The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Aug. 19, 2019

Airport seeks local pilots for Hinton event

VW independent/submitted information

Who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? Most history books will tell you Charles Lindbergh, and he did make the first solo flight. However, the first plane to make a trans-Atlantic flight was co-piloted by Van Wert County native Walter Hinton.

On Saturday, May 18, a “World Record 100th Anniversary Celebration-Pilot Walter Hinton” will be held at the Van Wert County Regional Airport. In May 1919, a U.S. Navy flight crew successfully flew an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean, with a stop in the Azores Islands. This was the first airplane to fly across the Atlantic. Lieutenant Walter Hinton, born November 10, 1888, and raised in Van Wert County, was the co-pilot of this plane, designated the NC-4. 

The trans-Atlantic flight was an international sensation at the time. With the passing of time and improvements in aviation and technology, non-stop flights were soon being made and Lindbergh’s solo flight in 1936, 17 years later, was also an international event.

Prior to his death on October 28, 1981, Hinton was able to accomplish many more amazing aviation firsts. He flew the first airplane from North America to South America. He piloted the first airplane exploration of the Amazon River in South America. He survived what was to have been a short military balloon flight that blew off course into northern Canada in December 1920. The balloon landed in the midst of a snowstorm and it took 20 days by foot and dogsled to make it to a remote trading post, from where he was eventually reunited with his wife in the United States. 

In 1930 and 1931, Hinton flew all over the United States, sponsored by the National Exchange Club to promote the opening of new airports, improvements to existing airports, and the training of pilots. It could be said he had a poor chance of surviving all these flights, as many pilots his age did not survive.

Hinton also operated commercial businesses in the aviation industry related to pilot training and airplane mechanics. Although he was already nearly 57 years old at the end of World War II, he continued to be an ambassador for the advancement of aviation until his death in 1981.

As part of the celebration at the airport, a search is being conducted for the names of local individuals who learned to fly at the county airport, those who earned their wings as commercial or military pilots, and aviation industry individuals with local ties to the Van Wert community. This is for international, national, and regional “aviation stars” born in, raised, or living for a length of time in Van Wert County who will be recognized at the celebration. 

The contact for anyone who has records and information related to such pilots and aviation individuals is Van Wert County Historical Society Trustee Larry Webb. His mailing address is 6831 John Brown Road, Van Wert, OH 45891, while people can also contact him by phone at 419.203.5779 or by email at lwdw1963@gmail.com. Contacts should be made by early April, as a display presentation of all these individuals will be made at the May 18 celebration at the airport.

POSTED: 02/14/19 at 1:23 am. FILED UNDER: News