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May 6, 2012

Ken-Ton has rich aviation history

Before there was any other airport in the area planes were taking off from the Town of Tonawanda.

Before jumping out of airplanes was something people could do for fun a Kenmore native invented the first ripcord parachute.

And before World War II was a matter of history companies in Western New York were building the planes that would help win it.

John Percy, Town of Tonawanda historian, will elaborate on those bits of local history and more at a lecture titled “WNY Aviation,” at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society at 100 Knoche Road, Town of Tonawanda — which also houses a display that offers a glimpse into that history.

•••

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: "WNY Aviation" lecture by Town of Tonawanda Historian John Percy

• WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Tuesday

• WHERE: Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society Museum, 100 Knoche Road, Town of Tonawanda

•••

"We have a stunning aviation history over here that people don't realize," said Ed Adamczyk, who serves as Percy's counterpart as the Kenmore historian. "We built the planes that won World War II at the Vulcan Street plant of Curtiss-Wright, and not far away at Bell Aviation, the jet pack was invented. 

"It's a remarkable history that most people in Western New York are not aware of."

Percy, who served as Kenmore historian from 1969 to 1980 and town historian since 1973, said a number of variables made that history possible.

"We had the right combination of things here to make airplanes: labor, electrical power, transportation — both lakes and railroads. We had the capital ... and we had entrepreneurship," he said. "We had a lot of people in Buffalo who were willing to take a risk. That's why it took off here."

Aviation history in the area, however, didn't actually start with airplanes.

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