A Blacksmith's Aeroplane
The Pliska Aeroplane was built in 1911 in Midland, Texas by John V. Pliska, a blacksmith, and Gray Coggin, a chauffeur and auto mechanic. It was the first aeroplane built and flown in the State of Texas.
The Pliska family immigrated to the United States from Teene, Austria in 1897 and settled in Central Texas in a small farming community near LaGrange. Pliska found work as a blacksmith, however, in 1903 he set out for Mexico City to find his fortune. The train stopped in Midland and Pliska helped a local blacksmith who in turn offered him a job, he accepted and began his new home in Midland. In 1905 Pliska became the first person in Midland County to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1909, he opened his own blacksmith shop.
On November 19, 1911 Robert G. Fowler landed his Wright Flyer II in Midland. Pliska had been fascinated with aeroplanes and Fowler's visit rekindled Pliska's dream of building one. He discussed his plan with Gray Coggin, a local auto mechanic, and together they took photographs and studied Fowler's plane and made plans to create their own aeroplane.
The Pliska Aerocraft was then literally built with their bare hands and only the simplest machinery Pliska had in his blacksmith shop. The aerocraft was made from wood, piano wire and canvas that was not shellacked. Later they discovered that shellacking the canvas increased the lift by preventing airflow through the canvas, thus causing more airflow over the wings. The propeller, made of wood, was getting chewed up by rocks and debris. This resulted in using a tin covering that was actually sewn over the wood blades with wire to prevent further prop damage.
|Gross Weight (with pilot and fuel)
||Roberts Motor Company, Sandusky, Ohio
|The 50 hp., No. 106 motor was actually built before 1910. It is a 4 cylinder 2 cycle motor which used a mixture of 3 pints of oil to every 5 gallons of gasoline.
As test flights (usually about one-fourth mile) were made, the craft was modified and often repaired. Later flights were one to two miles in length.
When the blacksmith shop was torn down in 1962, the plane was given to the City of Midland by the children of John V. and Louise Hundle Pliska. The Aeroplane restoration, as well as the original museum, was funded by the Abell-Hanger Foundation and was completed on October 19, 1965. However, due to Airport expansions during the past few years, Airport patrons were unable to view the Pliska Aeroplane as the museum area become inaccessible.
Now, thanks to the restoration work of a group of dedicated members of the West Texas Aerobatics Club, the Abell-Hanger Foundation, and the City of Midland, the Pliska Aeroplane has a new home. The restored aeroplane now hangs suspended above the baggage claim area in the Midland International Airport Terminal Building. The historic Aeroplane will now be enjoyed by all Airport patrons, visitors and employees. It is an important part of aviation and Texas history.