Early Aviation At Newburyport, Massachusetts

Early Aviation Newspaper Articles

Of Newburyport, Massachusetts

early biplane

     The following newspaper articles, culled from various sources, offer a small glimpse of early aviation trials held in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


Successful Aero Flights

New Yorkers Make Several “Runs” with “Flying Fish”

     Newburyport, Mass. – April 17. – Over the marshes of Plum Island, the Herring-Burgess aeroplane, “Flying Fish”, made three successful flights today.  Arthur M. herring of Hammondsport, N. Y., piloted the machine in the first flight.  After alighting easily at the river’s edge after a 250 yards’ run, the craft was turned over to W. Sterling Burgess, who made two short flights.    

     The Salt Lake Herald-Republican, April 18, 1910.


Breaks World’s Record

Great Feat Of Burgess Aeroplane In Its Initial Flight

     Newburyport, Mass., April 18. – Three successive aeroplane flights by A. M. Herring of New York and W. S. Burgess at Plum Island aviation field Sunday created a record for heavier than air machines when the big machine started on each one of its three flights by its own power in skids while resting on the ground.

     The successful flight is the culmination of three years steady planning by the two inventors who made the flights, which marked the opening of the aeroplane era in New England.

     Orleans County Monitor, April 20, 1910


Flights By Auto Racer

New Device Works Well On Herring Burgess Aeroplane

     Newburyport, Mass., May 13 – William Hilliard, and automobile racer of Boston, made three successful flights in a new Herring-Burgess aeroplane at Plum Island aviation grounds to-day.  The machine he used had a new device of his own invention which supplanted the “fins” on the top, and is used to maintain the equilibrium of the machine.

     Several hundred yards were covered in each of the three flights, at a height of between fifteen and twenty feet, and during one ascension Hilliard was able to negotiate a complete turn, the first he has been able to make. 

     New York Tribune, May 14, 1910, page 3


Flight At Plum Island

     Newburyport, Mass., May 24 – The longest aeroplane flight in New England has been made by William Hilliard, of Boston, who went a distance of a third of a mile at Plum Island.  The machine worked smoothly and no mishap happened.

     The Washington Times, May 24, 1910, Page 13, Last Edition  


Biplane In Several Flights

     New Device to Give Lateral Stability Works Well at Plum Island

     Newburyport, Mass., May 27 – Several aeroplane flights lasting an hour and a half and covering distances from a quarter to half a mile at an altitude of fifteen feet were made to-day by William Hilliard in a Herring-Burgess biplane at Plum Island aviation grounds.  There was a brisk breeze blowing at the time, and it was thought at first the flights would have to be postponed until the air was calmer.  Hilliard, it is said, jestingly made a vow last night that he would not eat again until he had made a flight, and he evidently was hungry this morning, for he launched the machine despite the breeze and flew across the meadows.

     The biplane has lately been equipped with a new device to give lateral stability.  This device is intended especially for use in windy weather, and to-day it had its first real test.  the inventor and Mr. Hilliard say that it worked remarkably well.

     New York Tribune, May 28, 1910, Page 5.  


Insurance Companies Will Not Accept Risk Of Aviators As Ordinary

     Newburyport, June 8.  Evidence that insurance companies are not to accept the risk of aviators as ordinary has been revealed here in the case of A. L. Pfitzner of Hammondsport, N.Y., who has been making flights at Plum Island.  Pfitzner was visited by an agent of the insurance company Justas he was preparing for a trial of some new skids on a biplane today.  The company had heard of the narrow escape of Pfitzner a few days ago when he crashed to the ground from a height of 30 feet.  He was obliged to sign a clause absolving the insurance company from liability in case of death while engaged in flying machine flights.

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, June 8, 1910, Page 5.   


Aviator Pfitzner Makes Flight From Plum Island To Pork Island

     Newburyport, Mass., July 8 – A. L. Pfitzner, of Hammondsport, N. Y., made a very successful flight here today in a Burgess biplane, covering a distance of two miles at a height of 100 feet.  Pfitzner started from the Plum Island aviation field and landed at Pork Island.  The aviator said he could have gone farther but had to descend owing to his engne being overheated.  This is the most successful flight at plum Island so far.

     Mr. Pfitzner will make another flight this evening in the same machine while William Hilliard of Boston will also make a trip in his aeroplane.

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 8, 1910, Page 4.   


Aviator Falls Into River And Swims Ashore

     Newburyport, Mass., July 9 – Following a spectacular three mile flight across Plum Island meadows early today, A. L. Pfitzner, the New York aviator while flying at a height of 75 feet was hurled into Plum Island’s river when the machine which he was operating was capsized by a cross current of air.  Mr. Pfitzner swam ashore and went to the aviation shed and an examination disclosed a badly bruised head and it is feared that he is injured internally.  He plucklly stayed on the grounds until the remnants of the machine had been hauled from the river, after which he was driven to his quarters at the Plum Island Hotel, two miles distant. But little was left of his machine except the engine.  he was using a Curtiss biplane at the time of the accident.

     The Bridgeport Evening farmer, July 9, 1910, page 2.   

     Note:  This report of the accident states the aircraft was a “Curtis biplane”.  The following report states it was a “Burgess biplane”  


Fell 75 Feet

     Newburyport, Mass., July 9 – Following a spectacular three mile flight across Plum Island meadow today, A. L. Pfitsnor (Name misspelled – should be “Pfitzner”) of New York, flying at a height of seventy-five feet in a Burgess biplane, was hurled into Plum Island river.  The machine capsized in air currents.  It is feared he is internally injured.

     The Fairmont West Virginian, July 9, 1910, Page 6.   



Newburyport, MA – August 4, 1910

Newburyport, Massachusetts – August 4, 1910

     On August 4, 1910, a man identified as W. A. Bowman took off in an airplane at Newburyport, Massachusetts, and crashed just after becoming airborne.

     The aircraft was a “Flying Fish” model, “Burgess aeroplane”.  The Flying Fish was a pusher-style biplane produced at the Burgess Company aircraft factory in Marblehead, Massachusetts.    

     According to the  Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Bowman, who had never soared in an aeroplane before, took the machine out of the aerodrome and at once shot up to 60 feet.  There a great wind caught it and plunged it downward.  Its right wing hitting first, crumpled up, the main beam ploughing three feet into the earth, and Bowman was hidden under a mass of wreckage.”

     “The article went on, “The crowd dragged him out of a tangle of wires and wings.  He was dazed.  From his face and body blood poured from a score of cuts.  His right shoulder was bruised and a jagged cut over one eye blinded him in blood.”  It was also stated, (Bowman) was “injured internally and so badly crushed that he may die.”  

      Research has not been able to ascertain if Bowman survived.  

     One interesting item mentioned in the article referred to a Lieutenant Alexander L. Pfitzner, a Hungarian aviator, who had apparently had an accident with the same aircraft about three weeks earlier.  It the article it was stated, “Bowman’s flight was the first the unlucky plane has made since it fell with Lieutenant A. L. Pfitzner…” 

     Lt. Pfitzner’s accident occurred on July 9, 1910, when he crashed in the Plumb Island River during a test flight over Newburyport.  In that instance, the aircraft encountered a strong cross-wind while at a 100 foot altitude, and was forced down into the water.  Lt. Pfitzner was able to extricate himself and make his way to shore.  

      The lieutenant had come to America about 1902, and had been involved with aircraft design at the Herring-Curtis Aeroplane Company at Hammondsport, New York.  He helped to design the engine used in the aircraft Glenn Curtiss flew when he won the James Gordon Bennet Cup at Rheims, France, in 1909.  That same year Lt. Pfitzner came to Marblehead, Massachusetts, to serves as Superintendent overseeing the manufacture of Burgess-Curtis airplanes.  In that capacity, he had made about forty flights from Plum Island  at Newburyport, Mass.     


     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “”Hurt In Aeroplane Crash Bowman May Die”, August 4, 1910, Page 4.  

     (Woonsocket R.I.) Evening Call, “Flying Machine Drops Into River”, July 9, 1910, Pg. 1

     New York Tribune, “Aviator Takes His Life”, July 13, 1910.

    The Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society, www.massaerohistory.org




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