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The Flight of Bertrandias and Garrett

9/12/2014:

At the beginning of September of 1923, two aviators, Lieutenants Kenneth Garrett and Victor Bertrandias, both of the US Air Service, were on a "pathfinding flight" from Long Island to Seattle. Along the way, they stopped at the Agricultural College, now NDSU, to refuel. They collected fifty gallons of gas and had a chat with locals about the flight and their mission.

The flight and its return was followed by many interested in aviation. After Garrett and Bertrandias completed their flight to Seattle, the chief of the air service authorized them to attempt a record breaking flight back. As part of their journey, they wired ahead to Fargo that they planned to stop there once again – this time for 100 gallons of gasoline. This pleased W.P. Chesnut, the secretary of the Fargo Commercial Club, as he said the extra gas meant the aviators probably wouldn't stop in the Twin Cities, marking Fargo as a major stopping point. Quoted in the Forum, Chesnut said: "We are highly elated at this recognition of Fargo as one of the principal landing fields from coast to coast.... Evidently they consider Fargo as one of the principal landing fields in the central part of the country."

However, these best laid plans went awry for the pilots. They arrived a day late, and though they passed over the Agricultural College's field west of the fairgrounds twice, and even made an approach for landing, they didn't stop at all! Instead, they pulled the nose up, and flew off, leaving disappointed spectators in their wake. They offered no explanation by wire, though they dropped a message from the plane – a message no one could locate, though they saw the paper fall from the sky.

As it turns out, reports out of Chicago indicated that the fliers had "encountered much rain and fog in the Northwest and lower lake region," and their motor needed work, causing the delay. They had a stop in Bismarck and another in St. Cloud before the motor finally clipped their wings.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources:

The Fargo Forum: Tuesday Evening, September 18, 1923; September 15, 1923; September 17, 1923