Lincoln J. Beachey : biography
Lincoln J. Beachey (March 3, 1887 – March 14, 1915) was a pioneer American aviator and barnstormer. He became famous and wealthy from flying exhibitions, staging aerial stunts, helping invent aerobatics, and setting aviation records.
He was known as The Man Who Owns the Sky, and sometimes the Master Birdman.Marrero, Frank. Lincoln Beachey: The Man Who Owned the Sky Scottwall Associates (1997) ISBN 978-0-942087-12-3 Beachey was acknowledged even by his competitors as "The World's Greatest Aviator". He was "known by sight to hundreds of thousands and by name to the whole world."
In 1913, a Russian pilot, Captain Peter Nesterov made the first inside loop. Frenchman Adolphe Pegoud later that year became the second and more famous person to do it and Beachey wanted to try it himself. Curtiss refused to build him a plane capable of the stunt, and Beachey left the flying team. At the same time, he wrote a scathing essay about stunt flying, stating most people came to exhibitions out of morbid eagerness to see young pilots die. On March 7, 1913, he announced he would never again fly professionally, believing he was indirectly responsible for the tragic deaths of several young aviators who had tried to emulate his stunts."Beachey to Quit Flying." New York Times, March 9, 1913 In May, he would cite twenty-four fatalities, all of whom were "like brothers" to him. He felt tremendous guilt about their deaths and the suffering of their families.
Beachey went into the real estate business for a time, until Curtiss reluctantly agreed to build a stunt plane powerful enough to do the inside loop. Beachey returned and, on October 7, took the plane up in the air at Hammondsport, New York. Unfortunately, on its first flight either a downdraft or a loss of speed following a turn caused the plane to dip momentarily. One wing clipped the ridgepole of a tent on the field and the plane then swept two young women and two naval officers off the roof of a nearby hangar, from where they had been watching the flight, contrary to Beachey's wishes. One woman was killed and the others injured as a result of the fall, a distance of about ten feet. Beachey's plane crashed in a nearby field but he managed to walk away from the wreckage with minor injuries. (A coroner's jury ruled the death of the 20-year-old woman as accidental.)"Aeroplane Sweeps Roof, Killing Girl", New York Times, October 8, 1913; "Beachey Explains Accident", New York Times, Oct. 13, 1913. Beachey decided for the second time to leave aviation.
However, the sight of a circus poster changed his mind. The poster depicted a plane flying upside-down, a stunt that hadn't been attempted yet. Beachey was determined to master the loop and upside-down flight, but decided to go it alone.
He tried making a living demonstrating loops on exhibition grounds, but soon found that people would not pay to see a stunt they could see easily outside the gates. He retired for a third time, but returned when his manager had an idea that he depicted in a poster: the "Demon of the Sky" against the "Daredevil of the Ground." Beachey was to race his plane against a racing car driven by the popular driver, Barney Oldfield. The manager made sure there was a high fence around the exhibition grounds, forcing people to pay if they wanted to see the race. Beachey's plane was faster than Oldfield's car, but they took turns "winning," and crowds flocked to see their daily competitions. With the money he earned by racing, Beachey designed and built a new plane, the "Little Looper." He had his name painted in three-foot-high letters across the top wing. Soon he was flying multiple loops. Whenever he heard about another pilot setting a record for flying continuous loops, Beachey would promptly break it, flying as many as eighty loops in a row. Beachey and Oldfield toured the country, staging races everywhere they went. In Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers, they performed to a crowd of 30,000.
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