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History of Iowa aviation

October 28, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Iowa has a long aviation history, with early pioneers in the field such as the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart having lived part of their lives in Iowa. For instance, the Wright Brothers, Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Catherine Wright lived in Cedar Rapids for 1878-1881. They had four sons and one daughter. Orville and Wilbur later became world renowned for their invention of the world's first power driven heavier than air machine, in which man made free controlled and sustained flight. Their famous first flight was made at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903.

Amelia Earhart moved to Des Moines in 1908. At age 10 she saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair. She left Des Moines in 1914, moving to Chicago, and later California where she learned to fly. She made the first solo flight from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1928 and then visited several Iowa towns on a series of lecture tours.

On June 1, 1937, she began her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2, 1937, her last voice transmission was heard "KHAQQ calling Itasca. (U.S. Coast guard cutter). "We must be on you, but cannot see yougas is running low." She was never heard from again.

Charles Lindbergh flew in and out of many locations in Iowa and dedicated several airports. During August 1927, Lindbergh visited several Iowa cities on a nationwide tour sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund that was established to promote aeronautics. He was given a ring by the citizens of Davenport, Rock Island, Moline and East Moline, symbolizing their admiration for Lindbergh.

Clarence Duncan Chamberlin was born in Dennison in 1893. He captured the non-stop long distance record by flying from New York to Berlin and was the first to fly a paying passenger across the Atlantic.

Ellen Church, a native of Cresco, became the first airline stewardess in the country. She approached the traffic manager of Boeing Air Transport with her idea of hiring nurses to serve passengers. The Board of Directors did hire Church as the chief stewardess, and she subsequently hired seven more nurses and helped design their uniforms. The women began working May 15, 1930.

Eugene Ely, born in Williamsburg became the first to pilot to make a successful unassisted airplane takeoff from the deck of a ship in 1910, followed the next year by landing on a ship. He also designed the arresting gear that helped stop the airplane upon landing. This principle is still used today.



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