Walden Aviation History

Aviation runs deep in my family.  Sort of like the Force, it was passed down through the generations, finally reaching a distilled maximum in me - we'll see about my son Finn, he's already pretty crazy about planes and loves to fly with me.

My great-grandfather, Dr. Henry Walden was a first generation American of Eastern European roots.  Living and working in NYC as a dentist in the early 20th Century, he was surrounded by an America that did not know limitation or restriction on ambition and drive.  The Wright Brothers had flown just a few years before.  Radio was spreading news and entertainment across the world, bringing us all closer - for better or worse.  And living in one of the biggest and most dynamic cities in the world, he was inundated with the energy and opportunity to do great things.

He had always been a tinkerer and inventor, and through his life racked up an impressive list of patents ranging from radio guided missiles, to the instant coffee packet - no, really!  But when he turned his focus to aviation, he truly lead America and the world in a new direction.

Up until this time, most aircraft inventors had been following the model of the Wright Flyer - a large biplane arrangement with two engines mounted as pushers, and a forward canard to control pitch.  It was proven, so that seemed the safe route.

But that was not for Dr Walden.  He embarked upon an effort to create the first American monoplane.  After his first experiments with a traditional - if such a thing can be said for something that didn't exist 5 years before - biplane model of his own design in 1908-1909, he began work on the monoplane.

He worked through many iterations, and suffered the consequences of flying machines that he barely understood, crashing on many occasions, and nearly losing his life on several.  Recovering from often terrible injuries, he returned to the hangar to continue his work.  He had many novel ideas about aircraft control and stability - ailerons instead of wing warping, winglets, and an aft- mounted tail that controlled both pitch and yaw while in flight, as well as a single aft mounted pusher engine.

The Walden IX.  Notice the large ailerons and aft mounted control surfaces.

Culminating in his Walden IX model, Dr Walden finally found a successful combination of engineering and skill that he could show off to the world.  This was in 1911, just 2 short years after starting work on the concept, and only 8 years after the Wright Brother first flew at Kitty Hawk.  He took his machine to air meets all over Long Island, and the region.  Showing off its speed, agility, and the heights to which he could take it - over a mile at one point!  Being the only designer-manufacturer-pilot at these meets - and having the only flying monoplane - led him to have many opportunities to fly his machines all over the country in front of huge crowds.

Walden flying his first successful model, the Walden III in front of his hangar at Mineola, NY.  The picture in the upper left corner is of his destroyed plane after a wind storm.

His accomplishments drove him to start an aircraft manufacturing company on Long Island - Walden Aircraft of course.  However, the start of WWI and then the Great Depression put an end to all of that, so he returned to dentistry and actually never flew again.  He continued to invent and produce new and novel devices and procedures throughout his life.

He is enshrined at the Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, OH.  http://www.nationalaviation.org/walden-henry/ 

Dr Walden in his later years as a distinguished dentist and inventor.

Another cool summary of his life and efforts was published several years ago by the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island: http://earlyaviators.com/ewalden.htm 

He's also a Member of the Early Birds of Aviation, a founding member actually.

The third meeting of the Early Birds, in 1930.  Dr Walden can be seen at table 35 wearing black round glasses.

This is a good article in Air and Space Magazine

And in his own words, the January 1958 issue of Flying Magazine: "I Built and flew America's First Monoplane"

And if you look carefully, there is a small display case in the Air and Space Museum in the Early Flight Gallery.

The Walden III - his first flyable model.  Notice the winglets - WAY ahead of his time!

I am very proud to have this heritage running in my veins.  The stories I heard from my grandfather about his dad were a huge influence on my decision to become a pilot and then an aviator - there is a distinction.  His pioneering spirit of adventure, invention, and perseverance are great inspirations to me in my current endeavors!

I hope to bring those qualities to the growth and success of Little Hawk Logistics in the coming years.