Colorado Experience: Aviation
Transportation. Has always been a very important, issue in Colorado, we're located, in the middle of the continent and also at the base of the Rocky Mountains maybe. It's because of the 300, days of sunshine a year but we've, had more. Than our share of aviation. Pioneers, aviation. Is huge, in Colorado, for aviators, flying, across Colorado, to get from the east to the west has, been one of the great technical challenges of the 20th century, today Colorado, boasts, the United, States second, largest, aerospace economy. But the state's aviation, history had humble beginnings since, 1909. When some teenagers, began assembling a homemade, monoplane, since, then Colorado, and Coloradans, have soared into history, fasten. Your seat belts as Colorado, experience takes. Flight. This. Program, was generously, made possible, by the history, Colorado State Historical fund, supporting. Projects throughout the state to, preserve protect and, interpret Colorado's, architectural. And archaeological treasures. History, Colorado State Historical, fund, create the future honor the past with, support. From the Denver Public Library, history. Colorado and, the, Colorado, Office of Film television, and, media, with. Additional support, from, these fine organizations, and. Viewers. Like. You thank. You. The. Contrails, of aviation. Touch all of our lives farmers. In need of a forecast ski. Hills in need of tourists, mail. Merchandise. Meals, and of course visits, to mom the, imagination. Of many, can-do Coloradans. Has transformed, flights of fancy into, airborne, accomplishments. But Colorado, was an unlikely place for an aviation, Mecca the. Rockies were in the way without. Aviation. We're, stuck in a backwater, aviation. Makes the world a smaller place and, particularly, when you live in a place like Colorado, where we, are in the center of the continent but kind of distant, from the other big economic and social centers of the United States people. Were skeptical, that airplanes, would ever succeed, in Colorado, people felt that our altitude, and our ving atmosphere, simply wouldn't provide the lift that early aircraft needed in order to get over the Rocky Mountains, in the early days of aviation around. The time of the Wright brothers lots, and lots and lots of inventors. And tinkerers were experimenting. With flying machines nobody, knew what would work and nobody knew what wouldn't work it got so bad that in, 1909, the Denver Post offered. A $10,000. Reward for, the first designer of an airplane that would fly over the Rocky Mountains, and they weren't able to give it away, but. The friendly skies of Colorado would eventually host, manned flight. The, first airplane flight in Colorado wasn't made by a Colorado, at all there was a Frenchman Louie Paul Han and this was in February of. 1910s. This huge crowd there all, day long they tinkered with the engine trying to get the maximum amount of power out of it he was not ignorant, of the effects of altitude and he knew that it would be difficult to fly at Denver's mile high altitude, and finally, late, in the afternoon they. Got it going, and he, took, off and flew a few hundred feet straight ahead and touched down again and the crowd went, what. Is. That all quite. A few of them laughed but, for those that remained. He flew again and that. Was a much more magnificent. Flight he circled, the speedway, several times he went and circled the state capitol he circled the metropolitan. Area and the crowd went absolutely, wild and. They broke down the barricades, and they flooded the infield of the Speedway, which was his landing. Area and he's waving, them out of the way get out of the way I need to land and they, waved and, cheered they thought it was wonderful, and finally, he had to land in a farm field adjacent to the Speedway. In. 1911. About, a year after the first flight in Colorado Jules. John and Frank. Van der sorrow were three teenage boys growing. Up in Denver their house was not far from where Coors Field is now and they decided they were gonna build an airplane and they. Went about it the right way they, didn't just string. Some bedsheets over some wooden slats and jump off the barn roof they. Wrote to France and ordered the plans for, AB Larry Oh 11, now. AB Larry Oh 11, in 1910. Was about the most advanced, airplane, on the planet there's multiple.
Pronunciations. The French, pronunciation is. Blair II Oh Americans. Frequently. Read it phonetically, as Blair yacht bleary. Oh malarial. You'll hear it many ways, plans. Arrived they were all in French of course and they didn't speak French so. They got some help with translation. And even. At that they were guessing at the meaning of a lot of the terms because, it was technical, French they built. Their airframe they were meticulous, in their construction, methods came time to put an engine in it and, the. Cost of an airplane, engine was. About the same cost as a house in Denver at that time they, could no way and afford to buy an airplane engine, so they did what good. Colorado boys would do they designed, and build, their, own aircraft, engine, this isn't like building a lawnmower engine it's very. Difficult. To build something, light, enough to power an airplane but powerful enough to drag it into the air they. Succeeded, then they proceeded to teach themselves to fly. Johnny. And Frankie Vander Sol used to come over to our house a lot they talked about how when they were young they'd fly their Jenny over to Colorado women's college and they'd land there and they'd, pick up students, and fly the girls around they'd have them wing walking just like the great Waldo pepper, it was amazing, to hear their stories, a single, airplane could draw huge, crowds so, entrepreneurial. Pilots, became Barnstormers. Aviation. Was so new people, would come out to the field where they landed it wasn't even an airport and generally. It was just a farmer's field and, they, would offer, rides for, a couple, of dollars and just, enough to make enough money to buy, gasoline and go to the next field, and travel, the country, giving people rides. By. The 1920s. Businesses. Were recognizing, the benefits of flight but, the country was already, running out enough surplus, World War one aircraft, a couple. Of filmmaking, entrepreneurs. The Alexander, brothers wanted, more planes than were available to buy it was in this historic, moment that, innovations, in flight and film, collided. The, Alexander, Aircraft Company began really is the Alexander film company an early silent film production, company before Hollywood consolidated. It was a silent film company, they wanted to come up with a system, for distributing, their films the owners of the Alexander film company decided that airplane. Travel, was the fastest, way to take their films from, location to location. Owners. Of the company sent, away to, an airplane manufacturer, asking for an order of 50 airplanes, and the manufacturer, thought they were crazy, nobody, ever ordered more than one or two airplanes. At a time and so the Alexander, brothers instead decided, to just start building their own airplanes. They, opened, airplane. Production, facility, in Englewood, at the site of the old Cinderella, City and began, producing their, own Eagle, Rock airplane, and Alexander, Aircraft, very. Quickly became, one of the major manufacturers, of, airplanes. In the United States and by 1929. I understand, that they were making more airplanes in, Colorado, than any other state, in the Union, the Alexander, Eagle, rock was their main, offering, and because. It had been designed to perform, well at Denver's high altitudes, when, you took it to lower altitudes it performed, even better the early airmail, pilots, loved it and Barnstormers. Loved it if, you want to see a great example come down to the wings over the Rockies Museum, and just look over my shoulder you see one of their Alexander, Eagle Rock a homegrown, Colorado. Airplane, another. Great story that goes with the Alexander. Brothers in the Alexander, Aircraft Company there. Was this kid. Going to South. High School who was really interested, in aviation, when, the young aviation, enthusiast, asked, his guidance counselor where, he could learn to design safe, airplanes, he, was advised there, is no such thing but. He started hanging out down at the Alexander, Factory on one, occasion they, had pulled a brand-new airplane out to the Englewood Airport, and he, was watching them as they put, the wings on and set it up and he pointed, out to the test pilot that, the rigging was wrong it was put on wrong and it would cause, a crash if the pilot tried to fly it pilot. Looked at it and he said you're. Right so. He was hired by Alexander. Initially. To sweep up shavings, in the shop and they, discovered, that he was a really good draftsman, and within, a couple of years he was their chief engineer and he designed, the. Successful. Version of the Alexander, Eagle Rock and his last name was Mooney and pilots. In your audience will recognize that name al Mooney would earn a reputation as a designer, of safe planes but, aircraft, were anything but reliable, when World War one broke out in 1914.
It Took some seriously, brave pilots, some, from Colorado, to climb into these wood and fabric machines. To face the enemy Colorado's, aviation, history is amazing, we trace our roots back to the very beginning, of aviation, in World War one in particular the first ace ever our first pilot ever to have five victories, and become an ace came from Sterling, Colorado and that's Frederick Libby Frederick Libby was flying with the Royal Flying Corps the British Air Service this is prior to us getting into the war he had volunteered when, he was up in Canada looking. To make money in a gold rush, that was going on. And the. War broke out in August of 1914. He saw it as an opportunity to go overseas for a couple weeks and get to see Paris before the war ended of course it didn't work out that way is a very long four-year war and he was there pretty much for the whole part of it Libby, was a true Colorado, cowboy turned flight jockey and war, hero he. Shot down an enemy plane on his first day in battle, which also happened to be the first time he ever flew in a plane or fired a machine gun by. 1917. He reportedly, had 22, enemy kills to his credit, another. Colorado aviation, hero would emerge between world, wars but his contribution. To flight would not be with a plane or even, a gun, El. Rey Jefferson, would quite literally chart, the course of all future, aviation. Captain. Jeff even as a young boy, would, look at the birds he said one of his first memories, about three. Years old he remembers, looking, up at the birds and really, being fascinated, by flight as a young boy he would jump, off the barn. Into a haystack, with pretend wings on thinking. That maybe he could fly always growing up he had flight, in the back of his mind he barely finished high school and, wasn't, sure what he wanted to do but he ended up going out to the airport and, trading. Flight, lessons, for sweeping, and really. Trying to get, involved with, lying he only had two, and a half hours, of flight time, before he solo and one, of the favorite, things that I found was a newspaper, article about his, first solo flight normally. On a solo you go up and you do three stop-and-go, landings, and then you're cleared, to fly solo, but, he went up and he did loops and rolls at, one time he actually came down and they, say that, he thumbed his nose at his. Instructor, but he, in fact said that he was actually just trying to get a piece of dirt out of his eye so when, I found that I brought the article up to him and I said did you really thorn, is that your instructor, and he, just had this boy. Like twinkle, in his eye and he said now, do I look like the kind of guy that would thumb my nose of my instructor. Jefferson. Began working, in and around airplanes, and actually, spent some time working, with Barnstormers, as a wing Walker one of these daredevil. Acrobats, who would climb up onto the wing of a biplane and as it was flying around do different kinds of stunts climb up and down ladders balance. On the tips of the wings, it was early, form of daredevil, trees and then by the 1930s, he began working as a pilot on an airmail route Jefferson, was working at a time when aerial. Charts, and maps were very limited, airmail flying was, deadly. In those days one in six, airmail, pilots, died on the job, their. Rules, of employment, were such that they had to fly any airplane, that, the postal service provided, for them whether it was air worthy in their opinion or not they had to fly in all weather and if. They refused, to fly that was the end of their job and this. Was the 1930s the Great Depression so. Jobs, were hard to come by especially jobs. Flying airplanes, and El. Rey Jefferson in his. Career said to, save my own skin I'm gonna, make, a notebook and make notes on these. Fields. That I fly into there wasn't a lot other than word of mouth of the topography the weather patterns, the the elevations. Of the different air routes that pilots were flying in the 1920s. And 30s back, then there. Were no charts, there was no guidance, they were in open cockpit airplanes. In the wintertime flying, over the mountain and it was really, literally, uncharted. Territory, and they were doing it this sense of adventure most, pilots in fact in order to navigate successfully, would, literally take highway roadmaps very often produced by gas stations, and follow railroad, lines or roads or other landmarks the pilots, were, flying over. Mountain. Passes and, there, was one winter out of 18 pilots, four were killed and Jefferson. Realized. That there was a real need for up-to-date. State-of-the-art. Geographic. Information for, pilots and so purchasing. A 10-cent notebook Jefferson. Began keeping his own very detailed, notes of the various airplane, routes and started, making notes, on the airfields, that he flew in two things, like whether there were power lines along, the edge of the field that, you might not see if it was foggy which way the field drained so you'd know which side of the field was gonna be dry and which one was going to be muddy things, like whether there, was fuel, nearby or a telephone where you could call and get, the mail transferred, to a train, if, you, couldn't take off again Jefferson, literally, kept his notes and what he called it his little black book just, a cheap notebook, where he wrote down extremely, detailed information.
About The routes that he was flying and his, little black book was so valuable to him that other pilots, began asking for copies initially. He made him for free, you know he's helping save his fellow pilots lives it got to be such a demand, he had to draw all the notes, by hand that he. Said, I'm, gonna charge for him so he started charging ten bucks a pop and ten, bucks was a lot of money in the Great Depression that, was the foundation of the commercial, aeronautical. Charting, industry, producing. These maps and charts and, notes became, so, important. To other pilots, that Jefferson in time moved away from flying to produce new, maps and charts full time he was really an extraordinary information. Gathered, he would literally climb, to the top of hills and mountains so that he could measure their elevations. All of this in the, service, of making, airline, routes safer. And more, reliable for, the pilots and their passenger, and of course their cargo. In. World. War two, captain, Jeb did not fly for his country, he, drew he, was commissioned, but he didn't really. Go anywhere what, happened, was when, world war ii came around there were only eight locations that were charted, so, he, was, better used still, continuing, to chart the, Aleutian. Islands for example for the Navy and, his, company, still exists today as Jefferson they're the world's leading supplier of navigation. Information for Airlines. Corporate, pilots, private, pilot's virtually. Everything that flies Jefferson. Today makes charts, were our global, market it is still considered, the last word in up-to-date, accurate flight information for, pilots. Jefferson. Is commemorated, today in the Jeppesen, terminal of, the Denver International Airport, if, you go there today there's a large statue of el rey jeppesen take a moment to go by and say thanks because he's keeping you safe in the skies he, didn't get this sort of ballyhoo that a Lindbergh, God probably, wasn't as famous as Admiral, Byrd but, within his, own community of, aviators, people like already jeppesen we're rock stars just, as Captain Jeff's charts, survived, him a young, man from Denver's writing, survived. A war that, he would not Burt, Stiles, grew. Up in Denver went. To South High and, wanted. Nothing, more than. To be a really, good writer he was headed, for a career as a very successful writer when, world war ii came along when America entered World War two he was patriotic, like so many Americans, and joined and became, a pilot for the Army Air Corps he was a co-pilot, on b-17, bombers, flew. His required. Number of missions and was, eligible. To come back to the United States and sit out the rest of the war perhaps, as an instructor but he had always wanted to be a fighter pilot so, he retrained. As a fighter, pilot in p-51, Mustangs, the. Sad. End of the story is that, on, one. Of his first, missions, he followed a target into the ground and was, killed. The. Silver, lining to that is that. His parents discovered, that he had a completed, manuscript. About what it was like as a pilot, on the b-17, called, serenade, to the big bird and they, published, it posthumously, it, became a best-seller. During. World War two, military, aviation, became an increasingly, important, part of Colorado's, economy, in the 1940s. At the opening of Lowry Air Force Base after, world war ii and particularly during the Cold War Colorado, became a central hub for military. Aircraft development. And operations. Including. The development of, the United States Air Force Academy and the opening of NORAD in Colorado Springs.
When. The Martin company announced that they were going to open an aerospace manufacturing, plant in Littleton, that, was considered a very important, turning point in Colorado's, economy, up until the 1950s Colorado, had relied on a mining economy and an agricultural. Economy, but the opening of this new aerospace. Production, facility, inaugurated. The beginning of Colorado's, high-tech, economy. As. The aviation, industry was, changing one, thing was, not there, were no women, in the cockpit it did not change until 1958. When a recent, high school graduate. Working at a Denver cosmetics, counter decided. That she might want to be a stewardess, as the job was then called one, of the nice ladies, at the make company had a daughter going to school. In Gunnison Colorado Western. State College and she said, why don't you go, see her and see if you like flying and I thought it was a great idea so. I was all excited I bought a ticket and then on the trip back to Denver, the. Pilots as they frequently. Did invited, any passengers, who wanted to to come up in the cockpit and she went up in the cockpit and here. Out the front windows is spread the Magnificent. Snow-capped. Vista. Of the Rocky Mountains I just, fell in love with it and I was 18 I was just going talking. To the pilots about flying, and asking them lots of questions, but when we got back on the ground in Denver Colorado one. Of the pilots said well Emily, he, said if you like flying so much why don't you take flying lessons. And you, know what I said this is 1958. I said gee can a girl take flying, lessons and, they, said sure you can, she. Was using all her savings from. Her job at the department, store downtown and she, became a pilot and eventually. Became a flight instructor for. Clinton aviation, in the. Old Stapleton, and she became a little bit frustrated, because, men. Would come in train for 200-300. Hours, and get a job with the airlines and I thought well you know why can't I be an airline, pilot so. I started to apply in, 1967. And I picked, out three airlines frontier, was my first choice, I kept applying, and I kept sending updating. My applications. And I, did not get a response, until. 1973. And. She had 10, times 20 times the amount of flying time that these male pilots, had and, she couldn't even get an interview and. Finally, frontier, offered. Her an interview their, point of view was get. Her in here we'll put her in the simulator, she'll see that she can't do it and that'll be that, I was, scheduled, in the simulator, at frontier, at six o'clock that very evening so. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare then as I was waiting a real, nice thing happened, a gal came who was a receptionist. At. Frontier, Airlines she, came over to me and she said are you Emily Howell and I said yes I am and she said well we know you're here for an airline, job and we're, all rooting for you that, just did the, greatest thing for me it just gave me a lot of confidence and. That. Other people. Were know, about me and we're really rooting for me they put her in the simulator, and she. Knocked their socks off, until. Emily, Howell Warner, there were no female, pilots, on any scheduled. Commercial airline, and. It was a significant. Breakthrough for, women in aviation but once one, airline did it and they found out that all their passengers, didn't suddenly start booking other airlines because they didn't want to fly behind a woman it became okay for, airlines to hire female, pilots, other airlines started hiring women pilots and also, the Navy and the air force brought, women into the flight training, and so now you have women pilots in, all their forces and in, most of the airlines today way back in the 1920s. American, Airlines had, hired a woman pilot the, airline union, wouldn't admit, her so she couldn't fly women. Are still in kind, of the minority, but the doors have opened we've. Had our first commander, in space Eileen. Collins, Emily, is one. Of the most lovely. Women, I know she's. Strong. But. Not tough she's, intelligent, and, I look at her really even now, as. The. Role model, that I want to be as a woman, pilot. Today. Being a commercial, airline, pilot, is much easier than it was back in Emily's, day for sure but. It's still challenging and the fact that we're only 5%, we've got a lot to work to do but I love, it and I wouldn't do anything else. We, have one of the highest per, capita rates. Of people with pilots licenses, second, only to Alaska, I believe the.
Aviation. Industry has. Employed. Thousands. And thousands of people in Colorado major. Aerospace contractors. Like Ball Aerospace Lockheed. Martin the 21st century is revealing, that we're becoming a space hub space travel, is today, where. Air travel, was in, the 1920s as. Technology, develops, as Colorado continues, to be a leader in developing, aerospace, technology, we have an excellent chance of being the pioneers, who continue, to push the boundaries and move aerospace, technology, into the 21st, century and beyond colorado manufacturers, have made their gestures to manufacturing. And launching, spacecraft. That will orbit the earth and possibly even go beyond Martin. Marietta today, produces, components, for deep-space probes, that go as far out as human-made, objects, can, go the. University. Of Colorado has, one of the best aerospace, programs, for, research in the nation their aerospace, engineering, program. Is one, of the top engineering programs, in the nation all of these things have attracted, more and more aviation. To Colorado and aviation, I believe is the second largest employer, in Colorado, and is. The. Second largest contributor. To Colorado's, economy, after, agriculture. Forget, about the ski areas there and, tourism, space. Travel, is just making that transition now, to where, instead. Of it all being experimental, and, proving. That it can be done it's, transitioning, into, space. Commerce and, viable. Businesses, the space tourism business is about to take off literally, as passenger. Spacecraft, are going, to be coming online within the next few years Denver, is in. Line, to become a, spaceport, NASA. Recently announced, its next class of 12 astronaut, candidates, selected. From over, 18,000. Applicants, four of the 12 have true ties to Colorado, including. University of Denver graduate Rob :, the SpaceX launch chief engineer, hopes, to one day fly, a craft, of his own design. We're, pioneers, in Colorado, whether it's in the 1920s. Or the 1940s. Or the 1950s. Or the 20 teens we're, still pushing the frontiers, of what's, possible. Colorado. Brings, this spirit. Of adventure this. Feeling, of what else can we do that feeling that they could do anything and, so. They do there's, a quote from Lindbergh, that. Kind of sums it up for me science, beauty, adventure. What more can you ask of life. You.