Ernest C. Hall holds the very highest and unprecedented distinction of being continuously and actively engaged in all facets of aviation longer than any other individual, not only in the United States, but also in the world.
In the late 1890s, many searched for answers to overcome their design deficiencies, and the sluggishness or lack of expected performance. To the people of Warren, Ohio, Hall was Mr. Aviation because they were able to observe this pioneer of aviation in action. “My desire to fly must have been born in me,” Hall said.
Hall’s interest in early flight events was evident as he started saving articles and news accounts in his aviation booklets dating back to 1892 — even before the advent of the early initial flying machine. As a young lad, “Ernie” began building model gliders, testing them on a string similar to kite flying.
While living in the former Packard Home (Packard automobile family) on High Street, Ernie built several of his flying gliders at the rear of the property in a large brick carriage house from 1906 to 1909. Hall made the first heavier-than-air type aeroplane flight in a modified Bleriot Model XI on Aug. 30, 1911. The newspaper accounts said Hall probably started to build his first plane in 1909, completing it prior to August 1911.
The first airplane completed and successfully flown in 1911 by Hall did not conform to any of the known Bleriot models. This affirms the news accounts that Ernie in his own right was considered a designer, engineer, builder and aviator even at this early age of 21. From this time on, Ernie grasped for more knowledge on design, construction, performance and reliability, and considered safety as much as possible. The early aviation pioneers shared experiences and assisted each other when called upon or when by chance their paths would cross. Such was the case when Hall met the Wright Brothers for the first time in 1912.
What might have been considered a higher level in his flying career came in 1913 when he got his first job as a flying instructor with the Curtiss Exhibition Co. at Newport News, Va. Late in 1914, Hall acquired a Wright Flying-boat designed as a Model G, No. 2. Another first came to Hall in 1915, when he established his first flying school at Conneaut, Pa. Hall then went to the McCook Field at Dayton, Ohio, joining the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps, where he was an exceptionally high quality instructor.
Shortly after, Ernie was transferred to Call Field at Wichita Falls, Texas, one of several military fields in Texas, where he successfully trained more than 500 cadets by the end of the World War I training period. Hall was then appointed the State of Ohio Director of the Bureau of Aeronautics. His background and vast knowledge on aviation would prove invaluable to the promotion and advancement of aviation in the state.Ernie was a member of the very highly regarded “Early Birds,” a group of select aviator members who were specially invited to attend the gatherings.
In the late 1930s, Hall’s unparalleled efforts in aviation were being recognized and he was bestowed with many honors. At the 1938 birthday party of Orville Wright held in Dayton, Ohio, he met captains of industry Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Charles Kettering.
During Hall’s teaching career, he trained two future Air Force Generals: Lt. Albert J. Price, who started as one of Hall’s World War I military students, and Jimmy Doolittle. According to the Federal Congressional Record of 1958, a bill (S.3880) created the Civil Aeronautics Board and a Federal Aviation Agency and contained verbiage with a tribute to the early pioneers of flight and to the exclusive Early Bird Club. It names the Wright Brothers, early military personnel, club Secretary Paul. E. Garber, Ernest C. Hall, George Scragg, former club president and many other notables. During this same year, Hall was named “Mr. 0X-5 of 1958” by the international organization of veteran pilots who flew aircraft powered with the famous Curtiss 0x-5 engines built before and during World War I. Prior to this award, Hall had been elected to this Board of Governors of the 0X-5 Club.
During this same period of time, Ernie was one of the elders of the Silver Wings Fraternity. In 1961, many news accounts covered events honoring Hall and his 50th year in active aviation. He was singularly honored at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. by the U.S. Air Force. Hall’s 1911 monoplane, which had been displayed first at the Smithsonian Air Museum, was moved to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton.
A second Ohio State Senate Resolution, introduced by Bishop Kilpatrick on Feb. 10, 1970, stated, “To congratulate Ernest C. Hall of Warren, the oldest practicing flying instructor in the world, on his lifetime achievements.”