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Big Amphibian Lands in River
Forced down by shortage of gasoline

Party of Six on Way to Slocan to Inspect Mine; Fly Off Okanogan Airport

photoThe Keystone-Loening amphibian plan on the Okanogan River in July of 1930. Photo courtesy of Shafer Museum

Okanogan became a seaport for a brief hour Tuesday morning when a Keystone-Loening amphibian plane carrying a party of Seattle mining men to Slocan B.C., was forced down on Okanogan river by a shortage of gas. The big ship, with its load of six passengers and two pilots, had bucked head winds all the way from Seattle. With the gas supply running low the pilots decided to land here rather than attempting to progress further.

Plane Gassed Here

After the gas supply had been replenished considerable difficulty was experienced in getting the ship into the air again. An attempt was first made to lift from the river, but due to low power lines across the water at the north end of town the pilots decided they couldn’t make it. Passengers were then transferred in cars to the Okanogan airport. The lightened ship was able to clear the water and by flying under the power line the pilots got into the air successfully.

At the airport the passengers again entered the plane and with a run of about half the length of the field the big ship got into the air. It headed off into the northeast toward Christiana lake, where the Canadian customs were to be cleared. The ship left Seattle at six-thirty, expecting to be at its destination at the Slocan lake by ten. Coming over Stevens Pass an altitude of 8,000 feet was reached. The strong head winds cut the ship’s speed and increased gas consumption.

photoIt took the pilot two tries to take off from the river after gassing up.

Arriving over Okanogan at an elevation of about 5,000 feet the pilots decided to land on the river and a perfect landing was made just above the Yarwood home. Ray and Dick Howard were the pilots while the passengers were Irwin LeCouq, J. Hollanbeck, A.A. Bauman, Dr. D. Mulder, Ray Hoektra, and Dan Stearns. The passengers were bound for Slocan lake, where they planned to inspect mining property. They will be able to land right at the mine shaft, according to the spokesman for the party. They had planned to return to Seattle in the afternoon, but with the adverse conditions had changed their plans and were either to remain over night in Canada or to return to Okanogan for the night.

The Keystone-Loening is owned by the Gorst Air Transport Company of Seattle and is one of the ships used in regular air service between Seattle and Bremerton. It is powered with a 525 horse-power cyclone engine. Normally eight passengers are carried on the ferry run where the flying is done from the water and at an elevation of only a few feet. The Gorst company also operates an air taxi service between Oakland and San Francisco. Last year this line carried more passengers than any other air transport line in the country.

The plane attracted more attention here than any ship which has visited Okanogan in a considerable period. Chief attraction was found in the fact that it was the first amphibian to visit here. The river banks were lined shortly after it landed and its take-off was witnessed by a still larger number. It ran up on the beach on the east side of the river near the Steve Cleveland allotment and was gassed and serviced there.

Barry George, who owns a place in Heckendorn, was a firefighter on what is now the Methow Valley Ranger District. He works summers at the Bear Creek Golf Course, and is a history buff who spends a lot of time researching for the Okanogan County Historical Society. He found this story from the July 29, 1930 Okanogan Independent newspaper, put it together with the photograph, and started looking into the background on the photographer, Ernest Cotton.

Cotton was the lone graduate of the class of 1928 from Winthrop High School and was listed in the 1930 census as living in the Omak Hotel and also in Twisp. Cotton not only took photographs, he was also a local newspaper reporter and worked for a time with the Civilian Conservation Corps.

There is no record of this plane landing on Methow waters, but it may well have flown through Methow skies.


Have a comment? >>

Barry's discovery of pictures and text has made its way to the big time. I forwarded it to a lifelong buddy (See upcoming "75th Anniversery" on Grist) who is not only an expert on pre war aircraft but also a docent at the Smithsonian Dulles air museum.He will be able to discuss this and possibly post the article. He was ecstatic to get the article, and it did turn my prop as well. Big thanks to Barry and Grist.

Bob Spiwak

West Boesel