Fly over to Le Roy on Sunday

Oct 13, 2018

In October 1928, the streets of Le Roy grounded to a standstill.

The three-day grand opening of the airport located on Asbury Road beginning on Oct. 12 caused the streets to become jammed as 64,000 people tried to get a glimpse of the most modern and well-equipped private airports in the world at the time.

“You could not move in Le Roy, there was so many cars coming out,” said Lynne Belluscio, Le Roy historian. “Newspaper accounts said the only way you could get to the airport was getting out of your car and walking.”

There were four runways and the hangar was large enough to house the Tri Motor Fokker, the Friendship, and 15 small planes. The roof of the wing provided an elevated observation deck for spectators. The third floor of the tower was an observation room. The second floor of the tower was a waiting room for women pilots and air travelers. The lower floor was the business office. The hangar also had instruction rooms and a workshop.

Belluscio said she’s trying to get the Asbury hangar — which has now been re-purposed as a highway garage — on the national registry.

The Le Roy also has another claim to fame — Amelia Earhart visited the airport in January 1929 to see her tri-motor Fokker monoplane, the Friendship, after she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean and became known as “Lady Lindy.” Donald Woodward, was the youngest son of Orator Woodward who owned Jell-O, purchased the plane on July 27, 1928 for $60,000. He shipped the plane to New York City from England and had it refurbished. The huge gas tanks were removed and replaced with four leather cushioned bamboo chairs. Observation windows were placed in the fuselage and the pontoons were replaced with wheels. The Friendship became the Woodward’s flagship for his fleet of airplanes.

The plane was a brilliant orange and had a wingspan of 72 feet. It flew at 110 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 90 mph. It arrived in Le Roy on Sept. 28, 1928 and was put on display for the opening of the airport in October.

“I have been acquiring for the Le Roy Historical Society a lot of Amelia Earhart stuff that’s connected with the Friendship, not her last flight that failed,” Belluscio said.

For the 90th anniversary of the opening of airport, Le Roy will be holding a Wings Over Le Roy on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. The Zonta Club, a group of professional women who raise funds for fellowships for women to get their doctorate in physics, science and aeronautics, will be at the celebration because Earhart was a member of the club. There will be a group which makes model airplanes that fly with a display and a last moment event will have a panel of six judges deciding which of Le Roy’s chicken wings are the best. The winner will be given an appropriate trophy or certificate. If the weather is good, there will be stunt kites and gliders children can fly.

By MALLORY DIEFENBACH, Batavia Daily News