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Early Curtiss Pilot

William B. Atwater was born at Silver Lake, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, June 21, 1881. He attended local schools and at an early age his ambition was to see the world. Accordingly, he became an apprentice engineer aboard the Pompey on a trip to China. Following this, he also worked at similar duties aboard the ocean liners between New York and Great Britain, then served in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War, becoming a non-commissioned officer.

About 1910 Atwater settled in Central Valley, New York, and operated a livery stable for a time. During that year, and into 1911, he became interested in aviation and followed flying events in the East. In the late fall of 1911 Atwater married Mr. Lillian Janeway Platt, widow of the late Senator T. C. Platt, and they decided to go to California on their honeymoon. She was agreeable to his desire to learn to fly, so he signed up for flight instruction with the Queen Aeroplane Company school of New York, which was moving its training operations to Pasadena, California, for the winter. He planned to take flying lessons while they were there.

In mid-November, while traveling to the West Coast, the Atwaters met Glenn Curtiss and he induced them to go to his flying school at San Diego and learn to fly on water craft [[watercraft]], stressing its greater safety. As a result, Atwater became a student of the first winter class at the North Island Curtiss School through December, 1911, receiving instruction from Curtiss and T.B. McClasky. In the same class were: Albert Mayo, J.B. McCalley, William Hoff, W.H. Fisher, Charles Shoemaker and S.C. Lewis. Atwater took up flying purely for the sport of it and Mrs. Atwater became such an ardent enthusiast that she, too, took some lessons before he had completed his course. Soon the Atwaters were thoroughly enjoyed [[strikethrough]] themsleves [[/strikethrough]] themselves about Coronado and San Diego Harbor, and as 1911 ended they purchased two Curtiss hydros and became real aviation fans. Their purchase was the first recorded instance of hydroaeroplanes sold for private sport flying.
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