In 1909 and 1910, a seventy-year-old inventor named William D. Lindsley captured the imaginations of Americans from Kansas City to Waynoka, Oklahoma, to Washington, DC. Lindsley, already the successful inventor of a device used to connect railway rails, had decided to turn his attention to flying machines. The Washington Post reported, “By the same methods of brain matter used by him in keeping trains from tipping from their tracks he has now built an airship which he guarantees cannot tip in midair.”
Lindsley's Oklahoma Bi-Monoplane was described as “made of aluminum, the framework being composed of tubing about two inches in diameter, and it is braced and cross-braced with piano steel wire. From tip to tip, sidewise, the machine is twenty-eight feet, and from front to back twenty-one feet. The main part of the framework is five feet high, a few of the highest bars in the center being about nine feet. The propeller has four blades, six inches long and six inches wide. The engine is directly underneath the aviator's seat and is arranged so that it is under the immediate control of the aviator.”
The aeroplane was said to weigh just under 400 pounds, including the 115-pound engine. It was, the press reported, tip-proof because “it has the same expanse of canvas fore and aft,” and was so stable that the pilot could “shut 'er off a half mile high and smoke a cigarette.” None of the reported test flights reached that height and, thankfully, no one tried that particular trick.
Lindsley's friend, millionaire rancher John Wishard of Fort Worth, Texas was to be the first customer for the Oklahoma Bi-Monoplane. Wishard found more traditional vehicles to be too slow and wanted a flying machine that would allow him to “skim over his acres and drop rock salt to the cows and get home for supper at the ranch house without undue uneasiness on the part of his family.”
Unfortunately for Wishard and Lindsley, the test flights were not successful. “It is said,” reported the Waynoka Tribune, “that the Waynoka flying machine acted all right at the salt plains aviation field, as far as it got. It got up in the air a few feet then something happened to the engine. But it is going to fly, some day, maybe.”
The Oklahoma Bi-Monoplane may not have soared in literal terms, but it certainly inspired the imagination.
'This flying machine represents the thought and experience of many years,' says Lindsley 'and the culmination of my life's work. Years and years ago I studied, thought and dreamed - all inventors are dreamers - and watched the turkey-buzzard and the crow as they soared through the hazy, lazy, dream atmosphere above the hills of Arkansas I became fully convinced that the genius and skill of man could construct a machine that could equal the movements of a buzzard. And why not? Certainly there was no reason why I could not do that.'
- Daily Oklahoman, 20 March 1910.
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