|TOM BENOIST, 1875-1917|
|Courtesy Thomas Reilly.||Courtesy Thomas Reilly.|
December. Tom was born in Irondale, Missouri to a family of twelve children. While he took part in the usual boyhood sports, Tom's chief interest was mathematics, history, and watching the eagles, cranes, and other large soaring birds of the beautiful Ozark hill country.
Finishing grade school, he took a night school course in business and read what he could on mechanics and the meagre material then available on mechanical flight. One book that interested him was Chanutes "Progress in Flying Machines", published in 1884. Right after the turn of the century in 1900, Benoist met and became a close friend of A. I. Dyke, a pioneer in the automobile field and author of many textbooks on autos and auto engines.
With E. Percy Noel, Tom opened the first supply house in America selling nothing but aeronautical parts and supplies. This was called the "Aeronautical Supply Company", and abbreviated "AERONSCO".
Noel was a newspaper man, and an early aero enthusiast himself. In October, 1910, Noel began publishing America's first aero weekly called "Aero". When Noel started "Aero", he sold his interest in "AERONSCO" to Tom Benoist, who by 1910 was doing a thriving business indeed, making full-sized kits for several aeroplanes of the period. These kits, along with a twenty foot biplane glider kit, included the 1909 Santo Dumont "Demoiselle" monoplane, 1909-Curtiss type, and Bleriot and Farman copies.
August, grading began Kinloch Field, near the site of the present Lambert Field. On September 18, 1910, with no previous flights, Tom Benoist made the first flight from the new field, when he flew his revamped Howard Gill biplane a distance of 450 yards. Gill was an early California airman, who sold his Curtiss type plane to Benoist at a bargain price.
January. Benoist opened a flying school at Kinloch, using improved and stronger built versions of his first plane. Starting with a few students, the enrollment grew and by July Tom was a very busy man teaching his pupils theory of flight and engine mechanics,practical flying, and at the same time managing his supply house. About this time, Antony Jannus, who had been with Rexford Smith in Washington, D.C, joined Tom and became his chief pilot and instructor. A little later in 1911, P. G. (Bud) Morriss, a famous early pilot, joined the Benoist group and became its first vice president and sales engineer.
August. A refined new airboat was flown at Creve Couer Lake. This ship proved to be the basic design for the plane used on the World's first scheduled airline. Larger than its predecessors, its hull was forty inches wide against twenty two inches for the late 1912 model. Trailing edge ailerons were used, and a triangular stabilizer to which new elevators were hinged was employed.
During this period, the Benoist school had some very interesting students. Among them being Walter E. Lees, who later worked with Bill Stout in developing and testing the Ford all metal planes, Eddie Korn, and Bill Bleakley. Korn, now a doctor, is restoring his Benoist tractor for the Smithsonian, and this is possibly the only Benoist plane in existence today.
"TOM BENOIST -- ONE OF FLYINGS ALL TIME GREATS"
By Christy C. Magrath
While riding in an open streetcar to his factory in Sandusky, the 42-year-old Benoist swayed outward as the car made a sharp turn and struck his head on a telephone pole. Three hours later, he was dead.