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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon Resident Lincoln Beachy Was Aviation Pioneer

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

In the early part of the 20th century, aviation was viewed as a new experiment in transportation. Certainly everything as far as aerial navigation at this time was perceived as tentative. It took a Lebanonite to take hold of this new craze and elevate it to his/her standards. This man's name was Lincoln Beachy.
He was born in 1887 and was the grandson of Thomas Beachy of Lebanon. Lincoln was known in the City of Cedars as Professor Beachy. He was an inventor and pilot and was described as one of the "most coolheaded and nervy men in a work that required the greatest self control, and steadiness of hand and eye." His aerial debut involved the operation of small airships for Thomas Baldwin.
In the early part of this century, the dirigible was coming fast in America. Beachy flew one of Baldwin's airships at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, creating a sensation with his daring exhibitions.
On June 13, 1906, he made a spectacular flight around the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., in full view of Congress. In 1906-07, Beachy flew two airships on an international excursion, which extended from Montreal, Canada, across the United States, and down to Mexico City.
The dirigible was a popular attraction at many fairs and exhibitions. A rivalry between Roy Knabenshue and Lincoln Beachy was the main attraction at many of the larger meets. The latter beat the former in an air match of the St. Louis Aero Club, October 4-9, 1909. Beachy won $1,000 for his efforts.
With a wandering eye, he soon gave up ballooning and moved on to Curtiss pushers and ultimately received his aviator's certificate in 1911. Lincoln became a pilot as well as a stockholder for Curtiss and flew for his exhibition company. In this venture he was often known as "The Flying Fool." He eventually capped a reputation as "America's greatest aerial exhibitionist."
One of his most sensational flights was made in a Curtiss biplane on June 27, 1911. The fearless aeronaut rolled through the mists of Niagara Falls, descended down to within 30 feet of the thundering river below, glided under the International Bridge, and proceeded down the deep gorge. Fifty thousand onlookers were held spellbound. He received $5,000 for this remarkable stunt.
Beachy performed with so much skill in his 80 h.p. aircraft, that, as he buzzed around racetracks, he would casually drop the planes' wings to the ground and sling up dust for the audience's entertainment.
He teamed up with the famous race driver Barney Oldfield in another extraordinary stunt. One source says that with car and plane speeding along at 60 M.P.H., Beachy would position his plane just over the speeding racer and carefully settle a front wheel on Oldfield's head.
His most breathtaking feat was to cut his engine at 5,000 feet, and dive headlong toward the ground, pull out at the last minute and negotiate a perfect landing. Another rather dramatic stunt was that he once roared down Chicago's Michigan Boulevard, just above the heads of the dazzled pedestrians, scaring the daylights out of them.
At Ascot Park in Los Angeles, he spotted a number of people who had gathered in a tree to beat the admission charge. He immediately dropped his plane, and, with his unusual, uncanny accuracy, just sheared off some of the branches. Panic arose amongst the spectators as they scrambled to get away from this flying machine. The end result was that three spectators received broken arms and one a skull fracture. At Hammondsport, New York, in 1913, Beachy flew too close to a hangar roof and killed one spectator while injuring three.
He retired in 1914 and was still treated as a hero. Up to his retirement, he was paid as much as $1,000 a day to fly.
As one sometimes flirts with fate, thing often happen. Such was the case of Lincoln Beachy.
In March 1915 he came out of retirement and performed his last stunt. Lincoln Beachy, a native of Lebanon, plunged to his death in San Francisco Bay at the age of 28. He fell 2500 feet and dived 40 feet below the surface. Thousands of stunned and terror stricken citizens watched in horror. His homemade plane was still in experimental stages and, while doing a loop, the wings fell off. The plane struck the water tail first.
An autopsy performed later showed evidence of the struggle the aviator had made in his efforts to get free. The safety belt he had relied on so much in his performances now held him captive until the end.

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This page created 28 July 2004 and last updated 4 September, 2010
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