America's first professional Jewish aviator is being recognized here in the US state of Maryland for his extraordinary, yet largely unsung role, as pioneer of early flight. One hundred years ago in the airfield adjacent to what is now College Park Aviation Museum a Jewish accountant turned professional aviator took to the skies for his final flight. Kyiv-born Russian-American Laibel Wellcher came to America aged 9, grew up in Philadelphia and Washington and as an adult changed his name to Arthur "Al" Welsh.
Al went on to train Henry “Hap” Arnold who became Commander of US Army Air Forces in World War II. Al was also part of the Wright brothers' exhibition team, clocking up several speed and altitude records. But the Wright Brothers were really drawn to his professionalism in an ear when others were a little too flash and a little too brash. This replica model B in the museum demonstrates the vulnerability of the early fliers and it was in the next model C in which Al and his passenger Lieutenant Leighton Hazlehurst lost their lives in an army test flight.
Daniel Ryntjes, JN1, Maryland