Jet aircraft service returned to Jamestown this past
week. This is just a temporary situation until a new airline takes over the
Jamestown has a long history with aircraft. In fact, the
town was kind of the headquarters for a barnstorming show back in the very
early days of aviation.
James Bowen owned one of the first cab companies in
Jamestown as well as the first aircraft in the community. He operated out of an
airstrip just to the north of the current entrance to Jamestown College.
Some of his cab drivers were also his pilots who put on
barnstorming air shows at fairs and other events around the region. The show
even included a parachute act. Fred Kennison, brother-in-law of Bowen, would
jump out of a perfectly good airplane and drift to the ground. For his
death-defying act he got whatever they collected when the hat was passed.
Sometimes Kennison got as much as $5 for risking putting a big dent in the
Bowen had bigger plans for his air operations. In 1927 he
recruited subscribers to help pay for an attempt to fly non-stop across the
Atlantic Ocean in order to try to win the Orteig Prize.
Raymond Orteig was a New York City hotel owner who
offered $25,000 to the first Allied pilot or pilots to fly across the Atlantic
Ocean. He first offered the award in 1919. For the first five years no one even
attempted the feat. Orteig renewed the prize in 1924. Advancements in aircraft were
tempting pilots to try for the prize.
Bowen got the bug in 1927. The reports don’t say how much
money he raised or when he planned on making his tran-Atlantic flight. We do
know that on May 20, 1927 Charles Lindberg beat him to the punch and won the Orteig
Prize. Bowen returned the money to the subscribers and evidently kept on flying
Was a Jamestown man poised to win the greatest honor in
aviation history only to be aced out by Lucky Lindy? We’ll never know. It is
also equally possible that if the Jamestown crew had tried the flight they
would have become just another footnote as someone who made it only part way
across the Atlantic.
And all that parachute experience wouldn’t help you that
much if your plane conked out over the middle of the ocean.