Rural Missouri - June 2012 - (Page 10)
Ron Brown, left, and Fred Clapp are two members of the Pheasant Airplane Association in the northeast Missouri town of Memphis. The group rallied the town to purchase one of only three remaining Pheasant H-10 biplanes still in existance. The Pheasant Aircraft Co. called the little town home back in the 1920s.
The little town that could
One northeast Missouri community brings a historic plane home to roost
by Heather Berry firstname.lastname@example.org A Pheasant Airplane Association member takes a photo of the Pheasant H-10 biplane after it’s unloaded, minus the wings, in downtown Memphis on April 21. the group last December. While on Christmas vacation, Harlo checked the plane out for the group. “Needless to say, I came home and told the guys, ‘Hey, we gotta do this.’” Of the few dozen H-10 biplanes made, only three are known to exist today: one in Canada, one in Wisconsin and the one in New York. So the association felt they had to raise the funds to buy a piece of local history. Memphis already had a museum organized, so the group tied in with them. But there were a couple of problems — there was another potential buyer, and the seller wanted $70,000 for the biplane. “It truly became a community project,” says Fred, a member of Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative. Support began pouring in. People who had long since moved away sent donations. Fans bought buttons, hats and ornaments in support. And in only ﬁve months, the group bought the plane. “Not bad for a town of 2,000 people,” says Harlo. On April 21, a semitrailer pulled into Memphis to the cheers of hundreds of fans as several members of the aviation association proudly helped unload the Pheasant H-10. The group’s next goal is to build a 40-by-60-foot building to house the plane and display remaining memorabilia so everyone can see this rare piece of Memphis history. Until then, people can see the plane at the Wiggins Family Museum on Highway 136. “To know there are only three left in the world — and know what we did as a community to bring it here, that’s exciting,” says Harlo. “We brought the gal back home where she belongs.” To ﬁnd out when the plane is on public display or more information about the biplane, contact Fred Clapp at 660-3412307 or Ron Brown at 660-328-6361.
photo courtesy of the Memphis Democrat
Harlo says a potential pilot would come to Memphis, go up with the instructor and ﬂy around a bit. Then the duo would land and the “student” t was the 1920s, and World War I would take the controls and ﬂy home. had just ended. Aircraft played a Boom, the student is a pilot. large part in the war. Much more Sadly, tragedy hit on Dec. 5, 1927, than a weapon, planes were used when Lee and a student, Otis Oliver, to deliver enlisted men and supplies were killed during a ﬂight. to the front. People were starting to Stanley Meyers of Linn remembers realize the role aviation could play in his mother telling a story of walking their lives. home from school as a young girl and Local Memphis, Mo., resident Lee seeing something falling from the sky. Briggs had served in the U.S. Army’s “She thought she saw someone’s Air Corps, and after ﬂight instruction shoes fall to the ground. She didn’t from famous pilots such as Charles know until later that she’d witnessed Lindbergh and Scotland County’s own the pilot and his student fall to their Leslie Smith, Lee bought a plane. In demise,” says the Three Rivers Electric 1925, he opened a ﬂying school in Cooperative member. rural Memphis. The deaths rocked the town and Students from as far away as Canathe future of Pheasant aircrafts. da came to the town for ﬂying lessons “Sadly, the major downfall with the with Lee. By the summer of 1927, the plane is that it had no seatbelts,” says Briggs Flying School had 17 graduHarlo, shaking his head. ates. Once trained, the new pilots The Pheasant Aircraft Co. tried would need to buy an to continue, but by 1929, investairplane. So Lee gath• ered some stockholders Memphis ments dried up, so the company was sold and moved to Wisand organized the Pheasconsin. ant Aircraft Co. Soon the While the company was Memphis company began short-lived, the Pheasconstructing three-passenger ant H-10 biplanes that commercial biplanes. The were made and sold ﬁrst open cockpit Pheasant left an indelible mark H-10 biplane rolled off the upon Memphis and its line in August that year and residents. At the height of its brief life, cost $2,750. the company employed 25 workers. Although nearly a century has Over the years, residents who enjoy passed, the town of Memphis is proud aviation started the Pheasant Airplane to say they’ve brought one of Lee’s Association. Last December, member biplanes back home to roost. Ron Brown saw an ad in an aviation “He worked hard to put Memphis magazine which read, “Pheasant airon the map,” says local dentist Harlo craft for sale on Long Island, N.Y.” Donelson of Lee’s aviation efforts. Fred Clapp, president of the asso“But back then, learning to ﬂy a plane ciation, shared the information with wasn’t the process it is today.”
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2012
Rural Missouri - June 2012
Table of Contents
The power of purple
The little town that could
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots contest
Stocked with adventure
Hearth and Home
Rural Missouri - June 2012
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