MY MARTIN WATCH:
”Glenn L.” breaks records in 1912 over water and with mother
At San Diego, CA in 1913, Glenn Luther Martin conducted what were the United States Army’s first aerial bombardment experiments, very secret at the time.
Noted later official Martin Company sources, “There was no air arm of the Army at that time, so it was the Ordnance Department that sent an officer across the Continent to see the effects of Martin’s bombs.”
A hydro-airplane version of the Model TT was “built in 1913 to carry four passengers, built to the order of the firm Gorat & King of Portland, OR to serve as an aerial ferry across Goose Bay, Washington State,” continues Glenn L. Martin, Pioneer Aviator, “The first bombing experiments were conducted...early in 1918.” Martin had laid his plans to manufacture the now-famous Martin Bomber for the US government.
The design of this plane, that has been a government standard, laid the foundation for a series of bombing and torpedo plane developments for the US Navy Department in 1924, but that’s getting ahead of the chronology of our story a bit.
According to The Early Years in a back issue of The Star, the former official publication of the later Martin Marietta Corporation then at Middle River, MD, “The history of our company...dates back to the childhood of Martin, who was born on Jan. 17, 1886 to Clarence and Arminta De Long Martin of Macksburg, Iowa.”
At age six, it was said that Martin’s fascination with the wind led him to develop an unusual biplane kite. At 19 in 1905, Martin and his family moved to Santa Ana, CA, where, having worked in a bicycle shop and a garage in high school, he opened a garage of his own and a car dealership.
A few years later, Martin began building his first airplane in the old Southern Methodist Church in Santa Ana that provided a large unobstructed floor space on which to work.
On Aug. 1, 1909, the plane was ready to go...and it did. At the crack of dawn, Martin cranked up the 12 horsepower Ford engine and the craft lifted into the air, flying about 100 feet.
To drum up interest in airplanes, Martin performed numerous stunts for fair-going crowds. Thousands of eager people, including movie stars, paid to fly in the new contraption.
As a young boy, and until the very end of her life, Glenn Martin was especially close to his mother, who believed in and encouraged him throughout his entire aviation career, from start to near finish.
Stated author Jack Churchman in To Capture the Wind in a special issue of Manufacturing Observer, “Minta---knowing that Glenn possessed this special drive---coached him in all of his school work, becoming essentially his private tutor. She was determined to share in his thoughts, and to encourage him in his strongest desire: to learn more about the things that moved with the wind...”
He took a job in a Salina garage, and in a very short period was considered the best mechanic in town. With a savings of $700 and a loan from a bank, Glenn decided to establish his own garage and automobile agency.
He procured a franchise for the Ford and Maxwell cars, and was in business for himself at age 21.
His first plane was a complete loss after it literally chased Glenn around in a cow pasture where he was making a ground test run.
The engine stalled at the end of the field, and Glenn, without the help of the mechanic, proceeded to restart the engine. In his attempt, the throttle was pushed to the open position and a runaway airplane resulted.
He was pulled all around the field, and the plane literally demolished itself. Glenn received only minor injuries, but his pride was crushed. However, Glenn soon started on his next airplane.
Here, Minta and Glenn worked as an inseparable team to complete the project that had failed so miserably on the first attempt.
When the craft was ready to roll out, the church doors had to be removed so as to permit adequate clearance for the airplane’s 40foot wingspan.
He flew his own airplane a distance of 100 feet at an altitude of eight feet. He had succeeded!
Glenn instituted a grand barnstorming tour in hopes of raising his own money, putting on exhibitions throughout the country, attending every affair that would book his acts.
His venture proved to be rewarding, and his bank account soon started to grow and because of these personal appearances, he became well known throughout the nation as a leader in the manufacture of private aircraft.
Orders started coming in at such a rate that the canning factory soon proved to be short of space. In 1912, a move was made to Griffith Park in the Los Angeles area.
Here he was able to handle the increase in business without the crowded conditions that were being experienced at the Santa Ana plant.
With the increase in business came another in employment. Glenn, realizing the need for assistance in managing the production activities, hired Lawrence Bell (later to head his own aircraft company), as shop foreman.
On May 10, 1912, Glenn set a world record, when he flew his hydro-plane from Newport Bay in Balboa, CA to Avalon Bay, Catalina Island, a distance of 66 miles in 80 minutes of flying time.
He’d made the world’s longest overwater flight at that time. Glenn added still another first during that year 1912, he carried his first passenger aloft- Minta Martin, his mother.
GLM MD Aviation Museum co-founder Stan Piet as I first knew him in 1989, on Karen Drive; Kingsville, MD. Today, he remains as its curator-archivist. (Previously unpublished photo by Blaine Taylor.)