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Pioneer Aviator: Billy Cornelius Robinson (1884 - 1916)

Name:
Billy Cornelius Robinson (1884 - 1916)
Transportation Mode:
Aviation
Company/ Affiliation:
Grinnell Aeroplane Company
Era:
Pre-1920s
Gender:
Male

 

A mechanical genius, Billy invented, built, and flew airplanes around his hometown.  Billy and Charlie Hink co-invented a radial engine which was air cooled and light weight in 1909.

Billy returned to Grinnell in 1914 where he founded the Grinnell  Aeroplane Company.   He operated a flight school advocating for well-trained pilots, good landing fields, and building safe aeroplanes.  Billy designed, built, and flew a monoplane and a biplane of his own unique design.  Unfortunately Billy did not patent his inventions, allowing others to use his ideas as their own.

A few of Billy’s accomplishments were:

1913 - broke the International Long Distance Flight Record flying between Montreal and Ottowa, 112 miles with only four stops

1914 – broke the US Long Distance Flight Record flying between Des Moines and Chicago, 390 miles with no stops.  He piloted his own designed aeroplane with his own radial engine.

1915 – a Medal of Merit Award winner by the Areo Club of America.  Named a charter member of the American Society of Aeronautical Engineers.

1988 – Grinnell Regional Airport dedicates the Billy Robinson Field in his honor.

1990 – one of the first four inductees in the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.Nicknamed the “Birdman of the Prairie” by his home town friends from Grinnell, Billy Cornelius Robinson began his career in aviation early in high school.  Billy built his first glider from scraps found at the Fix-It-Shop where he worked after school.  A mechanical genius, Billy invented, built, and flew airplanes around his hometown.  Billy and Charlie Hink co-invented a radial engine which was air cooled and light weight in 1909.

Billy Robinson in his Grinnell-Robinson Scout
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