|Walter printed on the back of the picture:
William (Billy) Mitchell - a major in the U.S. Army Air-Service soloed in a Curtiss JN4 at the "Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station", a branch of the Curtiss Aeroplane Co., located at Newport News, VA, in the spring of 1917.
|On the front of the picture, Billy wrote:
To Walter E. Lees in whose airplane I made my 1st "solo" flight.
Brig. Gen. Air Service
|MAJOR BILLY MITCHELL'S
FIRST SOLO FLIGHT
Jimmie Johnson was assigned to teach Major Mitchell to fly and Walter Lees gave him some dual instruction also. They found him a very apt pupil who was ready to solo after a few hours---four, I believe, of dual instruction. I well remember that fall day when Jimmy turned him loose for his solo. As was customary at that time, when a student was making his first solo flight, all other pilots would land and taxi their planes to the side of the landing strip for the safety of all concerned and a white hankerchief was tied to the airplane about to solo. Mitchell's take-off was uneventful, but when he circled the field and came in to bring his plane into a landing position, he found that he had gained more altitude than on previous turns,---because he was minus the accustomed weight of the instructor in the plane with him, so when he approached the previously arranged spot, he came in too fast for the three-point landing and the momentum of the machine was sufficient to take him off the ground again. He pulled the plane up, making a half loop and landed and nosed over. There hung Billy Mitchell upside down, strapped in his seat by his safety belt. Paul, (Culver) who was standing nearby, ran over to him, then released his belt, and helped him to his feet. No doubt his pride was hurt, but he wasn't and when Paul assured him of that he took a snap shot of the plane, turned turtle, with the small Argus camera which he often wore strapped to his belt for just such occasions. Forever after whenever an airplane turned turtle on landing it was called a "Mitchell." Paul gave a copy of this picture to Brigadier General Mitchell at one of the aircraft shows in Detroit and recalled with him many memories of those days at Newport News. At the same time, Walter Lees, then chief test pilot of the Packard Aircraft Co. presented him with the wheel of the airplane in which he had soloed.
Cub Flyers Enterprises Inc.
Billy was a grand guy - and the first thing he told Jimmie when he started training was to forget that he was an army major and to treat him as we did anyone learning to fly.
One day Jimmy was sick and Captain Baldwin assigned Mitchell to me and I soloed him.
"Mitchell was very erratic. One day he would be OK and the next lousy. I just happened to catch him on one of his good days. He made two perfect flights this day".
Teed Culver and I used to walk to the field where the men were flying. Pops taught Canadians first, then our men when the 1st World War started. It was here that Pops soloed William Mitchell. Jimmie Johnson taught Mitchell, but was sick one day and Pops soloed him. It was quite a feather in his cap. Pops earned $10 per hour there at the last. Pops was sent to a field in Illinois and I went to his parents in Mazomanie (June 16) by train