AVIATION IN CATTARAUGUS COUNTY
Yesterday, July 4th, the monster balloon, “The Flying Cloud” was inflated with natural gas on Barry Street, a short distance south of State Street. The balloon was nearly 60 feet in height and 25 feet in diameter, with a capacity of 20,000 cubic feet of gas, about 17,000 cubic feet being used in the inflation yesterday. Edward C. Clarage, a noted balloonist and aerial gymnast of New York City, was to make the ascension, and to perform thrilling feats in mid-air on a slender trapeze bar, suspended from the mammoth bag in place of a car. When all was in readiness Clarage gave the word to let go, and the balloon rose slowly, but was carried strongly northward by a sudden gust of wind, the breeze being so strong as to lay the balloon over in a half horizontal position frequently before the start was made. The balloon rose with about a hundred pounds of ballast. Seeing his danger Clarage quickly let go a bag of the ballast, but before he could sever another, the trapeze rope struck against the telegraph wires, strung on forty foot poles on the south side of State Street. With remarkable agility and dexterity the gymnast threw himself or rather rolled himself over the wires, clearing that obstruction safely. In another moment his body was dashed against the ornamental iron on top of the school building across the street. Clarage was then slammed against the roof of a barn in the rear of Mayer’s Meat Market and fell to the ground. His unconscious body was taken to the office of Drs. Eddy and Mudge where his wounds were treated and then moved to Chris Frank’s hotel on State Street and died at 1 PM. He had made 88 successful balloon ascensions without a serious accident. Mrs. Clarage, who has four children and is in destitute circumstances, was not able to defray the funeral expenses or the cost to move the body to New York. It was her request that the burial should be made here. Prof. Carl Myers of Buffalo, under whose management the ascension was made, paid for the funeral expenses and Edward C. Clarage was buried in the Olean cemetery.
Within full view of eight thousand people who were at the race track yesterday afternoon, besides hundreds more throughout the city who were watching for the balloon ascension, Miss Carrie Myers, a 32 year old daring aeronaut, plunged 1000 feet to her death. The September 15th ascension was the fourth that Miss Myers had made here during the week, she having been engaged by the management of the Olean fair and races, to give a daily exhibition, consisting of a balloon ascension and double parachute leap. The three previous exhibitions had been thoroughly successful, and the generally expressed opinion was that Miss Myers’ work was the best ever seen in this part of the country. The unfortunate young woman was in the employ of the American Balloon Co., of Boston, Mass., and had been engaged in the hazardous business of making balloon ascensions for the past five years, without ever meeting with any serious accident. She was accompanied in Olean by the assistant manager of the company, Prof. A. W. Marsh, known throughout the country as “The Pine Tree Arrow.” Prof. Marsh has been making ascensions for over seven years, with marked success, his home address being 104 Boynton street, West Manchester, N.H. For several years Miss Myers had been in business for herself, but this year she had a contract with Prof. T. H. Flowers, the owner and manager of the American Balloon Co. She was known as “The Queen of the Clouds,” and was the only woman in the profession doing the triple act of making an ascension and a double parachute drop. While performing her act on Thursday, Miss Myers sprained one of her wrists and as she had to hold on with one hand while she cut loose with the other, the injured wrist gave her considerable trouble. In making Friday’s ascension she used what is termed a life belt, which goes around the waist and and is fastened to the trapeze bar. Thus, in case of accident, she could not fall from the bar. Before making yesterday’s ascension she was strongly urged by Prof. Marsh to use the life belt again, and Secretary W.B. Reynolds of the fair association also insisted on her using it, but she thought her wrist was strong enough, and professional pride was also a factor in prompting her to refuse it. The balloon rose to a height of fully 2000 feet before Miss Myers cut loose for the first drop. Everything went well and the parachute opened perfectly. The second cut was made, and just as the parachute was opening, Miss Myers was seen to fall backward, her hold on the ropes released, and she fell from a height of 1000 feet. Quigley’s ambulance was called to just outside the limits of the Jersey Farm between Thirteenth and Fifteenth streets and the dead girl was taken to the undertaking rooms where the body was prepared for proper burial. Her balloon name was Carrie Myers, but her right name was Mrs. W.H. Wilcox, and her home at Springfield, Mass. She is survived by her husband, her mother, one sister, Mrs. Norton of Torrington, Conn., and one brother, John H. Myers of Waterbury, Conn., who have been notified. Instructions received from her relatives are to bury Carrie here in Olean. She will be buried in Mt. View Cemetary.
OTE: The inscription on the Grave Marker below the date reads as follows.
“BY FALL FROM PARACHUTE ERECTED TO HER MEMORY BY ADMIRERS OF HER DARING EVENT”
You can find more information on early ballooning at the following web site.
The National Balloon Museum
Before 1911 Calbraith P. Rodgers was not well known in aviation circles and when he took off from Sheepshead Bay, New York, attempting to fly to the California coast in thirty days, aiming to win a prize of fifty thousand dollars offered by William Randolph Hearst, few people gave him much chance of even completing the flight, let alone doing so in the stipulated time.He flew a Wright EX Model B Plane that was prone to stalling even in the hands of a good pilot.
The plane was called the Vin Fiz, after the grape-flavoured soft drink produced by the Armour Company, which sponsored the flight. Rodgers’ route took him from New York to Chicago, then down to San Antonio, Texas, and finally along the southern border of the United States to Long Beach, California. This allowed him to avoid the mountains entirely, a barrier Rodgers was not equipped to hurdle. During the flight, Rodgers made sixty-nine stops, sixteen of which were crash landings.
Each crash landing necessitated repairs, and the times he landed without crashing, people flocked to the plane and grabbed a souvenir, usually a vital piece of the aircraft. Fortunately, Rodgers was not alone. He followed railroad tracks and below him was a private train paid for by Armour, on which were machinists, Rodgers’ wife and mother, and enough spare parts to build four complete airplanes just like the Vin Fiz. It turned out that he needed those parts, because only two parts of the original plane he took off in were still on the craft he flew into Long Beach on November 5th. Rodgers completed the four thousand-mile (6,436km) flight in fifty days, too late to win the Hearst money, but Armour rewarded him with a prize of their own of more than twenty thousand dollars. The most remarkable aspect of it, aside from his perseverance, may have been simply his having lived though all those crashes. In April of 1912, Rodgers died in a crash as the plane he was flying in an air show plunged into the Pacific off the coast of Long Beach.
For More on Vin Fiz
CHARLES W. SHOEMAKER, 114 W. Green St., Olean, N. Y. FAI number 93. He soloed November, 1911, in a Curtiss at San Diego and claims to have flown the first Curtiss Headless. Charles (Charlie) Shoemaker, (1891-1950) Olean Early Bird and an Olean businessman in 1937. One of the men who first beat the air with wings, slips into high gear about his favorite subject.
“I’m just a kid kicking around back in 1916 when I see one of those old pusher type planes flying. I’m bit immediately, if not sooner. First thing I know I’m sitting out in front of one of those babies with the wind streaming in my face and scared stiff. It’s on the west coast. We’re flying on North Island. North Island now is a naval training base. I work hard for three months. And I think as much of that license I won then as I do of my right arm.” Mr. Shoemaker proudly fingers the leather-bound credentials given him by the Aero Club of America, recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale as the governing authority for the United States. The card bears license number 93, which got him under the wire seven
ahead of the first hundred licensed fliers in the country.
(Above license courtesy of Larry Lang, Grandson of Charles Shoemaker) “This new-fangled stuff is a cinch. Soft cushions and control and two-way radio. Great stuff–but in those days if you could get a two-way look you were lucky. Not that I’m knocking present day flying.” “On the contrary, I think the men who are at the controls of planes today are so far ahead of those days there’s no comparison. A point I make though is this–aviation has bounded ahead from the days of the old pushers to the present luxury liners of the air.” “The type of man who sits at the controls is a trained type. He is a flying machine himself. And he has a co-pilot, if he doesn’t function right.” “I like flying. Always will. I haven’t flown myself in several years. Last big trip; I made was with the other Early Birds in the country who were invited by American Airlines to fly to New York to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first air mail line last September.” Mr. Shoemaker follows closely the progress of aviation, believes firmly in its great future and theorizes that ships in the not-too-far-off will be as different as today’s are from yesterday’s. He concurs with the aviation prophet who recently predicted the plane of the future will be tailess and will carry scores of passengers on long-time flights. He feels the oceans will be conquered easily. And that weather conditions will lose their grip on consistency of flight. He sweeps back into the old days with a sigh. “I’m sitting here telling all about this stuff, but I won’t ever forget how close I came to not doing it. When I decided to quit the West Coast in 1912, I turned over my flying contract with Rutherford Page in Los Angeles.” “A few days later I pick up a paper and read where Page is killed racing Lincoln Beachey. Yeah, I’m an early bird all right, but I often thank my stars I wasn’t too early.” The Curtiss school was opened on October 20th for the 1911-1912 winter season. Among the new students were: Dunford, an Englishman; George Capitsini, a Greek Army Captain; J.G. Kaminski, Polish; a turbanned Mohan Singh; K. Takeshi from Japan; plus several Americans: William Hoff of San Francisco, S.C. Lewis of Chicago, J.B. McCalley of Harrisburg, Charles W. Shoemaker of Olean, New York, Lansing Callan, Carl Sjolander and Rutherford Page. Also, F.J. Terrill of Springfield, Mass; R.E. McMillan of Perry , Iowa; C.A. Gerlin of Centralia, Washington; and M.M. Stark of Vancouver, B.C. One of Curtiss’ early woman students, Julia Clark, would arrive later, along with several American military students. In a month McClaskey, Lewis, McCalley and Shoemaker qualified for their licenses. McClaskey even astonished Curtiss, by doing a series of figure eights, remaining in the air longer than any other graduate, and speeding more than a mile-a-minute!
The earliest depiction of the Olean Airport was on a 1929 Rand-McNally Standard Map of NY with Air Trails. It described the “Olean Airport” as a commercial airport, operated by D. Murphy. The field was said to have a 1,500′ runway. The date of construction of this small general aviation airport has not been determined. The gas station adjacent to the airport is at the left, and the airport office is the small dark building on the right. The earliest known photos of the Olean Airport located in Maplehurst was in a series of 1930 photos by Archibald Schuyler. They depicted the airport as a grass airfield with a single arch-roof hangar & a small office building, adjacent to a gas station
A 1930 photo of an Eaglerock Longwing at Maplehurst, with Archibald Schuyler in the back seat.
A 1931 photo by Archibald Schuyler of planes lined up at Maplehurst with the airport office visible in the background.
A 1932 aerial photo by Archibald Schuyler of the airport at Hinsdale, showing a hangar (large building at bottom-center), the airport office (small building just to the right), and what appears to be the shadow of the airplane from which the photo was taken (bottom right).
The Airport Directory Company’s 1933 Airport Directory described the “Olean Airport” in Maplehurst as a commercial airport. (courtesy of Chris Kennedy) The sod field was said to be 50 acres in size, measuring 1,800′ x 1,000′. A hangar was said to have “Olean Airport Hinsdale NY” painted on the roof. The 1934 Department of Commerce Airport Directory (courtesy of Chris Kennedy) described the Olean Airport in the same fashion. The Olean Airport evidently closed (for reasons unknown) at some point between 1934-37, as it was no longer listed among active airfields in The Airport Directory Company’s 1937 Airports Directory or depicted on subsequent aeronautical charts.(courtesy of Bob Rambo) (See later newspaper article regarding Ken Guinnip re-opening airport at Maplehurst). Olean / Hinsdale Airport at Maplehurst is where Joseph Haley of First Street in Olean hangered his Ryan Monoplane. His Monoplane was an identical sister-ship of one flown by Charles Lindburgh. The Town of Hinsdale Highway Dept. Building now occupies this site. (All of the above information courtesy of Scott Schuyler). The following photos and newspaper clippings were copied from Ken Guinnip’s photo albums.
(Courtesy of Ken’s Stepdaughter, Joyce Gilroy).
Airport at Maplehurst (Scott’s Corners) in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Kent Farm on the back Hinsdale road was selling plane rides. Haskell Road Martin Farm – Bob Ewing took a blimp ride over Olean around 1936. Arthur Yahn & Paul Kane were also on board. The Haskell Road was the location where Lloyd Dahmen built an airstrip to fly his Twin Engine Piper Apache. Kenneth Reese also built an airstrip on the Haskell. Salamanca had an airstrip used by the Fanchers. Great Valley also had an airstrip for the local flyers.
Above photo on left (year unknown) depicts an airport believed to have been in the Little Valley area and was among the photos provided by Joyce Gilroy. Pete Giermek suggested it was Little Valley and Dick Messer has confirmed it with the photo on the right which is a recent aerial photo of the same area.
Olean Airport on the River Road started by Ken Guinnip. Flooding from the Allegheny River was a constant problem. Dailey Mills was a local industry that kept their Stinson here. Father Celsus of St. Bonaventure & Lloyd Dahmen flew their Stinsons from here. Mr. Vanderhorst & R. Danforth Brown also kept their planes here.
First mail flight from Olean
Nine Mile Airport in Allegany began to operate. Charles Seltz of Boardmanville in Olean flew his Aeronca from this airport. Bob Ewing, Mr. Seltz and Mr. Furey also flew from here.
New 1.5 Million Dollar Airport proposed by cities of Olean, Salamanca & Allegany for So. Nine Mile. A delegation composed of Joseph Donley of Buffalo, Airport Engineer; Alderman Weinman, Alderman Vincent, Chairman of the Council’s Aviation Committee traveled to Washington, DC to obtain Federal Funds for the proposed airport project. The Federal Government supported the project but funding would have to wait until after the war. Meanwhile, fourteen (14) Farmers protested the loss of their property for the Airport and Olean Council voted it down. A New
Airport was proposed for Midway in Allegany. The above phoyo of the Midway Airport in Allegany (year unknown) was provided by Joyce Gilroy from the Ken Guinnip collection.
Following provided by Joyce Gilroy.
Photo of Ken Guinnip and unknown person in front of Clark Bros. airplane probably taken sometime in the 50’s. Ken was Piloting for Clark Bros. during that time period.
Olean Common Council authorizes Mayor Ivers J. Norton to ask the Civil Aeronautics Authority for Federal Funding to build Airport on the Ischua site.
Mohawk and Allegheny Airlines both petitioned the Civil Aeronautics Board to serve Olean.
Ken Guinnup ceases operation of the Olean Airport on the River Road. A week prior to a News Gathering at the new Olean Airport, a Tennessee Gas plane was the first to land and take off from the new facility in Ischua. The day of the meeting with news people, the Chairman of the Olean Airport Commission, Charles Matson flew his Beechcraft Bonanza from the Olean Airport on the River Road to the new airport and gave flights over the area. The Olean Airport was dedicated on may 30,1959. Approximately 200 private planes were flown in along with a Mohawk Airlines plane. Three members of the National Midget Race Plane Association put on a flying exhibition. The Olean Pilots Club held a fly-in breakfast. Approx. 10,000 spectators were at the event. Why was it built? There were several small airstrips in the area, but none were long enough for the larger corporate aircraft. It was built primarily for the local industries, but supported by flyers and non-flyers alike. The Chamber of Commerce was very supportive with the hope that new industries would be attracted to the area. Who picked the location? The Olean Airport Commission / Planning Board selected the current location because the land was available, elevated above ground fog and free of obstructions. It was the highest airport in NYS at 2,120 ft ASL. The Airport Commission was part of the Planning Board. Ivers J. Norton was Mayor of Olean. Charles Matson was Chairman of the Airport Commission. Earl Eck was the Airport Engineer. Who provided the funds? The Federal Government provided 43% and the City of Olean provided 57% for a total of $1,555,000. This did not include the Landing Lights or the Beacon. Proposed future activities? 20 minute flights to view the Fall Foliage and charter flights.
Mohawk Airlines first Commercial flight from Olean Airport June 23,1960.
Following provided by Joyce Gilroy.
Pete and Paul Giermek provided the above poster that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the 1911 flight of the Vin Fizz. The replica landed at the Giermek Airport on the East River Road.
Flight Services Group, a corporate aircraft management & executive charter company based in Stratford, Conn. took over management of the airport in 1996. Plans for a chartered air service and an aircraft manufacturing facility failed to materialize. They tried to sell shared aircraft time to area businesses but could not find the required support. The City of Olean had a 10 year contract with FSG. Catt. County budgets funds for airport upkeep. The Catt. Co. Legislature hired Passero Associates, P.C. to do an environmental study for a proposed new 60 million dollar airport near Little Valley. They conducted a survey of area businesses by mail, only about one fourth of the surveys were returned which they considered to be approval to build a new airport. There was no taxpayer support to build a new airport and the proposal was dropped.
Aldermen agreed to support the purchase of a new Automated Weather Observation System at the Catt. Co./Olean Airport. Assemblywoman Patricia McGee was instrumental in helping the city obtain the grant. The new system will allow pilots to receive 24 hour reports on weather conditions at the airport over their radios within a 50 mile radius of the airport or over the telephone before they depart for the airport. Presently, there is no way to obtain a weather report when the airport is not staffed. Catt. Co. Legislators agreed to provide funds to help maintain the airport after Grant Scott, President of Scott Rotary Seals gave a brief presentation outlining the importance of the airport to area businesses. Following provided by Joyce Gilroy from Ken Guinnip’s collection.
The Catt. Co. Legislators considered cutting funds for year 2000 funding for the C.C. / Olean Airport. The City of Olean had requested funds from the county for repairs to the airport heating system, foundation and roof.
Olean Common Council votes to purchase new runway lights.
Olean Common Council approves funds for taxiway project. Catt. Co. budgets money for airport.
Airport Support Group formed.
Catt. Co. budgets funds for airport.
Catt. Co. budgets funds for the airport after the city, with support from the Airport Support Group, put on a graphic display showing the actual jet aircraft traffic at the airport and the amount of fuel sold.
The Olean Airport Support Group, formed in 2005, announces its enhanced presence in the Western New York region. After gaining momentum and support from local and state governments, it is time to take the next step in their journey for spreading awareness about aviation in Cattaraugus County. To continue carrying out their message, they have been meeting regularly to build a strong brand for the airport, working to increase awareness, both in the community and outside of the area. An extension of their communication efforts includes this web site. Throughout the summer months, the ASG has worked in concert to have an online presence to share news, history, photos, and other important airport information. As the site progresses, visitors will find it to be a source for pilots, travelers, and anyone interested in the Cattaraugus County Olean Airport. The committee member who stepped up tremendously to spearhead this project is Janice Volk. “We wanted to take our mission to the next level. Focusing some of our marketing efforts online became the obvious next step. We’re very excited to get people interested in seeing our site’s pages.” Additional efforts from a support group member came from Jason Wells, who provided technical support and free web hosting from his Olean-based business, Olean Web Hosting. Other members were able to provide information about the airport. Carey Litteer, president of the support group, provided aerial photographs, maps, and other key media surrounding the airport. Ed Flicker introduced valuable information and old photographs to elaborate on the airport’s history and its impact on the community throughout the years. Chris Napoleon was well versed in communicating about airport legislation, and local information for out of town guests. The ASG encourages the community to get involved with the airport by becoming supporters, attending events, or donating to promote the growth of the airport as a positive resource in Cattaraugus County.
Catt. Co. and the City of Olean budget funds for the airport. Hanger, ramp and security renovations are well underway transforming the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport into an evermore valuable asset to the regional community providing quality services to business and private travelers entering our region. A airport ribbon cutting ceremony is schedule for November 15th at the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport highlighting the improvements completed in 2007 to put the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport on par with other county and municipal airports, establishing a solid regional infrastructure for future growth of Cattaraugus County. Electronic bird repellers and overhead netting has been installed in the main hangar which has proven to be successful in keeping the aircraft free of bird droppings. New addition added to main hangar to house snow removal equipment. Private donations along with ASG funds purchased doors for the addition. Insulation added to underside of roof to prevent icing which caused water damage to the interior. Office part of main hangar completely remodeled.
Hanger, ramp and security renovations are well underway transforming the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport into an evermore valuable asset to the regional community providing quality services to business and private travelers entering our region. A airport ribbon cutting ceremony is schedule for November 15th at the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport highlighting the improvements completed in 2007 to put the Cattaraugus County/Olean Airport on par with other county and municipal airports, establishing a solid regional infrastructure for future growth of Cattaraugus County.
The 642nd Aviation Support Battalion conducted a training exercise at the Cattaraugus County / Olean Airport. Members learned how to operate the equipment required to load / unload aircraft as well as refueling procedures. Our local fire departments also participated. Photos of the activity can be found in the photo section of this website.
Construction continues on paving, fencing & security system.
The Cattaraugus County / Olean Airport was dedicated 50 years ago on May 30, 1959.
Concrete floor and insulation installed in snow removal equipment addition.
William (Bill) Thomas, local aerobatic pilot / instructor and author passes away.
Main hanger door seals replaced.
On June 4th, 5th & 6th, the Catt. Co./Olean Airport hosted the U.S./Canada Aerobatic Challenge. It was sponsored by the International Aerobatic Club, Buffalo Chapter 126 and coordinated by the Airport Support Group. Approximately 18 aircraft and 20 pilots participated. This was the first IAC Chapter 126 event and the first event of this nature ever at this airport.