By Doug Parry
Snohomish County’s first glimpse of an airplane was not so much a taste of the future as it was a circus act — complete with a death-defying ending.
A former racecar driver named Fred Wiseman took his traveling show to Snohomish in May 1911, charging a dollar a head to see his flying machine. This was only eight years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, and airplane manufacturing was a do-it-yourself project. Wiseman’s airplane was held together by glue, fabric and a healthy dose of optimism.
At least it was held together, until it crash-landed.
Michelle Dunlop looked back at the flight for a 2011 story about its 100th anniversary:
After a couple attempts, Wiseman’s aircraft took off, rising roughly 60 feet in the air. Less than a minute later, the engine faltered and Wiseman made a rough landing in a field about half of a mile away where the aircraft came to a stop nose-down in the mud. Bruised and battered, Wiseman was able to walk away.
Several onlookers also walked away — with pieces of the plane, which suffered a broken propeller blade and snapped struts from the landing.
Wiseman wisely got out of the airplane stunt business by the end of 1911, taking a nice, safe desk job with Standard Oil. But Snohomish County was never the same. That flight indirectly helped inspire William Boeing, who got into the aircraft business just a few years after Wiseman got out.