Billy Robinson (aviator)

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William C. Robinson
Born 24 September 1884
Redfield, South Dakota
Died 11 March 1916
Cause of death Aircraft crash
Alma mater Grinnell College
Home town Grinnell, Iowa
Parent(s) Mrs. Franklin Robinson
Gravestone of William C. Robinson in Hazelwood Cemetery in Grinnell, IA.

William C. "Billy" Robinson (September 24, 1884 in Redfield, South Dakota – March 11, 1916 in near Grinnell, Iowa) was an early American aviator. Robinson moved to Grinnell in 1896 at age 12. He was a handyman, tinkerer, and bicycle repairman who designed and built his own flying machine. In 1911, with the help of Charles Hink, Robinson constructed a 60 horsepower radial motor for his monoplane. His innovations for the radial motor were revolutionary. In 1914 he set a record for non-stop flight, carrying mail from Des Moines to Kentland, Indiana. Later he founded the Grinnell Aeroplane Company.

Robinson perished while flying his biplane, attempting to set an altitude record on March 11, 1916. His aircraft was witnessed climbing to altitude, before drifting down like a falling leaf, and gliding to a landing, which was controlled enough to leave skid marks, but rough enough to rupture the fuel tank and ignite the aircraft. Hypoxia was suspected among other reasons for the crash, but the fire made it impossible to verify the exact cause.[1]


  1. ^ Bill Menner. Grinnell in Vintage Postcards. p. 110. 

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