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Nelson Biplane
Nels J. Nelson, a 22-year-old Swedish immigrant working as an automobile mechanic in his shop on Elm Street in New Britain, began building and flying his own aircraft. On May 1, 1911, young Nelson made his first flight from the new field in Plainville, now known as Robertson Airport and the oldest in Connecticut.
That summer he flew some 40 miles to the ball field that also served as an airfield in Saybrook. Located at the end of Dudley and Coulter Streets, the area remained open fields until housing was built there in the 1940s. After arriving, he tested his biplane but it did not rise more than a few feet from the ground.
That evening a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered to see his flying machine and to watch the Saybrook and Deep River baseball game. When the time came, he took his machine to one end of the field, got good speed on the ground and, it was reported, “glided upward like a bird.”
He skillfully circled around while ascending to the magnificent height of two or three hundred feet. While circling, the engine’s radiator cap flew back and broke the wooden propeller. With the loss of thrust the aircraft came down rapidly and struck a fence as it landed. He was in the air for about five minutes.
Nelson continued to fly and build airplanes but, unable to get government contracts, ultimately lost out to other manufacturers. He died at his home in Yonkers, New york, in 1964.

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