Centennial of Flight ceremony planned Saturday in Lewiston

The Lewiston Tribune
An open house to commemorate the centennial of the first airplane flight over Lewiston, which also was the first powered flight over Idaho, will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport.

It will be at the Stout Flying Service Hangar west of the main airport terminal.

Gen. Darrell Manning, chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, will join mayors of Lewiston and Clarkston and the chairman of the Nez Perce County commission in recognizing the 100th anniversary and honoring the team that built a replica of the 1909 Herring-Curtiss Model D Pusher that made the first flight.

William V. McCann Jr., chairman of the new five-person board that took over management of the airport Oct. 1, will be master of ceremonies.

The biplane, made on a hand-built wooden frame and covered with a gold-colored fabric, will be on display. The plane will be flown following the ceremony, if weather allows.

Members of the construction team, most of them members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 328 based at the airport and led by Dean Wilson of Clarkston and James Otey of Lewiston, also will be honored at the open house.

Wilson is a longtime pilot, aircraft designer and builder. Otey also has been a pilot and aircraft builder for many years.

They led the volunteers who spent two years constructing the replica after a Clarkston man found a set of plans for it in his widowed sister's attic in Clarkston. Wilson modified the plans slightly to make it safer to fly, the EAA chapter donated the use of its hangar, and numerous individuals gave time, money and materials.

The eventual cost of the construction is estimated at about $30,000.

A booth with memorabilia and information about the history of aviation in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley also will be on display.

Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter has proclaimed October to be Idaho Centennial of Flight month and Lewiston Mayor Kevin Poole has done the same for the city, according to organizers.

The aircraft that made that first flight was brought to the valley by rail in 1910, less than seven years after the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, made their first powered flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It was assembled at an airstrip in Clarkston near the Snake River by a couple of mechanics who traveled with the disassembled aircraft.

That first flight over Idaho actually originated from the Clarkston airstrip. On Oct. 13, 1910, pilot James J. Ward took off into the wind, flew over the river, circled downtown Lewiston and returned.

Two days later, according to old newspaper accounts, during yet another flight, the motor stopped in midair and the plane crashed on the banks of the Snake River. Ward survived with minor injuries by jumping from the plane just before it hit the ground.

The original Pusher had a top speed of about 50 miles an hour. The new one has been flown as fast as 60 mph, but Wilson and Otey said it generally cruises at about 45 mph.

Other pioneers of aviation history here who will be recognized include Joe Lamarche of Clarkston, who used a pocket flashlight to direct the first night landing in the valley, the Zimmerly brothers, who established Idaho's first commercial airline service, and former Lewiston City Engineer William Hughes, who is credited by many with being the driving force behind establishing the present modern airport.

See related story
See flight milestones

Published 10-22-2010