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First Flight Park will honor city’s aviation innovation

Posted Aug. 23, 2013

[First flight 1911 photo]

A new park will commemorate the site where Fort Worth’s first powered flight took place in January 1911.

Fort Worth’s newest park will celebrate the history of aviation in the city.

The City Council last week dedicated property at 2700 Mercedes Avenue in the Linwood Addition as public parkland and authorized naming the plot First Flight Park.

The park will honor the January day in 1911 when a Frenchman named Roland G. Garros lifted off in his Bleriot monoplane, marking the first powered flight from Fort Worth soil. Garros took off from the Fort Worth Driving Park, a race track situated near the current-day Montgomery Plaza off West Seventh Street.

Every other pilot at the Great Aviation Meet, a traveling troupe brought to town by publisher Amon Carter and other leading businessmen, refused to fly due to high winds. But Garros, determined to please the 15,000 people who had paid 50 cents to watch a machine fly, pulled back on the stick and went airborne into 25 mph gusts, a dangerous decision because his plane couldn’t fly a whole lot faster than that.

At 1,500 feet, he leveled off and took a “seven-mile, cross-country jaunt” and landed perfectly a few minutes later, according to news accounts.

Jim Hodgson, executive director of Veterans Memorial Air Park at Meacham International Airport, hailed the park’s creation.

“It is amazing to think that that small piece of land has been vacant forever and in all likelihood, people stood on that ground and watched Roland Garros fly on Jan. 12, 1911,” Hodgson said. “From that point of beginning, Fort Worth has become one of the premier aviation areas in the world. Over 67,000 aircraft have been built here, and those aircraft have added over $1.5 trillion to the local economy.”

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