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Aviation in Northern California 1910-1939 Volume II: Yuba, Sutter, and Butte Counties
Northern California airfield development, pioneer pilots, airplane builders, and risk takers.

Allen Herr lives in Yuba City and from that vantage point he has traced the history of flight as it first came to the Sacramento Valley. Though aeroplane flying started in the East in 1903, “it didn’t begin on the West Coast until 1910” with the first “powered, controlled, and sustained flight” in California’s Dominguez Hills. (Herr writes that “it took fifteen years following the Wrights’ first flight for the word aeroplane to morph into airplane” at the start of World War I).

That same year, the first north state flight “took place at Knight Park in Marysville. Frank H. Johnson made the flight in his factory-built Standard Model Curtiss (Pusher) biplane.”

And so it began. The story of those early years is carefully, lovingly and comprehensively presented in Aviation In Northern California 1910-1939, Volume 2, Yuba, Sutter, and Butte Counties ($29.95 in paperback from Stansbury Publishing). Dozens of illustrations help document the accomplishments of our own aviation pioneers.

Also in 1910, “Thaddeus Kerns, a Chico teenager, was the first Butte County resident to build and successfully fly an aeroplane. ... A 25-horsepower Gray Eagle motor powered his first Curtiss and it got him off the ground but just barely. He had only a few miles per hour between his stall speed and his cruise speed at full throttle. On hot days or with poor gasoline, he couldn’t get off the ground at all.”

Herr traces the rich history of north state aviation during the “Exhibition Years” (1909-1914) and on into the postwar era. Anecdotes abound, including the story of Lyman and Jeanette Doty, brother and sister from Biggs and avid fliers. In 1917, she “sent a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson offering her services as a volunteer pilot. The self-proclaimed 18-year-old (she was actually 26) aviatrix said if the military would not take her, she planned to join the Army Aviation Reserve Corps.” She told a reporter, “I believe I am as capable of performing scout, observation, piloting, or other military duty as any man flyer.”

Aviation buffs will be enthralled. And that’s the plane truth.

  --Dan Barnett, "Biblio File," Chico Enterprise-Record

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