William Evans, Test Pilot

William M. Evans
The new tent for the Monoplane arrived Tuesday. It is 40x40, rain proof, and will shelter the big bird till she flys. The engine will soon be here and a test will be made with the machine in the near future.
- Waynoka Tribune, 14 January 1910.

Waynoka Bimonoplane

“Waynoka is all up in the air,” said the Daily Oklahoman. “Rather, all Waynoka is looking up in the air. Cause: The residents of that sport-loving town are looking most any moment to see a 'flying machine,'' coming from Kansas City.”

The citizens of Waynoka still had a while to wait. The Kansas City Journal and the Washington Post reported in March 1910 that 70-year-old inventor W. D. Lindsley had put the finishing touches on a “foolproof bimonoplane” that was being completed in Kansas City and would soon be shipped to Waynoka, Oklahoma for its first test flight.

Kansas City Connection

The “Oklahoma Bi-Monoplane,” built in Kansas City at Sixteenth and Walnut by Lindsley with the help of mechanical engineer William F. Davis (“Designer of Special Machinery, Patents, Trade Marks”), filled the room in which it was built. According to the Post, the plane had been completed by early March 1910 and needed only an engine before it could be put to the test.

The Oklahoma Bi-Monoplane would also need a test pilot, and for that job the inventor turned to “W. M. Evans, a boy balloonist of Kansas City.” Evans, the Post reported, “is going to risk his life when it leaves terra firma.”

Test Flights?

There seem to be few available newspaper accounts of the Kansas City engine tests and Oklahoma test flights themselves. The Waynoka Tribune reports that the flying machine had arrived by March 18 and was being assembled by Mr. Lindsley in town. “It is planned to exhibit it for several days before the trial flights are made. Steps are being taken to entertain a large crowd.” The next week, the Tribune reported, “The Bi-Monoplane is on exhibition in the park, and is drawing a considerable number of visitors.”

By June 1910, the Tribune was still reporting, “Mr. Lindsley informs us that the engine for the flying machine is expected to arrive any day,” but not everyone showed such patience. The Daily Oklahoman asked, “Will Mr. Lindley of Waynoka ever aviate? He promised he would months ago. He didn't aviate, though. And all the time Waynoka has been advertising her bi-monoplane inventor as the leading attraction of the great and grassy-carpeted Northwest. The latest report is that Mr. Lindley positively will fly July 4.”

The Awful-Plane

Lindsley reportedly took the flying machine to Oklahoma City in September 1910 to exhibit it at the state fair. In October the Tribune reported, “D. Johnston has returned from Oklahoma City and regrets that Prof. Lindsley and his awful-plane were anchored in a tent just outside the fair grounds without a sign or advertisement and that the coin was not dropping into the inventor's mitt with any remarkable regularity.”

Waynokans were still waiting in 1911 when the Tribune grumped, “The Waynoka Awfulplane was loaded on a wagon and hauled over to Jet Sunday, where Prof. Lindsley will overhaul it, put on an 8-foot propeller, and make it fly, maybe.” Jet, a town about 45 miles from Waynoka, was to be Lindsley's new home. Then, the Tribune reported, the plane was moved back to Waynoka later that month. “The Waynoka awfulplane has been brought back and will remain in storage till something happens - don't know what it is, but something has to happen before it will fly.”

On the Salt Flats

In May 1911, the Waynoka paper reported that Lindsley and others had been out to the salt plains, and “It is said 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.”

So far, I have found only a few mentions of test flights and no reports of who the actual test pilot was. William Evans had agreed to fill that role in March 1910 and could potentially have flown at any point that spring or in May 1911, as his work with the W. I. Swain Shows was reported to have ended by then.


Other accounts of Lindsley's story say that he worked with Clyde Cessna, creator of the Cessna Aircraft corporation as the two tested their inventions on the salt plains in the spring of 1911 and that the collaboration between the two men ultimately led to Cessna's success when Lindsley's engine was combined with Cessna's frame.

More Airships

In spite of its talk about the “awful-plane,” by October 1911, the Waynoka Tribune was taking a more respectful tone. “Rev. Lindsley showed us Monday plans for two of his latest inventions in the line of airships. They are two distinct types, and look good. Mr. Lindsley is trying to find a manufacturer who will make and put them on the market, and we hope he will succeed.”

In December 1911, the Tribune reported, “Rev. Lindsley is rapidly recovering from the results of the paraletic stroke he had some time ago, and he gives due credit to osteopathic treatment he is taking.”

Next: The Waynoka Bimonoplane