Welcome to Offbeat Oregon History, a public-history resource for the state we love. Here's what you'll find here:
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Offbeat Oregon is a division of Pulp-Lit Productions, a boutique publishing house that specializes in classics from the pulp-magazine era — roughly 1910 to 1941. For more information or to check out our catalog, please see pulp-lit.com.
Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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But five miles beyond that was a big open field. Could he make it?
He glanced over his shoulder to see how much ground he’d covered since leaving the airfield — and that’s when he really became nervous.
Because hanging in the air behind the little airplane was a great billowy contrail of steam. He was two miles into a seven-mile flight and the engine was already overheating.
Would it make it? Would he make it if it didn’t?
Ted focused on the task. The little airplane droned on, its engine getting hotter and hotter. Sooner or later it would seize up ….
Then the field was in front of him, and he was touching down, and bouncing to a stop. The steam poured out and surrounded him like a fog bank as he climbed gratefully down from the plane. He probably felt like kissing the ground.
As a side note, it’s interesting to speculate on what the Stevens plane could have done on an airfield in the Willamette Valley. It’s pretty likely that if he’d been taking off from, say, the Eugene airport — elevation 374 feet, more than 3,000 feet lower than Bend — he would have been able to do a lot more with the little plane.
With another homebuilt that Ted was supposed to try out, he was saved from having to risk his neck by the builder’s impatience. Eddie Campbell of Prineville had, in 1930, got hold of the plans for a homebuilt design called “The Storms Flying Flivver,” a tiny high-wing monoplane powered by a Ford Model A engine.
The Model A engine was roughly the same size and weight as the Model T, but made twice as much power. And Eddie worked at a Ford dealership’s repair facility, so he had access to the equipment necessary to soup it up a bit.
Ted was out of town for a week when Eddie finished his project, and not expected back for another four days. Eddie, already a fairly experienced glider pilot, grew impatient. Plus, it was his plane; he wanted to be the first to fly it. So, he pulled it out and fired it up and pointed it down the field.
It would not take off. He tried it several times; at the proper speed, it simply would not leave the ground.
Eddie looked it over, scratched his head, and decided the problem was that it was “nose heavy.” Getting his tools out, he took the wing loose and moved it a little bit forward. Then he climbed back in to try again.
This time, the plane came off the ground, all right. It went straight into a steep climb, completely ignoring Eddie’s attempts to control it; stood on its tail, trying to hang from the prop, about 100 feet in the air; then stalled and pitched forward and slammed down into the ground, nose first, in a tangled heap.
Eddie’s friends gaped at the wreckage. Nothing moved in it. “Eddie’s killed!” they shouted in horror, then raced to the scene.
They found Eddie slumped motionless amid the wreckage. Fearful of a fire breaking out, they each seized one of his shoulders and started trying to drag him out.
“Hey, you guys!” Eddie suddenly called out. “Take it easy, will you? … My feet are stuck right through the firewall. You’ve got to get a saw and cut me out.”
They did so, then hustled him to the doctor’s to get checked out. His skull was cracked, and he later learned that one of his leg bones also had been cracked; but overall, he came out of the experience not much worse for wear.
The same couldn’t be said of the Storms Flying Flivver, though.