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Building the Vision: Twister tears up Nicholas-Beazley hangar, planes

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

(Photo)
I am most gratified on this day after the election, to have received a call from a lady in Pennsylvania who has been reading these articles about Nicholas/Beazley. I haven't had a chance to talk with her personally, but on her message she said that she and her family want to give a donation to the Building a Vision project. She inquired about an endowment and about recognition for contributors. We have both things in place, with all contributors being recognized in a prominent location within the new structure. I am pleased about the money, of course, but am also pleased that somehow people in Pennsylvania are learning about Marshall's heritage. One never knows how far-reaching his words and deeds may be.

Today, I want to begin by going back to October of 1927. The incident about which I am going to tell you, brings up an occurrence that is unusual in a couple of ways. First, it speaks about a tornado that hit near Marshall (something that doesn't happen often, I am glad to say), and secondly, the tornado struck in October ... not exactly a month we think of when we think of tornado activity in Missouri. This article appeared in The Marshall Democrat-News on Oct. 6, 1927:

"Twister Strikes the Airplane Flying Field

"Hangar is Wrecked, One Plane Demolished

"and Six Others Damaged by Storm Here

"A twister of velocity from the southwest swooped down about 7 o'clock this morning on the Nicholas/Beazley flying field, a mile east of Marshall, and picked up airplanes and hangar in its play. Its play did considerable havoc.

"The top of the hangar and most of the building's side walls were pitched over highway No. 20, parts of the structure scattered over the farming land to the north.

"One plane was completely destroyed and in doing that the cyclone exhibited one of the freaks for which cyclones are so famous. This plane was in the hangar, which was open on the south. The machine, a Hisso Standard, was pulled backward out of the hangar, rolled into a ball, swept across the road, and left a jumbled heap in a field. Even the engine of the plane was demolished. To finish the job thoroughly, the wind then put another plane in the exact spot in the hangar where the wrecked machine had been standing. The torn up airplane belongs to a man living in Virginia. He had purchased the ship from Nicholas/Beazley and was expecting to return for it in a short while.

"The company suffered minor damage to six other planes at the field.

"The ship of H. C. Young was whirled around by the cyclone but practically without any damage to it. It is believed the wind did a loop with this plane. At any rate, the plane was picked up and deposited on telephone wires in the highway facing an opposite direction.

"All the planes outside the hangar were carefully tied down but the anchorage wouldn't hold against the twister. The damage could not be estimated, it was said at the company offices. The hangar will not be repaired."

By Dec. 1, 1927, when this next article appeared in The Marshall Democrat- News, the flying school was on a roll.

"Flying School Enrollment Here in Big Increase

"There Are Forty Pupils Now Taking Aviation

"Course of the Marshall Flying School

"Enrollment in the Marshall Flying School is increasing rapidly. Even within the last few months it has jumped from eight or ten pupils to forty at the present time. In the month of November alone, there were thirty-six new students enrolled.

"The school is a combination of the theoretical, ground work, and flying. These three divisions of the work are so intermingled that progress in each is about the same, thus preventing a lopsided course of instruction.

"Derek White is the general manager of the school. The technical lectures, which take up the theory of aviation, designing, and such subjects are presented by Walter Barling, the aeronautical engineer connected with the Nicholas/Beazley Airplane Company. These lectures are given in a room at the Chamber of Commerce Building. Whenever the weather is unsuited for flying, the lectures are held.

"The school maintains six instruction planes. Four of these are in active use and two are held in reserve. There are four instructors and consequently a reserve plane for each two instructors. Claude Sterling is the chief flying instructor and D. S. Zimmerley is his assistant. Billy Beal and Charles Gatschett are the other instructors in flying.

"The students get the ground work by helping the regular staff of mechanics assemble planes, make repairs, etc.

"The training planes are dual in equipment. There are two cockpits, two sets of controls, two sets of instruments. The instructor rides in the front cockpit and is in constant communication with the student in the rear cockpit through a telephone communication system. The two sets of controls are connected so that if the student is driving and happens to make a false move, the instructor can correct it at once.

"On good days it isn't unusual for the training planes to get anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours of flying.

"The Nicholas/Beazley Company expects to occupy its new building shortly before Christmas. Already some material is stored there.

"The entire office will be moved to the new building and all of the building now occupied by Nicholas/Beazley will be turned over to the Marshall Flying School. Lecture and demonstration rooms will be provided.

"(A list of the students enrolled appears at the end of the article. Their states and countries are as follows: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Rhode Island, Montana, Wisconsin, Canada, and China.)

Check this out ...

The business of flying, as we know, was in its early years. The individuals who became involved had to be (at least in my mind) curious, intelligent, innovative, brave, and daring. There were significant risks, not only to the daredevils who performed stunts for the adoring crowds, but for those who took a more conventional, serious approach. This tragic incident, recorded in The Marshall Democrat-News May 3, 1928, underscores this fact.

"Plane Crash is Fatal to Two Aviators Here

"Killed When Latter's Ship Stays in Flat Spin

"The Jury's Verdict:

"We, the jury, find the two deceased came to their deaths by the failing of an airplane 6 1/2 miles southeast of Marshall. We further find that said deaths were purely accidental and further find that the Nicholas/Beazley Airplane Company was in no manner to blame for said accident." Members of the jury were W. S. Dempsey, F. H. Wells, J. W. Ervine, Arthur Ehrnman, J. Frank Davis, and E. W. Brown.

"George A. Malkmus, of Kansas City, ground instructor for the Marshall Flying School, and Harold P. Hutchinson, a visiting pilot here, were killed about 7 O'clock Friday evening (April 27), when Hutchinson's plane in which Malkmus was riding as a passenger went into a spin at a 400-foot altitude and crashed to earth. Malkmus evidently was killed instantly, but Hutchinson lived a few minutes after being removed from the wrecked ship.

"Dr. B. M. Spotts, coroner, held an inquest at the Vandiver and Sweeney undertaking rooms. First witness was Russell Nicholas, president of the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Company, with which the Marshall Flying School is affiliated.

"(Time and space prevent my including the rest of the article here, but I will begin with it next week to include the eyewitness accounts. Thanks to all of you who have supported the Civic Center/Museum efforts with your donations. Please contact headquarters at (660) 886-2630 to find out how you can contribute.)

Building the Vision appears on Wednesday.

ANITA WRIGHT, Columnist
Building the Vision