Port Washington Aviation History

Port Residents

Allan Litty and Wife on Wing, 1949

arch416Port residents the Littys sit on the wing of a Vultee BT13 at the Deer Park Airport (which no longer exists) on Long Island.  For more information on the Deer Park Airport, see “Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields” (scroll down).

Photo from the collection of Allan Litty.

Paul Kotze and Volunteers with Sperry Messenger Replica

arch129Paul Kotze (second from left) and other volunteers crafted a replica Sperry Messenger plane from original plans for Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation Museum.  Read more about the Sperry Messenger and the replica on the Crade of Aviation website here: http://www.cradleofaviation.org/exhibits/ww1/sperry/index.html.

From our book, People, Places, Planes (1997):

Paul Kotze’s father worked for the Curtiss Company when Curtiss was constructing the NC-4, the plane that, in 1919, made the first successful trans-Atlantic flight.  Mr. Kotze remembers visiting the Curtiss plant witht his father and bringing home bits of wood and silk for building models.  While still a teenager, he bought his first full size airplane for fifty dollars, which he had earned pumping gas for the Cadillac Company.  The plane had no engine and needed extensive restoration, but Kote had engine experience from his work at Cadillac, and spent time at Curtiss Field watching others work on airplanes.

As World War II approached, Kotze was recruited to work for Grumman supervising airplane construction.  During this time he developed tools, jigs, and guages to simplify and standardize the work.

In retirement, after spending 1940-1968 at Grumman, Kotze has donated his skill and his time to the Crade of Aviation Museum, doing reproduction and restoration work.  As one of the more experienced volunteers, the 92-year-old Kotze must help train new volunteers.

William B. Atwater, c. 1930

fom182William B. Atwater, early Port Washington aviator, entered races, flew to Bermuda, and set speed records.

He also had a bit of legal trouble, according to this New York Times article from August 28, 1915:


Under a decision handed down yesterday by Judge Julius M. Mayer in the United States District Court, William B. Atwater of Central Valley, N. Y., the aviator husband of Lillian Platt Atwater, widow of Senator Thomas C. Platt, must either turn over $5,000 to Jacob A. Decker, his trustee in bankruptcy, by Sept. 1, or be committed to Ludlow Street Jail.

Atwater was adjudged guilty of contempt of court by Federal Judge Charles M. Hough last November for failing to comply with a ruling of Referee in Bankruptcy Walter C. Anthony of Newburg, requiring him to pay the $5,000.

Atwater’s defense is that he is practically penniless and cannot comply with the court’s ruling.  When examined before United States Commissioner Tallman he produced $4 and said that his wife had given it to him.  His only bank account, he said, is 59 cents, and his interest in his grandfather’s estate, which is small and depends upon his outliving his mother.  Atwater told Commissioner Tallman that aviation is his only means of earning a living, and that because his wife objects to it he has been doing nothing but looking after her estate, receiving only spending money from her for these services.  Judge Mayer in his opinion characterized Atwater’s testimony as “indefinite, unsatisfactory, and not worthy of belief.”

In 1912 Atwater made a trip around the world, accompanied by his wife, and made from 200 to 250 flights.  He received for these exhibitions, according t0 the referee’s report, between $60,000 and $100,000, which he asserts he turned over to his wife.

Allan Litty & Wife With Their Piper J-3

arch417Photo from the collection of Allan Litty.  Taken at the Tom’s Point Skyport.

Allan Litty & His Piper J-3 at Tom's Point Skyport

arch418Photo from the collection of Allan Litty.

For more information about the Piper J-3 see the Wikipedia entry or the Piper Cub Forum website.

Allan Litty said:

We’d have air shows.  Could you imagine today, if someone said ‘I’m gonna walk a wing,’ they’d arrest him.  You’d advertise like a garage sale. ‘Air Show, Sunday the 14th’ and the cars would come from everywhere.

'The Aviators March' By John Philip Sousa

Sousa_AviatorsLocal resident John Philip Sousa, the “march king,” composed “The Aviators March” in 1932 to celebrate the local citizen’s role in an exciting new era of technology and hope fo the future.

The sheet music was published by the Theodore Presser Company.

Learn more about aeronautical sheet music at http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/Music/intro.htm, a digital exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution’s Bella C. Landauer Collection.

Eddie Harrington & Friends at Jamaica Sea Airport, 1930

EH1930(l. to r.) Al Meadows, John Martin, Bob Leib, Edward Harrington in front of American Eagle with OX-5 engine.

Photo from the collection of Edward Harrington.

Captain Edward Harrington, c. 1968

ppp124At the helm of a DC-8-61 Trans Caribbean Airways jet.

Harrington said:

For 727 and DC-8 training I was going day and night and so were the airplanes.  I used to call it ‘Trans-Exhaustion Airlines’.

Ward Davidson, Jr. With His Family, December 1931

fom188Ward Davidson, Jr. (right) was one of Port Washington’s youngest aviation enthusiasts at the time.  By the 1930s, entire families had become “airminded.”

Port Resident, Capt. Eddie Harrington, c. 1930