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Levine Abandons Bellanca Flight

May 22, 1927

Through no fault of his own, Clarence D. Chamberlin, who with Bert Acosta established a world's non-stop flying record a few weeks ago, will not fly the record-breaking monoplane in an attempt to establish a second New York - Paris non-stop flight.

G.M. Bellanca, designer of the plane, and Charles S. Levine of the Columbia Aircraft Company, owner of the ship, came to the parting of the ways last night and the designer finally severed his connection with the promoter. Then Levine issued a statement that the proposed flight, which has been talked of for weeks, was off.

The statement said: "Due to the crowning blow of Mr. Bellanca's resignation, the plane will be placed the hangar. Mr. Bellanca's resignation causes us to abandon plans for the New York-Paris flight for the moment.

At the very moment that the statement was issued the plane was near the runway at Roosevelt Field with gas tanks filled and oil and equipment aboard ready for the start for Paris.

A few minutes later, as it was being wheeled off, preparatory to being housed for the night, it narrowly escaped being destroyed by fire. When the word came to the filed that the flight was definitely off mechanics were ordered to empty one gasoline tank to lighten the machine. The gasoline spilled on the ground and while the ship was being towed away a careless spectator threw the stub of a lighted cigarette down.

In an instant there was a terrific flare and a dense burst of smoke as the gasoline blazed up.

"The Bellanca's gone," was the cry that rose from thousands of spectators who had gathered at the field.

Word was flashed to the army air station at Mitchell Field that there had been an accident and ambulances and fire-fighting apparatus were sent across the road. An ambulance from the Nassau County Hospital at Mineral was also sent to Roosevelt Field, as well as fire apparatus from Mineola.

The plane, however, was beyond the danger line and was not injured.

It had been announced that the Columbia would take off at 8 o'clock and Chamberlin was in his flying clothes ready to climb into the cockpit with the unnamed pilot who was to have accompanied him on the trip.

With the elimination of the Bellanca monoplane, only Lieut. Commander Byrd of polar flight fame looms as a possible duplicator of Captain Lindbergh's feat.

While all the controversy regarding who should fly with Chamberlin in the Bellanca ship has been in progress, Byrd and his associates, Lieutenant George O. Noville and Bert Acosta, have been quietly completing their arrangements and making test flights, so that now the big three-engine Fokker America is ready to take the air as soon as the weather reports are favorable.

The America was named yesterday at Roosevelt Filed at almost the very hour that crowds in Paris were wildly acclaiming Lindbergh. The sponsors of Byrd's hip were Mrs. Hector Munn and Mrs. Gurnee Munn, daughters of Rodman Wanamaker, backer of the flight.

The two women broke over the bow of the plane bottles of water brought from the Delaware River at the point where General Washington crossed with his troops.

Present at the ceremony were Mr. Wanamaker, Pierre Mory, French Vice Consul in this city; Grove M. Whalen, Vice President of the American Transoceaninc Company, and members of the John Wanamaker Post of the American Legion, commanded by Richard O'Connor.

Tremendous applause from the crowd greeted the French Vice Consul when he turned to commander Byrd and said: "I hope the next time the American is greeted it will be one of the soil of France."

The name of Captain Lindbergh was mentioned again and again by the speakers, and each time it brought forth bursts of applause.

Commander Byrd called forth an enthusiastic outburst of applause when he spoke of the courage of Captain Lindbergh.

"He knew the difficulty that lay before him, but he was not afraid to go. He was imbued with the do-or-die spirit. When he had gone three-quarters of the way along the runway here at the take-off yesterday he knew that he would soon have to get into the air or crash, but he kept on with wonderful nerve until he was 400 feet from the end of the runway and he made it."

Commander Byrd's mother and wife came here from the South to be present at the ceremony. Harry F. Byrd, Governor of Virginia, a brother of Commander Byrd, was also present.

Mr. Whalen praised Mr. Wanamaker for his support of the projected flight, and speaking of Captain Lindbergh's dramatic departure from the same spot where they then stood and said: "If we have any more such take-offs, we will have no hearts left."

Bert Acosta, who joined the crew when Floyd Bennett, Commander Byrd's flying mate on the polar trip was injured in a test flight before the ship was turned over by the designers, said it was time the people of this country began to take an active interest in aviation.

Officials of the Transoceanic Company said last night that the America would probably not take off for Paris before Tuesday morning. That date is only tentative. The plane is to be taken up at 6 o'clock this morning for further load tests.

The controversy that has existed regarding the Bellanca monoplane Columbia came to a head early last evening when Mr. Bellanca finally broke with Levine.

Although Bellanca is President of the Columbia Aircraft Company, Levine is Chairman of the Board of Directors and financial backer of the concern.

In a written statement which Bellanca made public yesterday he said: "During the said controversy of the past week between Mr. Charles Levine and Lloyd Bertaud I made every possible effort to settle the point at issue. My sole concern was to prove that my plane, built in America and manned by Americans, could successfully make the New York to Paris flight, thus adding another stage to the experimental development of aviation in this country.

"I was helped in my efforts by many friends, including the American press, but I found the obstacles too great surmount. All this convinced me that two characters such as Mr. Levine and myself could not continue together in the same enterprise. Nevertheless, I momentarily placed this apart, so as to place no further difficulties in the way of the flight.

"Now that the flight is over for my part, due to the magnificent success of Captain Lindbergh, I desire to publicly announce the severance of any and all business relations between Mr. Levine and myself, so that I can continue in my way in the work of contributing to the growth of American aviation.

"I take the opportunity to express my admiration for the epochal flight of Captain Lindbergh, a flight which will remain in the history of aviation as one of the greatest accomplishments of the present day.

"Captain Lindbergh deserves the highest respect which goes to a man that has given to the world the most thrilling example of flawless sportsmanship and aeronautical ability."

The break between Bellanca and Levine came as a complete surprise to Chamberlin, who through the controversy has sat silent, merely awaiting the word to go. He was in New York City in the afternoon, but as soon as word was received from Europe that Lindbergh probably would be successful in his flight, the pilot sped back to Garden City. Then it became known that the Columbia planned to leave during the evening.

Word was sent to Curtiss Field to have the plane taken to the runway at Roosevelt Field and Chamberlin climbed into his flying clothes. Even at that late stage in the preparations, however, no mention was made of who the second pilot would be. John Carisi, flight superintendent of the company admitted the plane was ready to start, but professed ignorance as to the other pilot.

An effort was made to find Carl Schory, secretary of the Contest Committee of the National Aeronautic Association, so that an official barograph could be placed in the ship.

Weather charts were scanned and when was seen that the indications were for unfavorable weather today and there was no possibility of getting hold of Mr. Schory, who had gone to Washington, the order to put the Columbia back in the hangar was given.

"All right, it's off," Chamberlin said as he turned his back on the plane which he had hoped to pilot across the Atlantic.

It's off indefinitely, and when we do fly in all probability, it won't be for Paris. That has been done. We'll probably go west now instead of east. Perhaps to Honolulu."

At Roosevelt Field Chamberlin had followed his plane to the centre of the field, where it was stopped by a mechanic of the Transoceanic Company who refused to allow them to use the runway. Carisi and Chamberlin argued, but the mechanic, supported by Captain Beckett of the Nassau County police would not allow them to move the plane further without getting in touch with Mr. Whalen, who had gone for the day.

Chamberlin then heard about the failure of his backers to arrange for the sealed barograph and realized the Bellanca could not start. By that time it was dark. He ordered the mechanics to "take the old horse back to the barn." Not long after this he left the field in an automobile with a friend. The following statement was made by Mr. Whalen regarding the refusal to allow the runway to be used:

"The unfortunate incident on Roosevelt Field this evening occurred without our knowledge. Much damage was done to the field and runway as the result of the stampede of motor cars due to failure to notify the police.

"Following the christening of the America, which was attended by 5,000 spectators, unauthorized persons brought a plane to the field. Captain Beckett and Nassau County Police, seeking to protect the live of thousands who were swarming over the grounds following the christening, requested to see the permit to use the runway.

"This was not forthcoming, and Captain Beckett, in line of his duty, insisted that a permit be obtained. In doing this he was protecting the lives of the public who had assembled on the field where the plane appeared unauthorized.

"Both Captain Lindbergh and the Bellanca plane were given permission to use the field under certain conditions. Captain Lindbergh complied with those conditions. He notified the police seven hours in advance, and as a result his take-off was marked by complete cooperation from all concerned.

"The plane which came out tonight was unauthorized as far as the Nassau police and Roosevelt Field authorities are concerned. We were at dinner with out guests when the police acted. We knew nothing of it. However, we have nothing but praise for the Nassau County police under the supervision of Chief Abram W. Skidmore for their precautions taken to protect lives under such circumstances.

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