Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘aviation’

Shenandoah Crash Recollections with Ed Lehotay

USS Shenandoah airship

USS Shenandoah airship

Step back 88 years to September, 1925 as we visit an observer, Ed Lehotay, a lively 97 years old. He and his family actually saw the giant Shenandoah airship that fateful morning before it crashed in nearby Ava, Ohio.

USS Shenandoah was the first of four US Navy rigid airships built at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey.  It made the first airship crossing of North America at speeds of up to 69 mph.  On its 57th flight, this “strongest airship in the world” was on a publicity tour of Midwestern State Fairs when it was caught in a thunderstorm in the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio.  Surprisingly, 29 of the crew of 43 survived the crash.

Ed Lehotay at 97 years of age

Ed Lehotay at 97 years of age

Nine year old Ed Lehotay recalled September 2 as being a dreary day with the threat of a storm in the air. They had gone to bed about 10:00 that night in their family home on Patton Hollow Road just south of Cambridge. Their house shook in the terrible storm with torrents of rain pouring down. As the lightning flashed and lit up the sky, their father had noticed a large airship pitching back and forth like a bucking horse directly over their house. His father woke the whole family at 4:00 in the morning on September 3, 1925. The children’s eyes were wide with wonder at the huge airship over their house being lit up by the lightning.

The Shenandoah moved slowly just over the rooftop. Their family was shocked to see the 680′ long airship with a diameter of nearly 80′ so close, rolling from side to side. That’s as long as two and a half football fields!  When the sound of the roaring engines combined with the rolling thunder, the noise was unforgettable. From the living room window, the family watched the airship as it drifted across the road, over the barn, and up the hill nearly touching the top of their cherry orchard. The crew threw the spider lines from the airship in hopes they would either get tangled in the tree tops, or perhaps someone would be able to reach them and restrain the airship.

Ed and his family would never forget the sight of the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) on that eventful morning. As the squall line continued to pummel  the zeppelin, the ship eventually broke in half with part of it landing near Ava, Ohio in Noble County, and the rest being scattered about ten miles farther, with many of the crew falling to the ground along the way.

Rings made from Shenandoah's aluminum frame

Rings made from Shenandoah’s aluminum frame.

People made a beeline to the crash location in the continuing rain. Ed begged his family to let him go to the site, but they felt there would be too much confusion there for a youngster. Instead his brother drove to Ava through the mud roads in his new Willy’s Baby Overland. Once there they saw people cutting up the fabric of the airship for raincoats. Even though it was raining, people still needed drinking water so a local farmer, fearing his well would go dry from so many users, began charging for water – something rare in those days. Another young entrepreneur brought thirst quenching bottles of pop to sell at the site. Many took pieces of Shenandoah’s aluminum frame as souvenirs.  Ed’s brother brought him a piece of aluminum, which Ed melted in their forge and fashioned into rings. His dad put on one of those rings with a diamond shape on top, wore it every day and was even buried with it on his hand.

Shenandoah Memorial in Ava Ohio

Shenandoah Memorial in Ava Ohio

Today the Shenandoah Memorial stands near the place of the crash. Originally, the memorial was back in the woods at the actual site of the crash, but today it has been moved where people can visit it more easily. It consists of a small metal replica of the Shenandoah airship inside a tall granite archway , which is surrounded by swirling metal storm clouds. A bronze plaque lists names of those who lost their lives in the crash.

At the southern end of Ava, there is a USS Shenandoah Memorial Trailer Museum beside Rayner’s Garage. Bryan and Teresa Rayner have saved many pieces of memorabilia regarding that crash in 1925. Bryan has a special interest since his family owned one of the farms where pieces were found.

A local high school in Noble County carries on the historic memory of this event by having their high school sports team called the Shenandoah Zeps.  Their logo is a sleek dirigible.

How wonderful it would have been to view the Shenandoah in all its magnificence as it glided through the sky. Thanks to all those who help memories of the  famous airship and its crash still live on!

To visit the Shenandoah crash site, take I-77 to Exit 28 , Belle Valley. From the west side of the interstate, take Hwy 821 North 5 miles to Ava. The monument is on the north side of town on the east side of the road and well marked. Rayner’s Garage and the Shenandoah Trailer Museum are on the south side of town. The museum has limited open hours.


Colorful Hot Air Balloon Festival Up, Up and Away

“Up, up and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon” could be the theme song for any hot air balloon festival.  Even though there wasn’t a chance to hit the skies personally, it still was a pleasure to watch the colorful balloons take to the air at the 31st annual Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival. The scene in the middle of the Coshocton Fairgrounds doesn’t appear very exciting at first glance…just filled with trucks and trailers. But this would all change before the evening was over.  This scene could occur at two times of the day since just before sunset or near sunrise are the best two times for flying.

Seems that man has always wanted to fly! The first hot air balloon ascended way back in 1783 in France.  The Montgolfier brothers, paper manufacturers, created a special balloon using a combination of linen and paper. Capturing the magical smoke from the fire, they were able to  lift a basket, for about fifteen minutes, carrying animals: a sheep, duck and rooster. At Coshocton Fair Grounds, the Montgolfier name lives on through a business called Montgolfier Balloon Gift Shoppe, where you can find everything imaginable for the balloon enthusiast.

The father of modern day ballooning, Ed Yost, made the sport more practical by building the balloon from nylon, later taffeta, and heating the air inside with a propane burner. The Balloon Works developed a parachute valve so the amount of air inside could be controlled to vary altitude and even land. Rattan wicker baskets carry pilot, passengers, propane tanks, and equipment needed to control the balloon. A variometer shows vertical speed, a digital temperature gauge reflects balloon and air temperatures, and an altimeter tells how high the balloon is above sea level.

In the center of the track is a flag pole with a red flag hanging, which indicates the launch isn’t ready to proceed. Sometimes shows must be cancelled if weather analysis determines there is either not enough wind to fly or if the wind direction is constantly changing. But tonight the wind blows favorably and the crowd cheers as the flag is changed to green. It’s  time for the men to start blowing up the balloons with their handy propane tanks. Anticipation is the name of the game as each balloon is stretched out on the ground, slowly filled with gas, and finally launched into the sky.

Out in the countryside, two targets have been placed to make the evening a little more challenging. Whoever comes the closest to these targets will receive the highest score. Just being part of this spectacular balloon launch would be reward enough. Approximately twenty balloons headed for the hills to see where they would land, which basically depends on where the wind takes them. The only real control the pilot has is to either make the balloon ascend or descend by controlling the heat in the balloon.

At dusk,  a special Night Glow lit up the evening sky while the balloons were anchored instead of being launched. This spectacular sight is created as the  hot air balloon burners illuminate the colorful fabrics of the balloons against the twilight sky. Only six groups participated in the finale here, but displayed some beautiful synchronized lighting patterns.

The only way this day could have been more spectacular is to have been riding in one of the baskets below the hot air balloons. Perhaps someday you can experience the thrill of soaring through the air as there are places in Ohio. such as Hot Air Balloon Rides, that have some pretty exciting trip packages. Look for a hot air balloon launching wherever you happen to live or visit.

The Irish, in typical tradition, added this toast to hot air ballooning, which describes the journey very accurately:

The winds have welcomed us with softness.                                                                           The sun has blessed us with it’s warm hands.                                                                         We have flown so high and so well                                                                                             that God has set us gently back                                                                                                           into the loving arms of mother earth.        

Come fly with me!. As you soar into the air like a bird on the wing and feel the touch of the air on your skin, relax and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful adventure.

Every June, The Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival is held at the Fairgrounds in Coshocton, Ohio. Coming into Coshocton on Route 36 , exit at Roscoe Village then proceed over the bridge on Chestnut Street past the courthouse. Make a left turn on 7th Street and after several blocks you will arrive at the Coshocton Fair Grounds on the left side of the street. 

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