Leonard Warden Bonney

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Leonard Warden Bonney
Leonard Warden Bonney (ca. 1911).jpg
Born (1884-12-04)December 4, 1884
Wellington, Ohio
Died May 4, 1928(1928-05-04) (aged 43)
Mineola, New York
Cause of death Aircrash
Other names Warden Leonard Bonney
Spouse(s) Flora MacDonald (m. 1925–1928)

Leonard Warden Bonney (December 4, 1884 – May 4, 1928) was a pioneering aviator with the Wright brothers.[1]


He was born in Wellington, Ohio on December 4, 1884 possibly as Warden Leonard Bonney.[2] He attended Oberlin College. In 1910 and 1911, he flew for the Wright Exhibition Team and was the 47th licensed pilot. In 1912 he worked for the Sloan Airplane Company, and in 1913 he was a test pilot for the Amas Airplane Company, in Washington, DC and by 1918 he was the general manager for the company. In 1914 and 1915 he was a military aviator for the Mexican government under General Carranza. During World War I he became an Army instructor at Garden City, New York, and a naval instructor at Smith's Point, New York.

In 1925 Bonney married Flora MacDonald. The same year he started designing and constructing in Garden City, New York a novel plane with duraluminum folding gull-like wings, and a side-by-side cockpit. He called the plane the Bonney Gull.

A 1928 issue of Time magazine described the unusual aircraft:[3]

It was fat in body with graceful curving wings. Bonney followed the bird principle, abandoned the aileron, or balancing contrivance which airplane designers have always considered an essential feature of stability in the air. His plane had new features: an expanding and contracting tail, like a blackbird's, for varying loads; variable camber in the wings, so that they could flatten out like a gull's when flying level; a varying angle of incidence to its wings, so that they could turn sideways into the wind on landing...

Bonney was killed on May 4, 1928 during the maiden flight of the Bonney Gull when the aircraft nosedived into the ground from about 50 feet of altitude, seconds after taking off from Curtiss Field, Long Island.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b "Bonney 'Gull' Flies, Then Fall Kills Him. Wreckage Of The Bonney Gull After The Crash In Which Its Inventor Was Killed". New York Times. May 4, 1928. Retrieved 2012-10-16. Leonard W. Bonney, pioneer aviator who learned to fly under Orville Wright in 1910, was fatally injured this afternoon in the first flight he had ever made with his Gull. 
  2. ^ World War I draft registration as "Warden Leonard Bonney" with the 1884 date. Other sources use 1885.
  3. ^ "AERONAUTICS: Aerodynamics". Time. May 14, 1928. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  4. ^ Joshua Stoff. Long Island aircraft crashes 1909-1959. p. 51. 

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