Commemorative Flyover Planned for 100th Anniversary

of Ralph Johnstone’s Historic Middle Island Flight


Local residents, history buffs and aviators will gather at — and above! — the Historic Marker at Artist Lake Park on Middle Country Road in Middle Island tomorrow, Wednesday, October 27, 2010, at 3:00 p.m. to observe the 100th Anniversary of pioneer aviator Ralph Johnstone’s historic flight and landing here a century ago.

Members of the Bayport Aerodrome Society will conduct a flyover featuring six vintage airplanes to honor Johnstone’s amazing feat of setting a high altitude record of 8,471 feet after being blown off course in his Wright Bros. 1910 Model B Flyer.

Although Johnstone’s flight originated all the way back at the Belmont Park air show that gusty fall day, those high winds also brought him farther east than any plane had ever flown before. Out of fuel, Johnstone was forced to land in Van Horn’s Field, a small open space across from Artist Lake that is now a parking lot for a vacant Kmart. Few, if any, residents at the time had ever seen a plane before, and word soon spread of the daring airman’s presence. Johnstone met an untimely death only a few weeks later in another flying escapade.

Wednesday’s commemorative flyover is weather dependent. The Bayport Aviators will determine by noon if they’ll need to postpone till Thursday. Please check the Middle Island Civic Association website at www.middleislandcivic.com for weather updates. Having to celebrate a day later will still be consistent with Johnstone’s legacy – he had to spend the night in Middle Island, get his plane’s flat tires fixed, gather enough fuel and even chop down a few trees before being able to take off and return to Belmont Park the next day.