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LAIRD
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made its maiden hop one July Sunday. It handled well, though some trouble was experienced in keeping the engine from overheating. It had no particular name or designation and its significance lies in the fact that it was the first plane constructed by Laird as a commercial venture. Delivery was made to a couple of Chicago people doing business as the National Airplane Company.
During Chicago’s “Market Week” early in August, Matty received high commendation for his exhibition flying at Grant Park. However, he still hadn’t made any money, at least not as a pilot. If he was going to gain national recognition, Matty knew he must first complete the ne job he had been planning. Building it would be his project for the coming winter. 
Finally, in September 1915, Matty got a booking for pay from the management of Ohio’s Mahoning County Fair. The Baby Biplane was taken apart, crated and shipped to the Sebring fair grounds by rail. The freight charges left precious little for Matty’s on transportation and his two mechanicicians—Buck Weaver and Charlie Arens—had to buy their own tickets. Laird was paid about $350 for several flights at Sebring so his faithful assistants were soon amply rewarded.
Laird’s fourth creation was his vehicle to fame as an exhibition flier. Functional in every detail, it had tandem seating and was fitted with a real airplane motor, a second-hand Anzani from France. The Anzani had the kick of 45 horses and vibrated so vigorously it acquired the name “Bone-shaker”. Laird flew it for the first time on Sunday, May 7, 1916, at Cicero. Preliminaries for the National Model Competition were going on at the same time, but soon everyone’s attention as focused on Laird and his new “tractor-looper”. The machine got off quickly and Matty took it up to about 3000 feet, cut the power and spiraled down for a perfect landing.
Laird took the new biplane on tour, filling several two-day engagements in the West. He began doing loops in June, thus, it is said, becoming the sixth American to perform the maneuver. Returning to Chicago early in August, Matty test-hopped a small biplane built by Charlie Arens. It was a successful flight even though the controls and cockpit had been tailored to fit the taller builder. Laird, being ten inches shorter the the lean and lanky Arens, had to stretch far to reach the rudder bar. 
During the remainder of the summer, Laird made a number of exhibition flights in the vicinity of Chicago and did a brisk business hopping passengers. The three Stinsons—Katherine, Eddie and Marjorie— were based at the newly established Ashburn Field and Laird had moved there, too. They often flew together, comparing the relative merits of their equipment. Eddie’s Brock “looper” was a shade faster than Laird’s, but Matty could get off in fifty feet and out-climb anything around. Katherine was particularly fond of the Laird machine and Matty landed it to the celebrated aviatrix for her historic tour of Japan and China in the winter of 1916-17. 
Laird and Weaver made a highly successful exhibition tour of the North-west in November 1916. During their absence, however, the government established an Army Reserve flying school on Ashburn Field. The war, which had been raging in Europe for two years, was about to involve the U.S. and a belated effort was being made to develop an air arm. Weaver, upon his return, applied for an appointment as a student flying instructor and was accepted. After the declaration of war, he was assigned to Rich Field, Texas, where he met two other instructors—William A. (Billy) Burke and Walter H. Beech— both of whom would figure prominently in events to follow. 
Laird, meanwhile, had been devoting a great deal of time to the reserve school at Ashburn. He had also worked out the preliminary design details of a new biplane intended for the following season’s barnstorming circuit. However, his services at the school were considered indispensable and Matty was prevailed upon to move to Memphis, Tennessee when operations were transferred early in 1917. He had been promised shop space in high to build his new plane, but this did not fully materialize and Laird’s stay in Memphis was brief. 
The Stinsons had established a school and permanent quarters near San Antonio, Texas and it was there that Matty turned up next. Katherine had a new Gnome-powered exhibition job built by Walter Brock, consultant to the Illinois Aero Club. It did not loop as well as she had hoped it would and Matty was asked to see what could be done to improve things. After trying several modifications, Laird took it for a routine test on March 14. He was flying in a normal attitude when a gust suddenly upset the biplane’s equilibrium. A wing dropped and the machine fell into a flat spin. Matty was still struggling to regain control when the Brock-Stinson augered in. He spent the next four months recuperating in a hospital. 
Laird went back to Chicago in July. Civil flying had been curtailed by the

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