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Experiments Pay Off

Martin's experimenting reached the stage of a patent on a toy flying machine January 3, 1908. But he could not find a manufacturer. The toy never went into production. Later that year, Mr. Martin built his full-sized monoplane. He struck out boldly from the biplane designs in use by other inventors and adopted the monoplane from, with balancing wings forming a "V" below the main wing to give stability and safety. The materials used were light wood and English broadcloth.

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Martin

After his first wife died, William married Almina Pontius Martin, who was an enthusiastic supporter of her husband's flying projects. The plane was completed just at the turn of the year. It had sled runners in place of wheels, and the builder had to wait for a fall of snow before testing it.

On January 12, 1909, snow covered the fields back of the Martin farm, and the device was hauled out and taken to the top of a hill. Old Billy, the farm horse, was hitched to the front of the plane by a long rope. Mr. Martin took his seat in the plane, son George whistled to Billy. The horse started down the hill pulling the plane behind him. It rose from the ground, reached a height of 25 feet and traveled 200 feet before the horse slackened its pace and the plane settled gently back to earth.

Mrs. Martin then took her seat in the plane and made several successful flights, being the first woman ever to fly in a heavier than air machine. Another son, Charles C. Martin, (who was still living when this article was first published in 1952) also went up and said that it came down like a feather. When he shut his eyes, he didn't know when it struck snow.

Mr. Martin's experiments had been kept secret, but the trial flights could not be hidden. Neighbors flocked to the field to see for the first time in their lives a human being sustained in the air by a heavier than air machine. Cousin Glenn L. Martin had not yet built the first plane in California. The U.S. Army had not yet purchased its first airplane. In fact, the first test flight by Orville Wright before Army officials was not made until the following July, at which President Taft was a spectator.

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