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Oliver G. Simmons
Aviation Mechanic - Wright Pilot

From the Flying Pioneers Biographies of Harold E. Morehouse

Oliver G. Simmons was born in Philadelphia, Pa., July 14, 1878. Enlisting in the Signal Corps, he served in the Philippines from 1899 to 1902. Returning, he completed his education at Catholic University, Washington, D.C. On October 14, 1909 he returned to the Signal Corps to lauch his career in aviation. He entered the Corps this time as a mechanic, and serviced the FIRST Army Wright aeroplane at College Park, Md., when Wilbur Wright taught Lts. Lahm and Humphrey to fly, who then in turn gave some instructions to Lt. Foulois. 

Following this, Simmons went along with the aeroplane to Chicago, where it was put on display at the Electrical Trades Exposition, January 15-29, 1910, and from there to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, where Lt. Foulois was to continue flying it. The Lieutenant made the first flight there on March 2d, and since he had received but little instruction, his smash-ups kept Oliver busy rebuilding the plane. This, with their very limited allowance for expenditures, was not an easy matter. During the Spring months he built a wheeled landing gear for the plane and discarded the skid and lauching rail system they had been using. This experiment probably prompted the Wrights to adapt a running gear, which they first tried at Dayton in July of that year. 


During 1910 Oliver built a small 2 cyl. opposed liquid cooled engine, which he later used some in a boat. He continued on as the FIRST AIR FORCE mechanic at San Antonio into 1911, whem, during the latter part of February, wealthy New York sportsman Robert J. Collier, of COLLIERS WEEKLY, loaned a new late model Wright plane to the Signal Corps there, in an attempt to stimulate more interest in aviation. Collier also made arrangements with the Wright Co. to send Phil Parmelee to San Antonio to give demonstrations on the new plane. This meant that Oliver now had to keep two planes in service. WHile Parmelee was there he and Lt. Foulois carried out a number of notable early reconnaissance flights and also gave Foulois additional instruction. Later he was recalled to Dayton for other duties and the Wright Co. sent Frank Coffyn to San Antonio to replace him. Oliver did such a good job there that Spring and early SUmmer that Collier took a liking to him and offered him a job at his country estate, Rest Hill, Wickatunk, N.J. Lt. Foulois made an appeal to retain him, which was rejected, and Oliver left the Service on July 14, 1911, to accept Mr. Collier's offer. 

The COllier plane was returned to New Jersey and Oliver went to Dayton, where he entered the Wright School. There he learned to fly from instructor Cliff Turpin in 96 minutes flying time, after ten lessons, and made his first solo on July 29, 1911. Following this, he went to New Jersey to take up his now duties, and proceeded to get equipment and facilities organized on the Collier Estate for flying operations. There in the early Fall of 1911, he became and Aerial Chauffeur for the Collier family and their social events. On October 14, 15, 16, Collier promoted a sort of private flying meet at Rest Hill, and

[[image: photo of Oliver Simmons to the right]]


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