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James Whitted

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Occupation  Aviator Pilot

Name  James Whitted
James Whitted
Born  February 14, 1893 (1893-02-14)
Died  August 19, 1923(1923-08-19) (aged 30)

James whitted


Lt. James Albert Whitted (February 14, 1893 – August 19, 1923), was an American aviator and St. Petersburg, Florida's best-known pilot. During Whitted's career he ran a commercial air service business, was an instructor at the Naval flight school, and was also an engineer. Whitted was killed in a plane crash near Pensacola, Florida in 1923. St. Petersburg's city airport was subsequently named Albert Whitted Airport in 1928.

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Early life

James Albert Whitted was born in St Petersburg, Florida on February 14, 1893. Whitted 's father, Thomas Albert Whitted came to the Pinellas County area with his parents from Boone, Iowa in 1878. Albert's mother, formerly Julia Phillips, was the daughter of the Long Key settler Zephaniah Phillips. After their marriage, Thomas and Julia moved to what is now Gulfport, Florida in 1884. There they built a house and had nine children, four of which died at an early age. The third child born was James Albert Whitted.

At a young age Whitted attended local schools in St Petersburg. He also spent time learning mechanics from his father, himself a mechanic. According to Eric Whitted, Albert's nephew, "when Albert was a teenager, he was a projectionist in the old Cameo Theatre. Back in those days, all movie projectors were hand-cranked; because he was constantly reading, Albert rigged up a way to run the projector with a bicycle wheel and motor so he could read. People were really pleased because the film was running much more smoothly. But when his boss came in and saw what he was doing, he fired him." When Whitted graduated from St. Petersburg High School, he established St. Petersburg's first motorcycle shop.

Aviation career

In 1910 Whitted moved to New Haven, Connecticut for a brief period where he took up motorcycle racing While in New Haven, Whitted developed a strong interest in aviation. He acquired a part ownership in a Curtis land machine, which he had helped to build.

Military

Early on in World War I, Albert Whitted enlisted in the aviation corps of the US Army. He was sent to Pensacola in March, 1917. In August 1917, he qualified as a naval aviator and received his pilot’s number 179. He is classed as one of the first 250 pioneer pilots of the US Navy. By August 1918, Whitted had become an instructor in small seaplane flying. He later instructed on larger sea planes such as the H-12 type. On September 25, 1918 Whitted was commissioned as a first lieutenant and was made chief instructor in advanced flying. Some of Whitted's pupils were on the famous trans-Atlantic voyage with Commander Read.

Whitted remained in the Navy for a short period after World War I. He conducted maneuvers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During this period, Whitted and a student aviator crashed their plane in Pensacola Bay, falling over 1,000 ft.. Whitted suffered only a bruise on his nose and his student passenger suffered a broken arm. The crash was attributed to the student. In 1919, Whitted received his commission as a junior lieutenant and was placed on inactive duty.

Commercial

After being discharged from the Navy in 1919 Albert moved back from Pensacola with his wife and dog. Albert also brought with him commercial aviation to the city of St. Petersburg. Although it was Tony Jannus who flew the world's first scheduled air transportation between St. Petersburg and Tampa in 1914, it is Albert Whitted who local historians credit with truly introducing the people of St. Petersburg to flying. Albert began his commercial aviation career out of a hangar on the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg. He took passengers up for short plane rides in his seaplane the "Bluebird" for flight lessons and to take in the view. Thousands of residents and tourists went up with him in the next few years. Eric Whitted recalled tales of a newspaper being floated in the bay and Albert swooping his seaplane down and cutting the paper in half. Albert also carried mail for a time up the Mississippi River. In true daredevil style, according to Eric Whitted, he flew his plane under the arched bridges that spanned the Mississippi at the time, terrifying the people crossing the bridges. In the summer of 1921, Albert designed and built a larger and faster plane in Pensacola which he brought back home to St. Petersburg in the winter. The plane that Albert built was an experimental airplane which had a four-bladed propeller. He would name this plane the "Falcon".

Death

On August 19, 1923 tragedy struck and sadness fell over St. Petersburg, Pass-A-Grille and beyond, when it was learned Albert had crashed his plane off of Pensacola and had perished along with four passengers. He had been flying along about two hundred feet above the water when a loose propeller of his famed “Falcon” cut through the fuselage and severed wires needed to control the plane. After a desperate effort to regain control of the plane it hit the water so hard that almost all passengers and Albert were killed instantly. The plane had taken off only five minutes earlier.

The only woman aboard the flight was found floating by Mr. William E. King a longtime friend and associate of the aviator. She died upon being pulled into the boat. The other passengers and Albert were all pinned beneath the plane. It took several diving attempts to pull the men from the plane. The accident happened about forty miles east of Pensacola near Camp Walton on the Santa Rosa sound. The Falcon was Albert’s pride and joy, having been designed and built by him. He was still making changes to its design a short time before its crash. A new motor had just been installed at St. Petersburg before he left for Pensacola and new wings were also added at that time. The 100 mile an hour speed the plane was able to reach was said to have put an enormous strain on its propeller.

The funeral for Lieutenant James Albert Whitted, U. S. N. R. F. was held from his father-in-law's home in Pensacola. He was laid to rest at St. Michael’s Cemetery. During his commercial air service business, which he held with his brother Clarence, Albert never had an accident and had carried more than 5000 passengers.

Marriage and children

On November 14, 1918 Albert Married Frances Louise Brent (1894 - 1995) of Pensacola, Florida. She was the youngest daughter of F. C. Brent. The couple were married at the North Baylen Street home of her older brother Thomas and his wife. The wedding was a "quiet affair" with family only owing to the recent death of Frances' Aunt Mary Ella Brent about ten days before. An uncle, Daniel Gonzalez Brent, died about two weeks after their wedding. After their wedding, Frances and Albert lived at the Brent family home in Pensacola. They also lived in St. Petersburg, where Albert was from, moving back and forth between the two cities. By the end of 1922, shortly before Albert's death the couple had two daughters, Catherine Eugenia "Jean," and Frances Louise "Fanty."

After Albert's death in 1923 Frances lived as a widow in the Brent family house with her and Albert's two daughters, as well as a few of her brothers and sisters. While living there she met another Naval officer, Harold Foster Fick, of St. Joseph, Missouri. Frances was remarried to Harold Fick in 1927.

Honors and tributes

In 1926 local leaders of St. Petersburg decided to construct a downtown airport. The airport to be constructed would be made on the landfill near Bayboro Harbor. Starting out with only one runway the airport was completed and opened in the summer of 1929, named in honor of the local aviator, Albert Whitted. Soon after the airports opening Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company chose Albert Whitted Airport as a location for one of its blimps. The St. Petersburg city council was so sure that the blimps would act as a tourist attraction so they appropriated $33,062 for a blimp hangar. In October 1929, the stock market crashed, helping to instigate the Great Depression. In 1934 the Civil Works Administration (forerunner of WPA) initiated local projects, among them the expansion of Albert Whitted Airport. Albert Whitted Airport was used in World War II as a training facility.

Today you can still find the top half of the "Albert Whitted Airport" hangar with its high gable roof, in downtown St. Petersburg on the airfield, third hangar to the east. It is now used as a maintenance hangar.

References

James Whitted Wikipedia


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