But will it ever fly?
– Ceremony to mark 100 years since first flight over Idaho

Clouds, rainbows, birds and the sun. Until 1910, there wasn’t much else in the skies over Lewiston. Or anywhere else in Idaho. No jet trails. No commercial flights. No private aircraft.

That changed on Oct. 13, 1910, when James J. Ward of Chicago maneuvered a simple biplane off the ground from a primitive airstrip in Clarkston, Wash., crossed the Snake River and cast a shadow of his craft over Lewiston.

Powered flight had come to Idaho.

One-hundred years and 10 days later, the momentous event will be celebrated in Lewiston this weekend. Pilots and planes will converge Saturday (Oct. 23) to commemorate the advent of powered flight at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. in the Stout Flying Service hangar at the airport.

Witnesses who would have been on hand for the 1909 Glen Curtiss Model D Pusher flight over Idaho might recognize a bright yellow aircraft scheduled to touch down at the airport Saturday. Lewiston-area pilots Dean Wilson and Jim Otey used aircraft design specifications to recreate the historic aircraft. It will be on display along with other related historic items at the centennial of flight observance.

“Early in 2008, while helping his recently widowed sister clean out the attic of her home, a Clarkston man came upon a roll of aircraft construction plans,” according to information promoting the centennial celebration. “Not knowing what value – if any – would be associated with the plan, he called the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) chapter in Lewiston to see if anyone would have interest in them.

“Eventually, EAA member Jim Otey and aircraft designer/builder Dean Wilson of Clarkston discussed the idea of commemorating the upcoming 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in Idaho.”

They used the aircraft plans to create an open skeleton that supports the dual wings, added a simple seat and steering column and assembled it on a three-wheeled frame. The result is a plane that is a striking replica of the first to fly over Idaho.
Wilson modified the original plans to the Herring-Curtiss configuration. He piloted the replica on its maiden flight in July. It has rested quietly in the EAA hangar at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport since that flight.

The Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa may become its final home, following the weekend event. It tentatively will be dismantled and shipped to the museum for permanent display.

William McCann, chairman of the airport authority board of commissioners, will preside over Saturday’s event as emcee. Guests include ITD’s JV DeThomas, Division of Aeronautics administrator; city and county representatives, and flight/airplane enthusiasts.

See related story
See flight milestones

Published 10-22-2010