President's Message

The present AERO CLUB OF BUFFALO traces its continuous existence to 1879 - the date the Buffalo Bicycle Club (sometimes known as the High Wheel Club) was organized, February 22, 1879. It had as active members (the local pioneers of aviation): Charles Haberer, Joseph Clody, Ed Bull, Arthur Zimmerman, Major Taylor, Frank Kramer, Reggie McNamara, Alfred Goullet, Norman Hill, (Ref: Geist - "Cycling as a Hobby" - Grovenor, Div. Erie County Library)

Other local clubs developing ballooning (and blimps) and racing pigeon interests were the Press cycling club, the Ramblers, the East Side Cyclers, and the Eldridge Club of Tonawanda. They all reached their period of greatest cycling activity in the 1880's and then turned their interests to autos while others went to the air. These cyclists constructed small blimps and used a bicycle with large propeller styled pedals to motor their way in the air. These "sky bicycles" made their appearance around Buffalo and barnstormed American cities.

Members of the Carrier Pigeon Club of Buffalo were more interested in the antics of Otto Lilienthal, a German, than they were in John. J. Montgomery, an American, who in 1883 with his brother as an assistant, made his first gliding attempt. Montgomery's first craft was patterned after a seagull, its wings had a downward slope and a considerable length. Lilienthal's early attempts were along the lines of wings, which when attached to the arms of the aeronaut and whipped madly back and forth it was hoped, would take the enthusiast soaring like a bird, into the air. These early attempts were doomed to failure.

In 1891, Lilienthal's attention was directed to the construction of a biplane glider - an affair made of peeled willow saplings and cotton cloth, waxed to make it air tight. The glider was so designed that it provided armrests to assist the flier. To Lilienthal, must go credit for the first successful soaring attempts; Montgomery, it will be remembered, had merely glided.

During this period there were trials and failures to fly by the most adventurous of the Carrier Pigeon Club of Buffalo but it was for Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio to persevere. Historians note the pursuits of these two brothers in reading avidly accounts of Lilienthal's gliding and soaring experiences in German, and studying with peculiar fascination, Marey's "Animal Mechanization of Flight in the Animal Kingdom."

On the occasion of the golden anniversary of the first regular meeting of the AERO CLUB, the late John W. Van Allen, a former president and "dean" of the AERO CLUB of Buffalo, Inc., recalled that the founders of the club, sparked by the late John M. Satterfield started regular meetings in 1900. A few years later the group received its charter as the first U.S. AERO CLUB Chapter from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale of France, making it the oldest aero club in America, second oldest in the world.

On July 2, 1900 the Automobile Club of Buffalo was organized, and shared its club rooms in the Hotel Lennox (North Street) with a dozen air enthusiasts headed by John. M. Satterfield as their president. They were the charter members of the present AERO CLUB of Buffalo.
One of the exploits of the AERO CLUB preincorporation enthusiasts was the 1906 flight of the first dirigible over Buffalo.

"Every street car on Main Street was stopped and all the children were let out of school to watch it. For two hours you couldn't get a telephone connection because everybody was at the windows."

"After a few years as a group it combined with another group and incorporated under the laws of the State of New York on March 29, 1910. I am enclosing a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation, paragraph Second of which outlines under the title of "PURPOSES", the objects of the group. In the Certificate of Incorporation you will find the names of the original incorporaters which represented the most active members of the original group, all prominent men of Buffalo at the time." From a letter dated December 16, 1953 by John W. Van Allen to Gordon W. Campbell.


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Last updated: 08/13/14.