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of the nation (and the world) focus on Curtiss again in late
summer 1933, when the International Air Races were held there
in conjunction with the Century of Progress World's Fair in
Chicago. Enormous crowds attended each day of the four-day event.
Virtually every person who had anything to do with aviation
attended the event. Among the luminaries were Charles
and Anne Lindbergh,
Wiley Post, and Eddie
Earhart, who also planned to attend, was grounded due to
engine trouble while flying over Kansas.
Through the depth of the Depression, Curtiss struggled along, often
barely making ends meet. Commercial airlines were courted, but in
the end most took their business elsewhere. Operations were confined
primarily to general aviation, flying lessons for the fortunate
few who could afford them, and a school for aircraft mechanics.
American Legion air shows, along with those sponsored by such groups
as the Chicago Girls Flying Club, helped to keep the field afloat.
There were occasional endurance flights and high-altitude record
attempts. Wiley Post mad a well-publicized albeit unsuccessful attempt
at an altitude record in 1934; Bill Lear (founder of the famous
Lear jet aircraft company) began a radio communications business
in one corner of Hangar One.
Following the commissioning, Hangar One became home to a succession
of candidates for flight training. As an "E" or elimination
base, men drawn primarily from colleges and universities in the Chicago
area made every effort to successfully complete the first ten hours
of instruction, after which they could fly solo. Those who had the
"right stuff" were sent to Pensacola, Florida, to continue
their pursuit of "Navy Wings of Gold."
Flight training for military pilots
was another enterprise that helped keep Curtiss solvent during
the lean years. Following World War I there were drastic cutbacks
in government funding for the military services. Defense installations
were few and budgets were small. Since the Great War was thought
to be "the war to end all wars," the federal government
did not continue to fund the defense system at the previous
higher war levels. Both the Navy and the Army did, however,
award contracts to Curtiss for pilot instruction.
The Navy has a long-established pilot training prgram at
the United States Naval Reserve Base at nearby Great Lakes
north of Waukegan. As the years went by, a few land-based
planes were acquired, and a small airfield was built on base
property. As higher-performance aircraft were developed, there
was a need for longer runways. Space was not available at
Great Lakes, and after an axhaustive search for a suitable
location in the Chicag area, the Naval Reserve Aviation Base
chose the Curtiss-Wright-
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