Aviation History in Lincoln, Nebraska
Discover the important and frequently hidden history aviation in Lincoln
Aviation in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been active at this site since 1928, when city commissioners approved the purchase of a small tract of land on which a small, Art Deco-style brick terminal housing the Lincoln Municipal Airport was completed in 1929. Today, nearly 100 years later, the airport (now Lincoln Airport Authority) boast commercial airline traffic to at least three major cities across the United States, as well as numerous fruitful partnerships with the United States military.
Now known as the Nebraska Innovation Campus, this area once hosted some of the earliest experimentation of flight in the history of Lincoln.Experimentation in flying came from all directions in Nebraska during the 1890s and early 1900s. The Baysdorfer brothers of Omaha, prolific innovators in their own right, created the Comet: a lighter-than-air airship considered to the be the first Nebraska-built one of its kind. In 1910, the Baysdorfers constructed the first Nebraska-built airplane in Omaha.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Lincoln boasted a number of airfields around the city. At the moment, it is unknown how much "competition" existed between each of them; however, most of the airfields did have an immediate connection with their own airplane manufacturing businesses in the city. Arrow Airfield is a very good example.While no historical marker exists today, this location and the grassy fields that used to surround it served an important role in driving Lincoln aviation innovation.
Hundreds of airline passengers walk past a bright red airplane everyday in the Lincoln Airport. Nearly a century old, the aircraft symbolizes an extraordinarily brief yet productive period of one of Lincoln's most prolific aircraft manufacturer.The Arrow Aircraft Corporation was established during the heyday of Lincoln aviation production.After producing its first airplanes in 1926 and 1927 (most notably, the Arrow Sport), the Arrow Aircraft Corporation thrived.That is, until an unfortunate combination of the Great Depression and supply chain disasters forced a halt to production of the Arrow Sport in 1932. The entire Arrow Aircraft Corporation ceased operations in the early 1940s.
At the confluence of 112th and Holdrege streets on the eastern outskirts of Lincoln, a small airport sits near a unique aviation-themed neighborhood.Facing southward from Holdrege Street, onlookers notice Sky Ranch Acres to their right. On the left, onlookers see Pester Airport. Here, some residents find that their personal planes are just as useful as their cars. Indeed, these residents can taxi their planes from the grassy 1,700-foot Pester Airport runway, through the aviation-themed streets (Cessna Lane, Piper Way, Beechcraft Road, etc.) into their basement-level hangars. In fact, some residents commute across the city in their planes. As one resident put it, "I just jump in the plane and fly across the city. It’s about a four-minute trip in a plane. And it takes 20 to 25 minutes drive.”Many pilots have taken off in their planes from Pester Airport. But perhaps none more famous that Dr. Charles Carothers: a local dentist who doubled as an aerial acrobat. Read on to learn about this fascinating and tragic story.
The Lincoln Standard Aircraft Company and the Lincoln Airplane and Flying School were two pillars of aviation development in Lincoln. But these institutions were really only made possible after other companies faltered. Founded soon after World War I, the Nebraska Aircraft Company was one of the first major aircraft corporations in Lincoln. Owners A.G. Hebb, L.A. Winship, and E.C. Hammond bought an entire stock of WWI-surplus airplanes and some engines in an effort to create a powerful yet reliable airplane. The first of these airplanes was manufactured in the Industrial Arts Building on the old Nebraska State Fairgrounds. By 1921, the businessmen fell behind on their loan payments. One rumor suggests that one of the founders fled to Mexico with the company's assets.Left to pick up the pieces, creditors turned to a local Buick salesman Ray Page to take over the company. Less than a decade later, Page and his colleagues turned the Lincoln Standard Aircraft Company into a truly national and international manufacturer of iconic airplanes.