York County’s First Airplane Passenger was Charles Eastlack
On June 19th 1914 a Wright Brothers Model B Flyer took off from Hilton Field carrying York County’s First Airplane Passenger. That scene in rural Dover Township was probably not all that different from this photo of a Wright Brothers Model B Flyer about to take off in St. Louis, Missouri on October 11th 1910 with Former President Theodore Roosevelt, center, and piloted by Arch Hoxsey.
The Wright Brothers manufactured about 100 of their Model B Flyers between 1910 and 1914. It was their first passenger-carrying airplane; capable of carrying one passenger, nestled side-by-side, between the motor and the pilot. The York Daily newspaper covered the first York County flights, in 1914, with passengers Charles Eastlack and then Edith Theall at Hilton Field, along the Dover Trolley Line.
The motor in the Wright Brothers Model B Flyer sat right beside the passenger. This was a 32-horsepower inline four-cylinder gasoline engine, which drove a pair of 8-1/2 foot, counter-rotating propellers via chain drive. The pusher propellers spun up to 470 RPM, giving the flyer a top speed of 45 MPH. Elevation control was via an elevator at the rear; a departure from the canard positioned in the front with earlier Wright Brother Flyers. The roll control was via Wright Brother’s patented wing-warping system on the 39-foot biplane wings. This photo of a Wright Brothers Model B in flight is from the Collections of the Library of Congress.
Such was the aeroplane that two Yorker’s had the chance to experience flight as a passenger during June 19, 1914. The headline of an article in the June 20, 1914 issue of The York Daily reported: “YORKERS FLY IN AEROPLANE.” Quoting the whole article:
Three successful flights were made punctually at the hours announced, two Yorkers were carried as passengers in two of the flights and a crowd of about 400 well pleased spectators were attracted to Hilton Field, yesterday afternoon, where an aviation meet was auspiciously opened. Despite high winds the flights were made with great skill and were picturesque spectacles to view. Eugene Heth of the Berger Aviation Company, which is holding the meet, was the intrepid aviator who piloted the Wright Aeroplane. Charles Eastlack, of the Eastlack Roofing Company, accompanied him on the second flight and Mrs. Harold Theall, formerly Miss Edith M. Hitchcott, of this city, was the passenger carried on the final flight of the afternoon. She highly enjoyed the experience. When the big flyer landed and Mrs. Theall descended from the seat beside the aviator her first greeting to her friends who quickly surrounded her to ply her with questions, was “It was fine. I felt perfectly safe. I didn’t even hold on, so you know I was not frightened.” Mr. Eastlack was equally enthusiastic after his first passage through the air. He said: “Flying is a great experience. The wind was blowing hard up there and I enjoyed it. I feel fine and I’d go for another flight any time I had the chance.”
Spectators Show Interest
A visit to Hilton Field, a picturesquely located spot along the York and Dover car line was in itself delightful because of the surroundings and the cool, invigorating breezes. The breezes bore the perfume of fields and wood and gave zest to the occasion. While the attendance of the first day of the meet was disappointing in numbers, J. S. Berger, the manager, is pleased with the prospect of large attendance today and tomorrow as the opening exhibition was highly successful in point of interest. The several hundred delighted spectators will undoubtedly recommend the meet to their friends. There were about 30 automobiles on the field. There is ample space for the accommodation of automobiles and other vehicles.
Aviator Heath made the opening flight promptly at 3 p.m. and was unaccompanied. There was a ten-mile breeze at the time and clouds were hanging low over the field. Because of this he was unable to take the machine through such thrilling evolutions spiral glides, looping the loop, dips of death and upside down flying, all of which will be performed today and tomorrow if there is a calmer state of the air. He rose to a height of about 500 feet and made circular flights over and beyond the field. A distance of about ten miles was covered at an approximate speed of 40 miles an hour. He was in the air about ten minutes.
On the second flight at 4 p.m. the weight of the passenger, Mr. Eastlack, who tips the beam at 185 pounds, would not permit an ascent so lofty as was reached on the first flight. A height of about 200 feet was attained.
When Mrs. Theall was taken upon the final flight at 5 p.m. an altitude of 300 feet was reached. The second and last flights were each of about eight minutes duration.
The meet will be continued today and tomorrow. The hours for flights each day are 3, 4 and 5 p.m. and there will be flights additional to those regularly scheduled. Manager Berger has nine prospective passengers booked. The fare for a trip in the air is $25 and admission to the field is ten cents a head, though there are afforded ample room and points of vantage for spectators outside the field where the exhibitions may be viewed without charge.
This is the ad that appeared in the same issue of The York Daily carrying the above article.
Mrs. Harold Theall has an interesting story as York County’s first female airplane passenger. I am attempting to contact one of her descendants to fill in a few minor details and possibly gain access to a photo; since a photographer was known to be present for these flights. You can expect to see the post on Edith Theall shortly.
Charles Chase Eastlack was residing at 47 South Water Street, now Pershing Avenue, at the time he became York County’s first airplane passenger. The York City Directory, of 1915, has his business, Eastlack Manufacturing Company, located at West King Street and [Hokes] Mill Road; which is the southwest corner of West York Borough. The directory notes Eastlack’s company manufacturers roofing material, and he has Emory Wietrick as the plant superintendent.
Charles Eastlack was born December 29, 1889, in Newberry Township within York County, Pennsylvania. Thus at the time of the 1914 flight, Charles was 24-years-old. In 1911, Charles Eastlack started building the plant in West York; he had previously been involved in roofing manufacturing in Cly, which is just south of York Haven.
At the time of the 1914 flight, Charles was single; he married Nettie F. Peeling on January 7, 1918. Charles is again back in Cly by 1921; when he is listed as the President of the National Roofing Company recently completed plant in Cly, to manufacture a felt and roofing product. Charles Eastlack died June 5, 1946, and is buried north of York in Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Links to related posts:
- Earliest York Airfield in 1914 along Dover Trolley Line
- Location of Hilton Airfield along Dover Trolley Line
- Motter’s 1914 photos of Wright Flyer at Hilton Field
- York County Keystone Mystery Marker; CLY
- Gilbert Sisters in Big Hats
- Curtiss Aeroplanes entertain York crowd during 1912
- 1912 Aviation Meet at York Fairgrounds featured Curtiss Aeroplane racing a York-Built Car