The Brown University Aero Club was founded in January 1928, twenty-four years and one month after Orville Wright became the first human to fly a motorized aircraft (a breakthrough whose 100th anniversary was in December). According to the Encyclopedia Brunoniana, the Aero Club had eight members and a Sikorsky monoplane owned by club president Paul L. Dujardin ’29, who may be the “Duke” referred to in the reminiscence below, which was sent to the BAM by Karl E. Stein ’30, who could not remember Duke’s last name. Stein’s note vividly describes the thrill that still clung to flight at that time.
According to my flight log, my first flight was on October 31, 1928. After only ten minutes of flying time, we had to land because of a loose wire on a spark plug. My last flight was on November 17, 1928, when I flew for twenty-five minutes. I was later prepared to fly to New York City, my home and Duke’s, for the Thanksgiving vacation. (The plane would then be put away for the winter, and the plan was to continue with my lessons in the spring.) But it did not work out that way; at the last minute Duke told me he had to use the front cockpit for his baggage. Naturally, I was very disappointed, as that would have been a very long flight.
Upon returning to Brown after Thanksgiving vacation, I immediately contacted Duke to ask about the flight. He told me it was fortunate I did not go with him because on landing he crashed and the engine wound up in the front cockpit and damaged all his baggage. Had I been in the cockpit, I probably would have been killed.
You might be interested to know that I paid Duke $22 for 115 minutes of flying time and according to my records I still have a credit of five minutes. That credit was never collected, however, as Duke’s crash ended Brown’s first flying club.
—Karl E. Stein ’30