Wingless In PA

1935 Wingless Airplane in Monessen PA

CBW Luncheon

Cliff Ball Wing of Western Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pa


by Ron Pagila,

Researcher for the Cliff Ball Wing 

An impromptu journey down Memory Lane evolved when Ivan Livi and Dennis Yerkey of CBW met with Cliff Yerkey, North Belle Vernon Mayor Ed Lyons and Ron Paglia at La Eda’s Restaurant in Monessen.  In addition to a delicious lunch they enjoyed a lot of excellent food for thought as they reminisced about growing up in the mid-Monongahela Valley.  Here is some of what they discussed.

The Monessen Airport, later called the Belle Vernon Airport, located about three miles from the city limits, was granted a license as a commercial flying field the week of October 5, 1931 and with four planes on the ground was ready to care for any or all commercial or pleasure flights.  The Belle Vernon Airport was located in the area where K Mart is now located in Rostraver Township.

The quintet at La Eda’s discussed the famous – or infamous – wingless airplane that gathered widespread attention. The unique and controversial aircraft was scheduled to receive its first test Sunday, September 16, 1935 at the old Monessen Airport.

Bemis Johnson, inventor and designer of the wing-eliminating aircraft, asked Carl Lange, devil-may-care aviator, and Belle Vernon pilot Robert Scott to make the test. Lange, who recently moved from Belle Vernon to Weirton, WV., was reported to have returned to Belle Vernon and was being sought with Scott to make the test..

The eyes of the entire aviation world will be on Belle Vernon Sunday when Bemis H. Johnson puts his revolutionary wingless-type airplane through its first flight test at the Monessen Airport. The chances for the new airplane to fly are good, according to expert opinions of scores of flyers and aeronautical experts who have viewed it and followed the details of its construction during the past several weeks.  The Monessen Daily Independent reported. “If it flies aviation history will have been made. If it so much as leaves the ground in its first trials its possibilities will be unlimited and it will herald a new, undreamed of era in air transportation.

More to follow…………