Monday, May 09, 2011

Tom Benoist, Pioneer Aviator

Tom Benoist was an aviation pioneer in the early part of the twentieth century. He and his brother started an automobile supply shop in 1907 in Missouri. As time went by, the shop became a supplier of aviation parts. In 1909 Tom Benoist began manufacturing airplanes. He established the Benoist Flying School in Kinloch Park about 1911. Benoist began making hydroplanes in 1913, using engines manufactured by the Roberts Motor Company. Benoist operated a flying school in Sandusky, as well.

Benoist founded a promising airplane factory in Sandusky, Ohio. In 1917 the factory was located on Columbus Avenue, near the Lake Shore railway tracks, and the testing grounds were at East Battery Park. In the fall of 1916, Elmer Straub flew a Benoist hydroplane over the housetops of Sandusky. An article in the June 2, 1917 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that during a huge parade, leaflets about the Liberty Loan plan were to be distributed by aviator Elmer Straub from a Benoist aircraft. A Benoist aircraft is pictured below at the Erie County Fairgrounds.

At the age of 37, Tom Benoist was killed in a streetcar accident in Sandusky. He was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, but died just a few hours after he arrived. Funeral services were held at the Masonic Temple, with Rev. C. L. Alspach paying tribute to the young aviator. A large floral offering in front of the coffin were designed in the shape of an airplane as a token of esteem from members of the Aviation School and the Benoist Aeroplane Company. The remains of Mr. Benoist were taken to Missouri for burial.

A plaque was placed at Battery Park in honor of the early aviation activities of Weldon B. Cooke, Thomas W. Benoist, and Reinhardt N. Ausmus.

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