Learn about the WWI planes and the role they played in Sacramento's history.
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The Role of WWI Airplanes in Sacramento’s History
A lot of the booze that wound up in the in Sacramento was distilled right here in town, although some of it was flown in form Canada where alcohol was still legal. You can imagine that the barnstorm is who made those flights who have pretty colorful group of characters and one became famous or rather infamous here on Sacramento for a stunt that he performed right here.
Officially, it was known as the Curtiss JN-4 but those who know her simply called her, Jenny. It was one of the first mass produced aircraft in the world and the first to be specifically used in warfare during the First World War and many of them were built right here in Sacramento.
The Globe Iron Works on Del Paso became the Liberty Iron Works when they received a U.S. Government contract to build 300 of the small but elegant planes and Mather field served as a training ground for the pilots who would eventually take them into the skies over Europe but it have them dubbed for war to end all wars. So, after—in 1918, the army decommissioned most of their arsenal of Jenny but rather than turning them into scrap, many were sold off, often to the very pilots who had flown them in combat. They quickly earned the name Barnstormers since so many of their exploits took place over the farm fields of the mid-west. The same daring maneuvers they’d originally invented to dodge enemy fired now became stunts that left audiences a gape in amazement. Now that the war was finally over, you can bet people were ready for a little entertainment.
One of the most talented and fearless performers was a former army captain by the name of Ive McKinney. He was born in Tennessee in 1895 and always had a taste for adventure. As a young man, he headed west then in 1919 joined the 91st Aero Squadron right here at Mather Filed. After four years in the military, he received an honorable discharge but the sky has kept calling to Ive.
It was around this time that an anonymous aviator started buzzing houses in North Sacramento performing stunts like tale spins and loops and the rumor was, this pilot was doing it all to impress a young woman who lived in the area. But his next stunt was seen by half the city where the tower bridge stands today was originally a railroad bridge, very low to the water and on several locations, witnessed his swore they saw a pilot flying his aircraft right under the bridge.
What was thinking? Well, it turns out old Ive did have a sweetheart who just happened to work on the river front and his amazing stunt was just his signal to her to pick him up at the airport when she got off work. After leaving Sacramento, Ive formed his own company in New Jersey. The new standard flying service offering flying lessons to the public but he still love performing and became known for the air shows he put on for charity.
Sadly, it was during one of these events that Ive’s legendary luck finally run out. Ive was just about to win another race when 30 feet from the ground, he turned too sharply and his wing dug into the earth.
He received four military rights and 36 planes escorted his body back to his childhood home. So legendary were his ex-flights that Charles Lindbergh himself performed at a benefit to raise money for a monument to Captain McKinney. And so, it’s fitting that here in Sacramento, we should remember Ive’s courage and skill and the incredible stunt he performed not for money or claim but for love.