In 1912, Chicago,
Illinois was one of the leading
aviations centers in America. There was much activity at two of the local
airfields, Clearing and Cicero
as well as the Chicago
area in general. One of the most
important events in aviation, The Gordon Bennett Trophy Race was held in Chicago. The aviation community had established itself
at being able to fly over ground, Interest had spread to promoting events at
flying over water. In conjunction with
an air meet scheduled in Chicago
in1913, organizers decide to add an event for hydroplanes (planes that could
land and take off from the water).
The event was termed the Great Lakes Reliability Cruise
competition. It was sponsored under the auspices of Aero & Hydro magazine. The magazine had only
recently changed their name from Aero
to Aero & Hydro.
The Great Lakes "Reliability Cruise" was organized
for the week of July 8--the course followed the 900 mile shoreline from Chicago to Detroit via the Straits
of Mackinac. It was heralded as the biggest competitive aerial event of the
Most of the pilots who had
taken up the practice of flying over water were on the entry list - a total of
fifteen names. Max Lillie was
Theo Liljestrand (1881-1913) was born in Sweden and after graduating from an
engineering university and serving in the Swedish navy, he emigrated to the United States
in 1904. After he became an American citizen he changed his name to Max T.
Lillie. Lillie first went to work for an engineering and construction firm in St. Louis, Missouri,
and later he established his own business, Lillie Construction Company. In July
of 1911, Lillie and Andrew Drew, a local newspaper reporter and aviation
enthusiast, formed the Pioneer Aeroplane and Exhibition Company. Soon Walter
Brookins joined the group and it was Brookins that trained Lillie to fly.
Lillie made his first short solo flight on October 23, 1911, and received his license, No.
73, five days later. That fall, Lillie bought out the Pioneer venture and took
the aircraft south for flying exhibitions.
He settled in Atlanta,
he started a flying school and established a base for his winter flying
operations. The following spring, Lillie shipped north to Cicero Field, Chicago, where he made
his headquarters for the active 1912 summer season. Among his successful
students was Chance Vought and Katherine Stinson. Besides teaching, carrying passengers, and
exhibition work, Lillie also carried authorized mail on several occasions. On September 14, 1912, he flew for his Expert Pilot
License. His license was the No. 1
Expert Aviator Certificate issued in the United States. During the winter of
1912-1913, Lillie moved his school first to Kinloch, Missouri
and then further south to San Antonio,
Texas. In the 1913 summer flying season,
the Lillie School was again based at Cicero. Lillie had made
more than four thousand flights and carried over seventeen hundred passengers
without a major accident.
Together with E.
R. Armstrong, an authority on aerodynamics and an aircraft designer, and Adam
F. Weckler, one of the foremost builders of speed boats in America, Max Lillie designed a flying boat meant to carry three
passengers and the pilot. In February of 1913, Lillie announced the
formation of the Weckler-Armstrong Lillie Corporation which was to manufacture the
tandem airboat which was first called the WALCO Aerohydroplane. This was soon soon shortened to WALCO hydroplane
and then the to the easier WALCO Airboat.
Lillies plan was to use the Great Lakes Reliability
Cruise competition to introduce his design to the marketplace. He hoped to win the event or make a good showing and then market
the airboat and a smaller two seater (pilot and passenger) version. He planned
to have both models represented in his flight school. These models were to have double controls for
instructor and student. He also planned to
build a flying boat station on Lake Michigan
to service his customers and the market in general.
were to be of the popular Deperdussin type.
The engine to power the four seat model was to be purchased from the B.
F. Sturtevant Company of Boston,
Massachusetts. The following is a report on the engine from Aero Hydro:
The BF Sturtevant Company today successfully concluded the tests of one
of its six cylinder 70 - 80 horsepower aviation motors ordered by the Weckler
Armstrong Lillie Company of Chicago for their Great Lakes cruiser The motor was
subjected to a most severe test in that it ran continuously under full load for
live hours at a speed in excess of 1,600 revolutions per minute The tests were
witnessed by Albert Adams Merrill of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and ER Armstrong of the Weckler Armstrong Lillie Company and were from every
point of view entirely successful. During the run of five hours, the brake
horsepower developer never fell below 80 the average being 82.0 The total oil
used during the test was 13 quarts or one quart over three gallons. A total of 47.5 pounds of gasoline was used
per hour approximately 8 gallons per hour which is less than 0.6 pounds per
horsepower hour. A remarkable feature of
the run was the uniform torque of the motor.
The pressure on the scales did not vary a half pound throughout the test.
Upon the completion of the trial the
motor was shipped to Chicago
where it will immediately be installed in the air boat entered by the Weckler
Armstrong Lillie Company in the Great Lakes
flying boat cruise
From Aero & Hydro April
In April all focus was on the 80 horsepower
version for the race. Lillie entered the
necessary forms in April 1913 showing him as the pilot. De Lloyd Thompson was registered as the pilot
for the smaller 50 hp two seater which was to have a Gnome engine.
to a century later, an Argentinean artist by the name of Claudio Luchina, who
liked to build from scratch models of "out of the ordinary aircraft"
under the name of Gabriel Stern, used the plans above to build a model of the
two seat tandem WALCO Air Boat. It was displayed along with other models at the
2009 International Plastic Modelers Society Convention. The model generated some new interest in the
WALCO Airboat. pictures of Luchina's
model follow -