CURTISS H-10, 1916
  Curtiss H-10  
  Curtiss H-10 at Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station, 1916
Collection of Walter E. Lees

     In 1916, Walter was to instruct on Curtiss F-Boats at the Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station. Glenn Curtiss started the Station at what was called the "Small Boat Harbor" because it had facilities for a small landing field, was on the shore of Hampton Roads, and was ideal for the F-Boats to take off in the water. Captain Tom Baldwin, the ex-baloon explorer, was the manager. Curtiss considered Lees to be his safest pilot and allowed him to take up several local passengers.
     January 26 was a "red letter"day in the lives of several local citizens. Instructor Walter Lees took them on a sightseeing flight in the flying boat. Included were Dr. J.B. Pressey, Fred Morgan, Ted Hackenberg and Miss Elsie Rauch -- the second Peninsula woman to take such a flight.

     I had never looped a plane before, but one day I decided to try it. I only told one of the other pilots about my plans. The first attempt was pretty good, but in the second one, I didn't get enough speed on my dive. When I was halfway thru the loop and on my back, the plane stalled and started to fall upside down. All the dirt, etc. in the bottom flew past me and I was a little bit nervous until the nose finally fell and I came out right side up.
     Meanwhile, Captain Baldwin was talking to some visitor who asked him who was the most conservative pilot he had. He had just said "Lees" when the visitor saw a plane looping and asked who it was. The other pilot I had told was standing by and with a grin said, "Lees." All Captain Baldwin said was, "Well, I'll be damned." I was very lucky while instructing for Curtiss. I never cracked up a plane and never had a student crackup.

Vernon Castle, 1917
Vernon Castle
Vernon Castle in the front seat, 1917
Photo from Library of Congress
Courtesy of Gregory Powers, 6-4-06
     Vernon Castle, then a nationally known dancer, was a student at the A.C.A. Station. He was a nice chap, though he too had his eccentricities. Vic Carlstrom was his instructor on land planes. He took his flying very seriously. If his turn was early in the morning, he was right on hand. And I mean early. Our first flights usually started before it was quite light, so that instructor would have to make the first takeoff. The last flight was almost after dark. Castle lived at the Chamberline Hotel at Old Point Comfort. One day, Capt. Tom had me fly him over to the hotel for lunch. Vernon strode into the hotel with his goggles hanging down around his neck, so that everyone could see he was an aviator. Mine were in my pocket.
     He wouldn't let anyone take his picture, said he was always paid when his pictures were taken. He later was an instructor for the Canadian Air Force and was killed while instructing.

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