One of the most successful aeronautical meets ever held was conducted by the Aeronautical Society on its newly acquired field at Squantum from September 3 to 13. The meet showed New England its first public flying and aroused great enthusiasm in aeronautics in Boston and vicinity. From a financial standpoint it was also a success, and, although the expenditures nearly equalled the $126,000 taken in, it was one of the few meets which did not show a deficit at its close. Although arrangements had been made to hold it on Soldiers Field, when all the entries had been received it was found that that place was altogether inadequate. Therefore the society procured a field at Squantum on a five years' lease from the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. This proved to be one of the best fields in the country for the purpose.
Owing to the need of money and political influence, without which the meet could not have been run properly, and owing also, to the absence of the members of the society, it was found necessary by J. V. Marvin uC., manager of the society, to enlist the services and aid of several prominent Harvard graduates. Therefore A. D. Claflin '86 was interested in the proposition and he formed an underwriting company to finance the undertaking. It was under the efficient direction of Mr. Claflin and Mr. Martin that the meet was conducted.
The entries comprised the best aviators in this country as well as two Englishmen. Among the Americans were Walter Brookins and Ralph Johnstone with Wright biplanes, Glenn H. Curties and Charles Foster Willard in Curtiss biplanes, William M. Hilliard with a Burgess biplane, and Cromwell Dixon with a dirigible balloon. The Englishmen were Claude Grahame-White, who used a Farman biplane and a Bleriot monoplane, and A. V. Roe with his triplanes.
In spite of several days of unfavorable weather, at least one aeroplane was in the air almost all the time, and in several instances as many as four might be seen flying together, the aviators braving wind, rain, and fog. Owing to the interest shown by the large crowds which attended the flights, the meet was extended two days, and it was during this time that some of the most sensational flying was done.
Prizes amounting to $50,000 offered by the society in addition to a special prize of $10,000 offered by the Boston Globe for the best time for a flight to Boston Light and return twice, were inducements which led to some spectacular exhibitions. The prizes were distributed among the events as follows: speed, $6,000; altitude, $6,000; duration, $4,000; distance, $4,000; slow lap, $1,500; getaway, $150; accuracy, $750; dropping bombs on dummy battleship, $5,000; Boston Globe special, $10,000. One world's record was broken, that for accuracy in landing; and the American records for duration and distance were surpassed.
Grahame-White proved the most versatile of the aviators, taking prizes in all but two events, as well as winning that offered by the Globe, making a total of $22,100. He won first place in the trial for speed, using his Bleriot monoplane, in which he covered three laps of the course, a distance of 5 1-4 miles, in 6 minutes, 1 second; first in the getaway, in a Farman biplane, leaving the ground 26 feet, 9 inches from the point from which he started; and first in the contest for accuracy in dropping bombs on a dummy battleship. In addition to these three first places, he came in second in the trials for altitude, duration, and distance, and was the winner of the Globe prize uncontested, using his Bleriot monoplane.
In point of prizes won, Johnstone was second with a total of $5,000. He used a Wright biplane all the time. In the trial for duration he remained in the air for 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 40 seconds, and at the same time covered a distance of 101 miles, thereby breaking two American records and winning first place in both these events. In accuracy in landing he established a new world's record, bringing his biplane to a stop within 5 feet, 4 inches of a given mark. He also took second in the slow lap event.
Brookins, also with a Wright biplane, was third in the meet, winning prizes amounting to $4,250. He took first places in the trial for altitude, attaining a height of 4,730 feet, and in that for the slow lap, flying three times around the course in 13 minutes, 48 seconds.
Glenn H. Curtiss, perhaps the best known aviator in the country, had considerable trouble with a new engine which he had installed in one of his two biplanes, and although he had intended to compete for the Globe prize, he was unable to get the new engine into running order, and as his old one was not powerful enough to give him sufficient speed, he gave up the attempt. However, even with its old engine, his machine proved to be the second fastest on the field, and he carried off the second prize for speed, amounting to $2,000.
Willard, in a Curtiss biplane, won second place in the getaway.
One of the most fortunate features of the meet was the comparatively few accidents. Nobody was seriously injured and no aeroplane was damaged beyond repair. A. V. Roe was the greatest sufferer in this respect, breaking both of his triplanes, because his engines were not powerful enough to sustain the machines in air. The aviator himself escaped with a few scratches and bruises. Kearney's Pfitzner monoplane was nearly demolished early in the meet when his engine stopped and he crashed into the wire fence in front of the grand-stand. Kearney fortunately sustained but few injuries himself. Clifford B. Harmon, an amateur, also damaged his machine, a Farman biplane. Grahame-White's biplane of the same kind was slightly broken when it was caught by the wind just as it reached the ground.
An interesting event, designed to show the possibilities of the aeroplane in time of war, in addition to the bomb-dropping contest, was the flight of Lieutenant Fickel, who shot with a rifle at a target from a Curtiss biplane piloted by Willard.
Cromwell Dixon had his dirigible balloon in the air several times, and during the course of the meet made a successful flight to Boston.
The Aeronautical Society was unable to procure an engine for its biplane, the Harvard I, and consequently it could not be exhibited.
Many distinguished persons attended the meet, among them being President Taft, President Lowell, Governor Draper, Mayor Fitzgerald of Boston, Baron Rosen, the Russian ambassador, and Secretary George von L. Meyer. Wilbur Wright was on the field during the whole time watching his pupils. Johnstone and Brookins, and he made several trips as a passenger with the latter. People were taken up at several times by the aviators, Mayor Fitzgerald making a flight with Grahame-White, and J. V. Martin uC., going up with Johnstone.