10月 10, 2011

Merle L Fogg - the first licensed aviator in the state of Maine.

Granted I look nothing like my English side of the family (the Foggs). Still, it's pretty intresting to know something about that side of my family. Merle L Fogg is my great grandfather's first cousin.


Merle Fogg eased the control stick back in his little biplane. It rose from the ground and soared over the bay towards Fort Lauderdale beach. People near Las Olas Boulevard heard the engine chugging and looked up. They saw sun sparking from the wings, marveled at the wonder of flight and the daring young man who braved the sky.
By 1928 Merle Fogg had become one of the best known and best liked residents in Fort Lauderdale. He was the operator of the city's first flying service. The rides he gave thrilled residents and gave them their first taste of flight. Time and time again he demonstrated the utility of his primitive craft by performing aerial surveys, taking photographs of the city, transporting passengers around the state and teaching residents to fly. Fogg was a visionary who believed in a bright future for aviation and although he would not live to see it happen; he would begin a series of events that would take aviation in Broward County from the era of the barnstormer into the jet age.
Fogg was born on May 26, 1898 in Enfield, Maine to Leslie and Alberta Fogg. He served in the Army during World War I, although he never saw combat. After he was discharged he studied engineering and graduated from the University of Maine. But Fogg was smitten by aviation, an avocation not endorsed by his father. Leslie Fogg did everything he could to deter his son from becoming a pilot. In 1922 Merle traveled to Okeechobee, Florida. He reportedly told his parents that he merely wanted to winter in a warmer climate, but he was really there to take flying lessons from Ralph De Vore of Clearwater. His parents were made aware of his activities when he shipped an aircraft engine back home.
After learning to fly, Fogg barnstormed around Florida for about a year before flying his biplane to Maine to barnstorm in his home state. It was a glamorous, dangerous way to make a living. An account in the Lewiston, Maine newspaper relates that both Fogg and his wing walker, George "Daredevil" Sparks, were nearly killed when at an altitude of nearly a thousand feet; Sparks walked out to the wing tip, lost his grip and nearly fell from the plane. As he tumbled over, Sparks wedged his ankle to a lift strut and hung suspended from the biplane. Although he didn't have much altitude Fogg dove toward the ground and made a sharp turn, flipping Sparks towards the wing. Sparks grabbed a flying wire and pulled himself aboard. Fogg finessed the controls to end the dive before crashing into the ground.
Fogg returned to Florida around 1925, this time to Fort Lauderdale. The city was in the middle of a land boom and he was hired to fly a seaplane owned by land developer Tom Bryan. Bryan was also a State Representative and with Fogg as his pilot, he was possibly the first lawmaker to commute to Tallahassee by air. Fogg also opened a base for his land plane. His tiny airfield was tucked into a spit of land just north of Las Olas Boulevard, were it meets the Intracostal waterway. Its primitive wood hangar was visible from the road. Big bold letters over the door proclaimed, "Merle Fogg Flying Service." If he was on the ground working on his plane motorists tooted horns and waived as they went by. Merle must have liked the attention because he always waved back.
One of his young admirers was Dwight L Rodgers, Jr. Rodgers, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, remembered, "I saw him land a few times and it was great, really great!" Rogers says that Fogg's landing strip was only about a block long. "It was surprising that he could take off in that distance, but he could.He was certainly a well liked person."

You can read more about my relative over here.

I just had to see his memorial with my own eyes. There is a blog entry about my relative over here.