Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Aviation Historian Dan Heaton Brings Forgotten Aviator Back Through Nonfiction Book!

...A 1915 report from the Boston Herald that describes the
December 12, 1915 first-ever test flight of the Sturtevant "Battle-
plane," which featured steel construction and the placement of
gun turrets on the wins of the bi-plane, on either side of the pilot.
"Lieut. Jones went up about half a dozen times, and remained fully
half an hour each time. He purposely stalled his engine when at a
considerable height and volplaned safely. He made a succession of
sharp dives, always with the machine under complete control, and
astonished the spectators by the ease with which he was able to
'bonk' the craft, turning far over to one side, and to bring her again
to an even keel. At last he fairly electrified even the experienced
aviators in the group of witnesses by looping the loop with the
machine thus banked. The feat resembled that of an acrobat who
turns his body around on its vertical axis while performing a
somersault. His performance set a new mark in caring in the air."


Forgotten Aviator:
The Byron Q. Jones Story

By Dan Heaton

Had you ever heard of Byron Q. Jones? Probably not... But that is just why the world of books is so exciting! Many individuals, such as Dan Heaton, have a personal interest--perhaps in history, flying, the armed services--and they become interested in knowing how something started, or who was the first...

Thus the questions and research begins and, sometimes, that information becomes something of significance that should be captured, put together in one format, and shared...Dan Heaton did that...

By asking one question, "Who was the first base commander at Selfridge?" to Lt. Col. Lou Nigro, who is head of the Selfridge Military and Air Museum at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan. He had hoped to write a short historical article in his position as public affairs specialist...

Instead he found a book that had been written by Byron Q. Jones!

Later he found that Jones' official military records were lost in a fire...

Heaton used his aviation historian expertise to conduct his own research. This fascinating book is the result of those efforts, which includes an extensive bibliography of that research, noting in the final pages that he had not been able to find out a few of his questions--perhaps somebody reading this book will be able to help with that! I hope so, because Byron Q. Jones is no longer a forgotten aviator and his contributions to America should be restored and fully documented.

Let me share, first, one excerpt from Jones' book, entitled Practical Flying: A training manual for airplane pilots:
Strange as it may seem, an airplane is not a difficult thing to make. Any good mechanic who can read drawings and detect bad materials can make an airplane.
While that may be true in design, what Heaton's book shares is that the first American planes were far behind the quality of those used by other countries! Indeed the U.S. really had not been prepared for military activities using airplanes. It was 1917 before planes were beginning to be equipped with guns and there were no soldiers prepared to use them.

A young man who had once been kicked out of West Point for participating in a hazing incident, but who had been supported to get back in, was soon in the midst of what was happening in the early 1900s. He was breaking records, building a reputation as a skilled pilot, but also understood and was able to judge the capabilities of new aircraft.

He would also do some rather crazy tests...

Like doing deliberate loops until the plane stalled... so that he could then recover and land...
Or putting the plane into a tail spin so that he could figure out what to do...and then live to tell about it...

I was impressed... and you will be too. Especially since America had a lot of catching up to do in "flying machines." When you read the historic beginning and then realize how far air travel has come in less than 100 years, there is no way you are not automatically proud of not only Jones but all those who came after him to create safe, durable, machines that can carry us throughout the world!

While not professing to be a historian, I do know a good research effort and presentation. Heaton has a personal style of writing , and has done an excellent job of merging gathered material into a book that will be interesting for both the lay and professionals and especially those who have been in the armed services. There are many historical pictures of the time period and the equipment during that time period. If history is your interest, I think reading the nonfiction account of the first American pilot in combat might be just what you're looking for. Kudos to aviation historian Dan Heaton for bringing a Forgotten Aviator back to life for us!


Dan HeatonA veteran of both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, Dan Heaton has long been fascinated by learning how things came to be as they are today. The study of history - of his hometown region of Detroit, of its auto industry, as well as the military services in which he proudly served - has been a part of his life since he was a young man.

After initially serving on active duty in the Air Force, Heaton worked for more than 20 years as a news reporter and editor in both newspapers and radio. Currently, he is on active duty once again, serving as a public affairs specialist with the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, near Detroit.
He lives out his faith in Jesus Christ by serving as an assistant to the pastors at his church, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Clemens, Mich., working part-time as a chaplain in a Detroit hospital and serving as a member of the board of directors of a homeless shelter program in his home county.
A father of four, Heaton and his wife, Kim, have been married for more than 20 years.
His first book, Forgotten Aviator: The Byron Q. Jones Story, is now available. His second book, tentatively titled First: Thomas E. Selfridge at the Dawn of Military Aviation, is nearing completion.
For additional articles & information, see http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1202/dan_heaton.html

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