Lees in Benoist  


Thursday, November 14, 1912 was really Walter's big day. Tom Benoist and Tony Jannus were at the lake when he took the plane out. It was a clear day, with little wind, perfect for flying.
     "At first we used to tie up the throttle so that all we could do was to get up on the step and skate around on the top of the water. After we could be trusted with a full throttle, it was untied, so as to help us make turns at each end of the lake. I had had a couple of hours of this kind of instruction, when one Sunday morning the owner of a Benoist tractor let me take his plane out. After I had skated around for a few minutes, it suddenly occurred to me that here was the opportune time to show them just how good I was. Even though I'd been told to leave the throttle tied down, I reached over and untied it. The lake was only about a mile long, so I taxied just as far back to one end as I could. Then I opened the throttle wide and waited to see what would happen. First the pontoon got up out of the water and began to plane on top. Then I eased back on the stick and gradually lifted the ship off and into the air. This was the easy part. Soon I realized that the end of the lake wasn't very far away and I had to do something about getting down. The short time I had to enjoy the sensation of flying level was over fast. I was only about fifty feet up, which didn't give me much time to do anything, I throttled and the plane started to settle, but as I neared the water, I got cold feet. I thought I was going to hit too hard, so I opened the throttle and went back up to fifty feet again. I repeated this several times, until I just had to either land at the end of the lake or attempt to make a turn, which I had never done. With one last effort, I closed the throttle and settled down and down until the pontooon touched the water. I held my breath until it settled in the water and I realized I was back down safe and sound and the plane was all in one piece. I had made my first solo. I was proud as a peacock. "
     He taxied back to the crowd, so proud of himself. He'd made a successful flight. The owners of the plane gave him hell!!

See "Walter in Bleriot Type XI for First Partnership Story

Later in 1912, Benedict came back and induced me to go with him back to St. Augustine where he had a contract with Mr. Capo to fly exhibitions to attract crowds. Ray promised that he would give me flying lessons, so I agreed to go with him as a mechanic. Ray's plane was a Benoist biplane with a Roberts, six cylinder, water cooled, two cycle engine. Unfortunately, for the second time, Ray refused to teach me to fly. Early in 1913, Ray had a letter from his dad saying that he and the chief of police were coming to St. Augustine. I threatened to tell his dad that he wouldn't keep his word with me. As a result, Ray said I could take the plane out alone, taxi on the water, but no flying.
     Once away from shore, I opened the throttle, took off, made five or six straight-a-way flights, and came in. Ray was furious. The next day his dad arrived. Ray gave him a cock and bull story about me and induced his dad to fire me.
     Ray packed up the plane and left. I stayed at Capo's for two months. Because I had no money, I paid for room and board by driving Nellie, who pulled the horsecar.
     While at Capo's, a doctor and his wife took pity on me. They were spending the winter at Capo's beach. They loaned me money to go back to Benoist in St. Louis. There I worked with Tony Jannus and Bill Bleakley
(Sorry about the quality of the picture, I couldn't find the original, so I had to scan the page in the book)

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