WARDEN LEONARD BONNEY

He Was J. F. Knapp's Pal & Flight Instructor

W. Leonard Bonney was in a very exclusive club. That of the first 50 licensed pilots in the US. Last summer I paid a visit to Joshua Stoff , the curator at the Cradle Of Aviation Museum in Long Island. I became acquainted with Joshua through an article he wrote for Flight Journal Magazine in 2001 on Bonney and his experimental plane. Of course I wanted see what else he had in the archives. W. Leonard Bonney was a name I had never heard of until I started to look into who Joseph F. Knapp of New York City, Isle Of Palms, Ft.Lauderdale, Florida and most importantly to me Mastic Beach was. Stirred on this morning by this discovery of an early Portrait of Leonard, that is in the Wright Brothers archives, I decided to get out my Cradle of Aviation stuff and a few other odds and ends I have found since I first posted the Bonney, Dodi & The Gull Story two years ago.

I've been here too, as I lived in Clearwater, Fla for 10 years. I had no idea though when I lived there what had happened back in 1912 with the guy who would build a plane in Mastic Beach barn in the 1920's....Those 5000 folks paid admission to watch him.....It's called Janus Landing these days for aviator Tony Janus who flew there.

YELLOW BIRD & YELLOW BARN
July 1994
March 2001

Before he built it full size, Leonard built a model, he probably built several , but this is probably the only one that exists. I became aware of it last spring from friend Ralph Cooper's Early Birds site and Ralph put me in touch with the owner of the model,who turns out to be the grandson of the caretaker from the Bonney Estate. The estate has been free of hidden cameras and advanced security systems to this day Trouble is the family was not in agreement as to who has actual legal possesion of it. Mrs. Bonney gave it to the grandfather of the family who is looking to find a new home for it. I have lost contact with them however and it's fate is unknown. I can think of two places it would be right at home The Cradle Of Aviation Museum or My House ,,, but isn't it odd that the place the real Bonney Gull was initially built in has been Yellow since it was converted to a house in 1958!

NOW ON TO THE CRADLE OF AVIATION

IT'S AN AMAZING PLACE AND IT SITS ON THE FIELD WHERE LEONARD MADE HIS FIRST & LAST FLIGHT
IN HIS GULL . THOSE ARE ORIGINAL HANGERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE NEW BUILDING

Though the Archives are in a separate building , I just had to take a quick look at the museum itself . That is one of Gyro Sperry's Messenger Planes Like The One He Flew Right Up The Steps Of The Capital in DC In 1922 ... oh yeah Its yellow too!

INSIDE THE ARCHIVES I FOUND

An article from Popular Mechanics from December of 1926 Similar to the one I had in Popular Science that same year. By this time Bonney had several years of work into the plane and it was probably moved out of Mastic into Garden City.

And some photos I had not seen before.... for such an obscure piece of history It certainly attracted it's share of attention back then

The 9 Cylinder Engine Was Always Cited As The Big Delay For Getting The Gull Of The Ground. Bonney worked with Kirkham Co. of Garden City On That Problem. As for the K that wound up on the tail....it could of stood for Kirkham or it could of stood for Bonney's silent partner Knapp .... Reading through the archives I saw confirmation of a silent partner.
Leonard had not yet received a registration number or approval to fly the plane when these photos were taken
MYSTERY MAN

In many photos including the crash ones there is a photo of a well dressed man in a fedora....who was he? He isn't Bonney

The wreckage was moved from the crash site back to Curtis Field as it was called then. I wonder where it eventually wound up. There were broken pieces of plane equipment in Knapp's barn in the early1950's but I don't think it was from the Gull...... I do wonder who is looking over the wreckage in this photo.
Some eye witness letters and some wrong information turned up in a Long Island Early Fliers Club Newsletter in 1985... I wonder if the eyewitness are still around? The planes wings were never designed to flap....something the press kept writing about all the time .....
And would you believe these last three photos are from a Newsreel of the Flight Of The Bonney Gull. They were filmed by the British Company Pathe

RELATED PAGES ON BONNEY & KNAPP AVIATION

Dodi & Bunney & The Gull

Smith Point Aero Station

Joshua Stoff's Flight Journal Story

Knapp Aero Files

E. K. Jaquith Flight Instructor Of

The 3rd Naval Aero Squad

HOME