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JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT : The County's Flying Start : Skies are crowded today with sophisticated jetliners that seem to have no link to Orange County's humble aviation beginnings. But in an earlier era, daring, pioneering men and women paved the way not only for the airport we have now but also for aerospace firms such as Hughes, Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas. Here then, is a brief compilation of the people and the crucial events that shaped and paralleled Orange County's spectacular growth.

September 04, 1990|JANICE L. JONES

1909

Historic Flight--Glenn L. Martin conducts the first successful airplane flight in California from a makeshift runway on the Irvine ranch. He flies 100 feet in 12 minutes in a plane he built in an abandoned church in Santa Ana. He returns to the field every day, determined to perfect his flying technique, prompting his family doctor to send this message to his mother, Minta:

For Heaven's sake. If you have any influence with that wild-eyed, hallucinated, visionary young man, call him off before he is killed. Have him devote his energies to substantial, feasible and profitable pursuits, leaving dreaming to the professional dreamers.

--Dr. H.H. Sutherland

1910

Birth of an Industry--Martin forms the Glenn L. Martin Co. with Minta and they open their first factory in a former peach cannery on East First Street in Santa Ana.

In the beginning there were no textbooks. I learned aerodynamics by adapting my knowledge of kites and tackling constructing, such as a propeller, as many times as it took to work out proportions by trial and error. I learned about stress and strain in construction by reading a text on bridge building. When a part didn't look or feel right, I changed it by the rule - of - thumb method.

--Glenn L. Martin

1912

Hydroplaning--Martin accomplishes a 33-mile, water-to-water flight in a Martin Model 12 hydroplane from Balboa Bay in Newport Beach to Catalina's Avalon Harbor. Martin's company moves from Santa Ana to Los Angeles to Cleveland and, eventually, Baltimore. By 1917, it is the largest airplane manufacturer in the country and becomes one of the nation's main suppliers of military and commercial aircraft.

1923

Airstrip to Airport--Pioneer aviator Edward J. (Eddie) Martin from Fountain Valley (no relation to Glenn Martin) uses $75 in cash and a used motorcycle as a down payment on a $700 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny. To make the monthly payments on the plane, Eddie Martin and his older brother, Johnny, offer rides and flight instruction from a field on the Irvine Ranch. Eddie Martin leases 80 acres of land near Main Street and Newport Avenue from James Irvine Jr. The makeshift airstrip becomes Eddie Martin Airport.

1926

Stunts on High--Eddie Martin trades a motorcycle for a portable wooden hangar and stages flying exhibitions in a French Nieuport 38 pursuit plane.

The stunt shows were the best thing we ever had for drawing a crowd. The engine noise alone was enough to attract attention, and since the plane was great for acrobatics, we'd crank it up every time business got slow and make a few sashays over town. Before long, we had a crowd worked up and business would start to boom. --Eddie Martin

1928

Lindbergh Lands--Celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh lands at Eddie Martin Airport, one year after his historic solo flight across the Atlantic.

Taking off, the shortness of the field nearly brought him a cropper at the further fence. Only the excellent brake system of his new plane saved him from crashing into the fence, witnesses say. Maybe they're mistaken, but Lindbergh turned the plane and taxied a long way back for his second takeoff on which he barely cleared the obnoxious fence. --The Los Angeles Times Irvine to the Rescue--Business is slow, and Eddie Martin Airport falls behind in its lease payments. James Irvine Jr. forgives the debt and reduces the rent.

1933

Safe and Sound--By the airport's 10th anniversary, the Martin brothers have carried 14,305 paying passengers 775,450 miles without an accident.

1935

Amelia, Howard, Eddie--Amelia Earhart visits Eddie Martin Airport to watch Howard Hughes set a world speed record and then crash-land in a Santa Ana beet field.

1937

Sold for a Sawbuck--Glenn Martin returns to the county on the 25th anniversary of his first flight, passing over Newport Beach in his latest design, the China Clipper flying boat. Eddie Martin concentrates on his commercial pilot career and sells Martin Aviation to brother Floyd for $10.

1939

Land Acquired--The county acquires Irvine Co. land to build Orange County Airport one mile south of Eddie Martin Airport. Martin Aviation receives an exclusive 20-year lease to operate at the new location.

1940

Ground Broken--Construction begins on Orange County Airport.

1941

Space Crunch--When the airport is completed, Martin Aviation moves in, Eddie Martin Airport closes, and overcrowding begins:

As soon as airplanes and equipment were moved to the new $50,000 Orange County Airport on Paularino Road here today, authorities learned that the field must be expanded. When 23 planes were ferried to the airport, Manager Floyd Martin announced immediately that an additional hangar must be erected to care for the expanding fleet. --The Los Angeles Times Flights Stopped--The attack on Pearl Harbor halts all civilian flying within 150 miles of the West Coast.

1942

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