Early Aviators: Korn Brothers of Jackson Center

Milton and Edward Korn, 1912 (ms220_1_3_039)

Milton and Edward Korn, 1912 (ms220_1_3_039, see more Korn photos on CORE Scholar)

In 1908, the Korn brothers—Edward (b. 1888) and Milton (b. 1889)—became interested in flying machines. They found a way to cut down the size of the family farm and establish the first airport in Ohio near Jackson Center in Shelby County. In one stage of activity or another, the Korn Airport operated for many years, and the property is still affiliated with the Korn family.

Milt and Ed Korn began building flying machines in 1908. Altogether they built four airplanes, of which the first two never got off the ground. The third one, powered with a marine motor, made successful flights in 1911, taking off and landing at Korn Airport.The fourth airplane, called a Benoist Type XII, was put together in 1911-1912 out of parts from a number of different airplanes. It was used in 1912 to carry the first air mail in the state of Illinois.

Wreck of Edward Korn's Benoist Type XII Airplane, August 13, 1913 (ms220_1_7_086)

Wreck of Edward Korn’s Benoist Type XII Airplane, August 13, 1913 (ms220_1_7_086)

The Korn brothers’ only crash occurred on August 13, 1913 (100 years ago today). With Edward at the controls and Milton riding as passenger, the Benoist Type XII plane crashed in an open field on George Linker’s property in Shelby County. On August 18, Milton died from his injuries. (His death certificate stated cause of death as “shock caused by bad compound fracture of left femur and other multiple cuts and bruises due to fall in airship.”) Edward Korn’s injuries healed, but, haunted by the accident and the loss of his brother, he stopped flying.

Korn Field and Farm in Jackson Center, Ohio circa 1948 (ms220_1_1_002)

Korn Field and Farm in Jackson Center, Ohio circa 1948 (ms220_1_1_002)

From 1913 until 1946, public operations and services at the Korn airport were discontinued, but a younger brother of the Korns, Arlington Korn, continued to fly, using the field as his base of operations. The Korn Airport property was later owned by Arlington’s son Wayne Korn until 2009. It is now part of Creative Plastics International, a business owned and operated by members of the Korn and Wurm families.

In 1949, Ed Korn donated the Benoist Type XII to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where it is now on permanent display. Edward Korn died in 1980.

You can learn more about the Korn brothers in MS-220: Edward A. Korn Papers (pdf finding aid), which were donated to the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives in 1991. The collection includes many wonderful photographs, which you can view anytime in the Edward Korn digital collection on CORE Scholar, WSU’s institutional repository.

Sources consulted:

Some of the text in this post was derived verbatim from Aviation in the Miami Valley: An Abbreviated History of Significant People and Organizations Affecting Aviation in the Miami Valley (2009), a booklet developed by Wright State University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives and sponsored by the Dayton office of Battelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, Ohio).

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