Welcome to chet-aero.com! This site is primarily dedicated to the aviation career of one man–my grandfather, Chester H. “Chet” Warrington, who was active in the skies over our nation’s capital and elsewhere during the first half of the twentieth century. But it’s more than a memorial; it’s here to, first, give you a flavour of what it was like to fly during the years between the World Wars, when aviation was only beginning to approach maturity after its “baptism of fire” during World War I.
However, since it’s inaugural in 2004, we’ve had something of an expansion of the purpose of this site (mission creep?) There are basically four parts to this website:
- The story of Chet Warrington’s years aloft, the airplanes he flew, the airfields he took off from and landed (and occasionally crashed) on, the competitions and the associations he was active as a member and promoter. As an aside, Chet was not the “be-all” of aviation in my family. I have two other pieces on this site relating to that as well: my uncle’s service in the Army Air Corps in World War II, a service cut short by tragedy, and my work on the HARM AGM-88 missile.
- Yachting and the Warrington family. Before and after Chet’s adventures in the sky, the family was involved in yachting and marine activities. The later years were centred in Palm Beach, and we have some material on living in that storied place, too.
- Downloads of important aviation and marine resources, for the design and construction of airfields, ports, harbours, and other marine structures, along with other engineering resources.
- Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, which explains and demonstrates the principles of fluid mechanics which made many of Chet’s (and his family’s) exploits possible.
When we think about aviation in the 1920’s and 1930’s, we think of the barnstormers and stunt pilots. But this was the era when the monoplane finally came into prominence as the wing configuration of choice, and also the beginning of scheduled passenger aviation as we know it today. It shows an era when wealthy hobbyists, far from being mere conspicuous consumers, were in fact a part of the advance of the technology, which reminds us that social dynamics change from generation to generation and that it is unwise to rigidly interpret the past solely in terms of our own experience and values.
My grandfather was an inveterate photo album assembler and scrapbooker, and most of the photos and information on this site–except from the downloads–comes from his own material. In addition to the photos, his aviation scrapbook includes newspaper articles and other printed materials. These were invaluable in putting the photos into some kind of context, to say nothing about actually constructing a narrative. Many of the events described on this site have faded into history.
In using these, a famous eyewitness left us a warning. In a column dated 1 August 1930, Ernie Pyle, the famous World War II reporter, wrote the following:
Geographers say that the windiest places in the world are in Antarctica or around the Cape of Good Hope. But they are all wet. They’ve never been around Washington Airport at noon time when the pilots congregate for lunch.
If you sit out on the east plaza there, under the awning, and listen to the hot air that roars back and forth thru the place, you’ll wonder why they send explorers to far away places to find meteorological phenomenon.
There is more hot air around those luncheon tables there any day then you’d find in an Arizona sand storm in a week.
Great are the flying deeds that are performed by word of mouth. Everybody is a hero. Nobody has ever make a mistake in his life. They to thru some of the most harrowing experiences imaginable, but their amazing skill always pulls them heroically thru.
The situation has gotten so bad, in fact, that they have formed the Flying Bologna Club. Its purpose is to promote the inaccurate principles of flying…
Chet Warrington is chairman of the board of the Bologna Club…The club’s insignia is a bologna sausage, equipped with wings.
We take one comfort after all this: Chet included this article in his scrapbook!
Even with these photos and articles, however, it is difficult to put some of his material into any kind of context. I come from a family where family legends didn’t get passed down very well. Part of the problem is readily understandable: “Chet” was a hard act to follow, the aviation story as told on this website is only part of his life, which included yachting, automobile sales, and of course the family business, Vulcan Iron Works.
Fortunately many of the organisations he was a part of are still in existence, and there are aviation websites of many kinds which fill in the gaps of understanding. To these I must give credit, and a partial list of them follows:
- General Interest
- Airports and Airfields
- Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields (probably the single most useful site I found)
- NOAA Office of Coast Survey — Historical Maps and Charts
- Sportsman Pilots Association (sadly dissolved in 2005, after their website was first started)
- The Ninety-Nines
- Dave Binkley’s Monocoupe 110, NC12350 Site. This plane and its pilot, Tony Little, were major winners at the 1933 and 1934 Langley Day events, and the Monocoupe is currently being restored.
When this site was first started in 2004, Wikipedia was not well endowed with information on this subject. Although there are still gaps, things have improved, and for certain topics it has been very helpful for the newer information on the site.
The information on the other three parts of the site are discussed at those parts. The early, steam yachting years had the advantage of being in the public domain, and that advantage is also prominent with the downloads. The Fluid Mechanics portion has much original material.