On October 25, 1911, the first plane ever to land in the state of Arizona did so right here in Yuma. Piloted by Robert G. Fowler, the Wright Model B biplane (also known as a "Cole Flyer") weighed 800 pounds and was capable of reaching a top speed of 45 MPH. The plane housed a 30 HP engine that was rented from the famed Wright Brothers, who had made their historic flight years before.
Bob Fowler, making a little history of his own, began his flight in Santa Monica, California and was headed for the East coast. It was during this flight that he touched down in Yuma near a ball park between 1st and 3rd Streets on 4th. Avenue. About four days later, planning to continue his flight, Mr. Fowler found it necessary to enlist the aid of several local citizens who pushed the plane uphill on 3rd street in order to give it a "downhill" run. Forty-nine days later the "Cole Flyer" ended its journey by rolling to a halt near the surf of Miami, Florida.
Fifty-two years later Robert Fowler returned to Yuma for the dedication, an unveiling of the monument in his honor. Today a historic marker commemorating the "100th Anniversary of Flight in Yuma" stands in front of the Yuma Landing Restaurant-the very site of the biplane's original touch down!
NEW STATUE TO MARK SPOT—OF ONE OF YUMA’S HISTORIC ‘FIRSTS’
YUMA, AZ – Because of its location at a natural crossing of the Colorado River, Yuma boasts a rich history of “firsts,” from the first train to enter Arizona Territory to the first highway bridge across the Colorado.
But few people know that Yuma was also the site of aviation “firsts” – including the landing of the first airplane ever to touch down on Arizona soil, on October 25, 1911.
That spot will now be marked with a statue of the pilot, Robert G. Fowler, who landed here when Arizona was still a territory, on a 50-day cross-country trip from Santa Monica, Calif. to Miami.
Piloting a Wright Model B biplane (also known as a “Cole Flyer”) with an engine rented from the Wright Brothers, Fowler landed in Yuma near what was then a ball field. To continue his journey some four days later, Fowler had to enlist the aid of locals to push the plane up the hill to 3rd Street to give it "downhill" start on takeoff.
As the years passed, the ball field gave way to the Best Western Coronado and the Yuma Landing restaurant, whose owners consistently honored the history of the site with historic markers (and an extensive photo collection). In fact, Robert Fowler returned to Yuma in 1963 for the dedication of a monument in his honor, noting his historic landing 52 years earlier.
Half a century later, this aviation pioneer is no longer with us – but his likeness will be. The Fowler statue, sculpted by artist Laurie Slenning of Tucson, will be dedicated at the special ceremony at 12 noon Monday (March 15).
Unveiling the statue will be John and Yvonne Peach of the Best Western Coronado and Yuma Landing Restaurant and Charles Flynn of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. The Peaches and the Heritage Area provided funding for the project, along with the Early Birds Association.