Wright’s Drone Emulates Pilot’s Take-Off View From Airfield

Bob Wright, FASF Airfield Security Chief, flies his video equipped drone along the same pathway flown by Jenny pilots from FAS Airfield a century ago.  Since the prevailing wind direction at the Airfield is from the West, Bob took off into that wind – climbing to the West.

Bob added specific historical facts in his titling of this short (3:35) video.  The film depicts the scene that would typically have been witnessed by First Aero Pilots, while departing on their missions from their Airfield here in Columbus in 1916 and 1917.

Bob also carefully emulated the rate of climb one of the First Aero’s pilots would have experienced while taking off during the hot Columbus Summer months a century ago – which was a quite a slow rate of climb, especially when compared to almost any modern airplane.

While some of the buildings you will see passing under the Jenny (Drone) are new since 1917, many of them remain from the historic days of a century ago, although the densely populated Fort Columbus (later renamed Camp Furlong) with it many tents and shacks, is no longer extant.  But the skyline and the historic black water tower were here during the historic days during which the First Aero Squadron flew its many combat sorties deep into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa and his Villistas.

The several red/orange roofed buildings, seen at 2:33 in the video, are actually structures of the 1917 Army encampment. These buildings are now in use at the local Pancho Villa State Park and often used by the FASF to make some of its local and numerous historical presentations.

An interesting environmental sidelight to this simulated take-off of a Jenny, is that the fairly dense mesquite and sage brush seen below were not the predominant ground cover of a century ago, While you’ll notice the runway created by the Foundation as the Drone takes off, there were no runways in 1916 or 1917, because runways had yet to be invented!  Rather, a century ago, the entire rectangularly shaped Airfield was completely cleared of its airplane unfriendly – and dangerous – ground cover.

While there was a great deal of sage brush and open range grass discovered where the Airfield had to be located, there was very little of the mesquite present.  Had there been as much mesquite as we see around Columbus, today, clearing the airfield would have been much, much more difficult, since the mesquite has extremely deep roots and the absence of modern day tractors would have meant that clearing would have had to have been done by multiple horse drawn field-clearing plows.  Heavy grazing by cattle during the intervening years removed most of the desert grass cover.  It has been suggested by some local environmentalists that the cows may have been the animals (many coming from neighboring mesquite covered Texas), that introduced the mesquite to the area’s desert landscape. 


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