An innovative person knows how to turn a calamity into success. Walden did just that. His third airplane was airworthy, even though he damaged the expensive Italian engine on his first solo flight. Once the engine was repaired he made numerous flights until the plane was destroyed in a crash–on the day before the last payment was due on the engine. Despite serious injuries, he still had to make that final engine payment, so he charged admission for people to see the damaged remains of his airplane, and was able to pay off the engine!
- He conceived and built a successful pusher type monoplane.
- The first U.S.-built monoplane manned flight occurred on December 9th, 1909 by Walden.
Walden had an intense interest in aeronautics as a youth, and he built kites and balloon models while living in Europe. Returning to the United States, he graduated from Columbia University in 1906 with a degree in Dentistry. However, his interest in aviation grew and he joined the Aeronautics Society of New York in 1908. This afforded him an opportunity to express his creative ability, to acquire practical knowledge, and to experiment in aircraft design. He became absorbed in the challenge of building a practical airplane. However, the first two he designed and built were not successful.
Walden analyzed the deficiencies of his previous designs and proceeded to conceive and build his third airplane, a pusher type monoplane. He successfully flew this airplane on December 9th, 1909, which also was his first solo flight. This was the first manned flight of a monoplane built in the United States. Subsequent flights in this and other improved monoplanes of his own design at various competitive aviation meets throughout the country brought him additional recognition for his skill as a pilot.
Henry Walden died on September 13th, 1964.
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