Smith's Flying Service
The Smith Flying Service was a scenic flight service over the Lake operated by K. Russell Smith (1904-1989) from 1939 to 1961.
Smith was based at the Wilkes-Barre/Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort. The airport was opened in June 1929 and Smith, who graduated from Wyoming Seminary and attended the University of Pennsylvania, opened his air service there in the mid 1930’s. He was a Cessna airplane dealer and was licensed to train private and commercial pilots. He also offered air taxi service, aerial photography, aerial advertising and aircraft maintenance and service.
In 1936 Smith acquired the region’s first locally-owned seaplane, flying it to Forty-Fort from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY, presumably for flights from the Susquehanna River near the airport. (Smith may have received his pilot training at Roosevelt).
In 1939 Smith began weekend air tours at Harvey’s Lake. He was based at a dock near the amusement park. In the months preceding Pearl Harbor Smith was appointed as Chief Air Warden for the Luzerne County Defense Council. He was also an airplane instructor for Army pre-flight students at Bucknell Junior College (now Wilkes University).
In 1944 Smith acquired Lake frontage adjacent to Stonehurst Lodge near Alderson (the Smith property is now the Harvey’s Lake Yacht Club). Here, Smith built a hanger which was used for business purposes – but the hanger was not used to store his plane. The small seaplane was always moored at a Lake dock.
In late Spring a Piper Cub was prepared at Forty Fort for Lake service. Wheels from the standard plane were removed and floats fitted in place. The seaplane was placed on a wheeled-dolly and upon take-off the dolly would fall away and the plane taken to its base at the Lake.
The scenic flights flew only on week-ends at the Lake. If the plane needed service it could be flown to the river near the airport – or it landed on wetted grass at the airport itself.
With a pilot scenic flights could usually only accommodate one passenger – or perhaps an adult and child. The flights were not extensive – generally around the key points of the Lake. Occasionally the plane provided air taxi service to other points – or could be leased for extended viewing.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo