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The Birth and Resilience of Mercury Aircraft

white and red plane on the sky

The Beginning of Mercury Aircraft

In the early 1920s, Hammondsport, a small town in Steuben County, New York, faced economic challenges with the closure of the Curtiss plant and the onset of Prohibition. However, a group of determined individuals, known as the “old Curtiss boys,” saw an opportunity to revive the local economy. Led by Henry Kleckler and Bill Chadeayne, they founded the Aerial Service Corporation in an old cask factory.

Initially, their primary business focused on manufacturing parts for Curtiss Jennys, but they quickly expanded their services to include airplane overhaul, refurbishing, and even emergency response by air. The company’s flying field provided pilots with essential resources such as gasoline, oil, spare parts, and expert mechanics.

Aerial Service Corporation’s Growth

Thanks to Kleckler’s connections from his time at Curtiss, the Aerial Service Corporation soon secured contracts to build airships for the army, custom-made airplanes, and even their own designs. However, despite their efforts, none of these aircraft gained significant popularity in the market. In 1929, Kleckler decided to leave the company he had helped establish to focus on plumbing and heating in Bath, another town in Steuben County.

Two years later, Harvey Mummert and Joe Meade, Sr., former colleagues of Glenn Curtiss, joined forces and purchased the struggling Aerial Service Corporation, which then had only four employees. Mummert and Meade brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to the company, but unfortunately, the Great Depression soon took its toll on their progress.

The Aerial Mercury and the Birth of Mercury Aircraft

Despite the challenging economic climate, Mummert and Meade embarked on an ambitious project in 1925. They developed a prototype mail plane called the Aerial Mercury, which they successfully flew to Long Island in just over two hours. With its impressive thousand-pound capacity, the Aerial Mercury outperformed its competitors in a post office trial. The smaller Mercury Junior, another aircraft developed by the company, also received positive feedback. However, neither of these planes secured production contracts.

Although the Aerial Mercury and Mercury Junior did not achieve commercial success, they played a crucial role in shaping the company’s future. Inspired by the positive response to their aircraft, Mummert and Meade decided to rebrand the company as Mercury Aircraft.

Despite the setbacks caused by the Great Depression, Mummert and Meade remained determined to keep Mercury Aircraft afloat. They continued to innovate and develop new aircraft designs, hoping to secure contracts and establish themselves as a prominent player in the aviation industry.

Conclusion

The story of Mercury Aircraft is one of resilience and determination. From its humble beginnings as the Aerial Service Corporation, the company faced numerous challenges but managed to adapt and evolve. While their early designs did not achieve commercial success, they laid the foundation for Mercury Aircraft’s future endeavors.

Under the leadership of Harvey Mummert and Joe Meade, Sr., the company persevered through the difficult years of the Great Depression and continued to innovate. Their commitment to excellence and their passion for aviation drove them to develop new aircraft designs and seek opportunities for growth.

Today, Mercury Aircraft stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of its founders and the enduring legacy of aviation in Hammondsport, New York.

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