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Early Wright Pilot - Mechanic - Engineer


Duval LaChapelle was born at Detroit, Michigan, May 28, 1870 of French parentage. No information has been found on his early life and education, but he became a very proficient mechanic and worked in Detroit during the early development period of the automobile industry. During this period he evidently went to France and was engaged in similar work there.

When Wilbur Wright went to France in May, 1908 to make his first celebrated public flights at Le Mans he required some machine shop work done and was given assistance by Leon Bollee, an automobile manufacturer who had a small factory located there. LaChapelle was working for Bollee and became acquainted with Wilbur Wright at that time. Entirely on his own he set about helping Mr. Wright in every way possible during his stay at Le Mans.

As a result LaChapelle later returned to the United States and became an employee of the Wrights as a mechanic. When the first flying school was established at the Simms Station in the early spring of 1910, LaChapelle was in charge of the maintenance of the school machines at the field shed. This also included teaching the students the importance and methods of daily inspection and care of the planes in use. There is evidence that he was a very strict instructor of his mechanical ground course and really tutored the men with a firm hand.

During these early training activities he too became obsessed with the


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