It made national news, both in the daily papers and the aviation trade press. William Evans, talented amateur from Kansas City, had made a remarkable flight - the longest by an amateur - on what was virtually his first try.
We know that Evans had claimed previous experience in ballooning and parachute jumping and had been recruited as a test pilot, although the success (or even the existence) of that actual flight remains a mystery. We also know that Evans was reported to have purchased a Santos Dumont Demoiselle aeroplane created by Thomas F. Hamilton of Seattle several months before, but because he had practiced away from the prying eyes of the Kansas City crowd, no one knew what he could or could not do, especially with a new, untried biplane. It may not technically have been his first time flying, but “novice flies 30 miles on his first try” makes for a much better newspaper headline, and Evans was hardly a seasoned aviator at that point.
The October 1910 issue of Aeronautics reported, “William Evans, of 817A East 15 Street, Kansas City, Mo., was able to fly 28 miles across country on his second day's experiment with the 30-foot Greene biplane fitted with an Elbridge four-cylinder engine. The first day he received the machine he made several flights back and forth the length of the half-mile field, with a propeller which was not designed to give a great deal of thrust. The next day he changed the propeller and made his 28-mile flight across country. Gliding down, he could not pick his landing and broke the front control.”
The local press was, at least at first, somewhat less impressed with Evans' flying. Said the Olathe Mirror, “Mr. Evans, who is practicing with his flying machine near Overland Park, had sailed about a mile south of his tent at a height of 200 feet last Saturday, when, in attempting to make the turn to come back toward the Park, his engine stopped and he shot toward the ground. His machine was badly demolished, but he put four carpenters to work on it at once and in a few days will be ready to make another flight. He has made several very successful short flights at a height of fifteen or twenty feet and for a distance of a thousand feet or so.” Another young fellow with his biplane - such things were becoming almost commonplace at the Overland Park aviation grounds.
While Evans may not have been as appreciated by the newspaper closest to the airfield, the nearby Kansas City Journal waxed poetic and even added a couple of miles to his total:
Evans Goes Thirty Miles in Biplane
Soaring over the tops of the trees in the vicinity of Overland Park, circling and dipping in a way that showed his complete control of the frail air craft, William Evans, the young Kansas City aviator, yesterday flew in his Greene biplane for thirty-five minutes, covering a circle the radius of which was about three miles and flying a total of about thirty miles.
Evans was forced to alight after his engine refused to work longer and he gracefully swept to the ground in a field near Breyfogle, Kas., a station on the Strang line, two miles west of Overland Park.
Despite the accident to his engine, his landing was effected with no more serious mishap than a broken elevator when the skids of his machine caught in the high grass. The elevator will be repaired at once, he says.
Evans's flight yesterday was one of the longest ever made in Kansas City and showed the gameness of the young amateur, who has been flying little more than a week. His trouble yesterday, he said, was that his gasoline tank is too small, and he intends to remedy the defect at once.
Friends of Evans and the spectators who had gathered at Overland Park were unprepared for his feat. He had just finished a few preliminary flights of a half mile and after a short rest again mounted the seat of his machine. The propeller was started and he skidded along the ground for about 100 feet. The machine then took the air gracefully and for 1,000 yards he hung close to the earth. Then he began to increase his elevation rapidly, passing over the trees at the end of the straightaway 200 feet in the air.
He flew straight on toward the South for three miles, then turned and came rushing back toward the tents at the starting point, varying his altitude. He passed over the tents and circled the town of Overland Park before coming back to the field again.
Hovering over the field, he executed a figure eight and made a number of other turns, some of them appearing to be accomplished almost in the length of his machine. After amusing himself in this manner for some time, he shot off toward the South again, was lost to the sight of the spectators for a moment as he drew near the ground and then was seen making for the West. As he passed over Breyfogle on his return trip, his engine stopped and he was forced to glide to the ground on his planes.
Evans, his machinist, Harry Boore, and the others at Overland Park were elated with his feat. “It’s the greatest sensation in the world,” Evans told his friends when they came up to his damaged machine. He already was planning the repairs necessary as the result of the accident and believes that the plane will be in shape for further flights Monday.
- Kansas City Journal, 27 August 1910, page 1.
Evans would soon have his first chance to fly as a professional aviator. Perhaps the Kansas City Journal coverage caught the eye of the Skidmore Punkin Show committee, as the men hired him for a three-day engagement to bring the first genuine aeroplane to town in late September 1910.
Next: The Magic Airship