First Flight In Battle Creek: The Wright Brothers’ Airplane Visits In 1911
Battle Creek has a rich history involved with everything related to flying from airplanes to jets, hot air balloons and most recently drones. But that connection goes almost all the way back to the beginning of flight as planes constructed by the Wright Brothers visited Battle Creek in the 1910s.
It isn't certain if the planes that visited were accompanied by Wilbur and Orville Wright when they came to Battle Creek. According to an article published a few years ago by Scene Magazine, the first plane flew over the city in 1911, piloted by Leonard Bonney during an Independence Day celebration. He reportedly flew some exhibition flights at what was then the Athletic Field (now the site of Lakeview Middle School).
Not only did these flights give residents their first in-person look at airplanes in the sky, but it also spawned the interest and attraction to aviation that Battle Creek has come to be known for. Subsequent exhibitions, including a visit the following year by flyer Hillery Beachey in August 1912, sparked the interest of many young men in the area who wanted to learn how to fly after seeing these machines in action. My the mid 1910s, gliders and airplanes were being manufactured and flown in Battle Creek, following the influence of those early exhibitions.
Early Battle Creek flight photos (Courtesy Frances Thornton Collection)