You reckon maybe she'll fly?

In 1919, ex-Army airmen Floyd Hart and Seely Hall owned the Rogue Valley’s first private airplane, The Mayfly.

On the sides of their biplane, Floyd Hart was painting a big red heart with an arrow through it. He added some white wings and then stood back to admire his work.

"Maybe we ought to call it something," he said.

The Mayfly flies away

At the end of August 1919, Hart and Hall were on a short barnstorming tour north through Oregon. When they reached the Pendleton Roundup in September, they gave up dreams of a barnstorming fortune. For the exact amount they paid for the Jenny, they sold the Mayfly to a man described only as a Cadillac dealer.

"I can't think of his name," said Hall. "He come out and took a ride one day; wanted to know if we'd sell the thing. Well, we told him, 'Yeah, sure.' "

Floyd Hart returned to his job as a teller at the Medford First National Bank. Two years later, the governor appointed him to Oregon's newly created Board of Aeronautics. Before he died in 1955, he was president and general manager of Timber Products in Medford.

Seely Hall would have a hand in bringing air mail to Southern Oregon and eventually retired as a vice president with United Airlines. He died in 1984 at age 91.

His partner, Seely Hall, wrench in hand and his ear listening to the motor, turned to Hart and said, "I don't know whether this damn thing'll fly. Maybe I'm warming it up for nothing."

"Well, it may fly," Hart said, optimistically.

"By golly, Floyd. That's it," Hall said. "Mayfly!"

It was unanimous. "THE MAYFLY" was painted across the airplane's tail.

It was July 1919, and after serving a couple of years during World War I in the Army aviation corps, the boys were at Mather Field, just outside Sacramento, Calif.

For $2,850, they had purchased a surplus Curtiss "Jenny" biplane, outfitted with what they were told was a brand-new engine. They were planning to make some money by selling airplane rides to valley residents who had "a longing to get up higher before they die."

"Undoubtedly," said a reporter, "there are many people in this valley who will kiss a 10-spot goodbye for the privilege of getting a little nearer Heaven."

The Mayfly flew, and after a few test flights in California, Hall and Hart decided to fly her back to Medford.

"We stopped at Chico, Redding and at Montague," Hall remembered. "Then we milled around."

After eating lunch and tuning the engine, they waited for a storm to pass, then crossed over the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon and "landed out at Gore's field," a wheat field halfway between Jacksonville and Medford, not far from where the Blackbird Shopping Center sits today.

It was the first time a civilian plane had made the long and dangerous trip.

The next day, they started passenger flights, 15 minutes for $10 plus $1 for the war tax that was still in effect.

Within a week, Hart was exhausted from so much flying. He contacted Delbert Jones, a friend from their air corps days, a pilot, and a former Medford boy. Jones agreed to fly as Hart's relief pilot.

After flights in Grants Pass and Ashland, and less than two weeks after the plane had arrived, "business started dropping off," Hall said. "There was an Elks convention taking place over in Klamath Falls, and Floyd and I were both Elks."

While eating lunch at Medford's Elks Club, Hall and Hart convinced George Collins, a local businessman and Exalted Ruler of the local Elks, to take a 55-minute flight to the convention with Hart, while Hall followed behind in a 10-hour drive by car.

After a few short flights, Hart called it quits. At just above 4,000 feet, takeoffs were difficult and hazardous at best.

"No more, Seely," he told Hall, "We're getting out of here. This darned thing won't climb."

The Mayfly proved it could fly, but when the air got thin? — well — maybe not so much.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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