courtesy of the Geary County Historical Society