At age 17, Matty Laird's first design would be a monoplane powered with an en-gine designed by Harry Wells. The two worked on their separate projects month after month in high-school night classes. Matty's airframe progressed, but Harry Wells was never able to devise a reliable valve mechanism for his engine. Thus Matty was left with an engineless airplane.
A Chicago machinist named Hofer offered him a 12 -horsepower engine for $150. After several months of revamping his plane to accept the Hofer engine, Laird took his little single-seat monoplane out to Cicero Field. To his surprise, up it came about 15 feet.
He had a very light airplane and a little too much speed, and somewhere in the series of bounces that followed, he crossed the controls and wound up on his back.