Jackson’s First Helicopter Visit

By Stephen D. Bowling

In 1948, they were still strange things. Most Americans learned about manned flight in history class when the Wright Brothers made their famous flights at Kitty Hawk. Many still had not seen an airplane in person. Even fewer had laid eyes on the strange vehicle that landed on the baseball field in Jackson one Sunday afternoon in 1948.

A large “heliocopter” experienced issues and slowly landed on the baseball field located in the open bottoms of the Breathitt High School campus. Large crowds braved the rain and came to see the oddity as soon as word spread around the community.

The Jackson Times did not get a photo of the aircraft, but the paper did print the following article on the front page of the January 8, 1948 edition.

Heliocopter Lands At Ball Park Here

Residents of Jackson were treated to their first visit from a heliocopter plane last Sunday afternoon when two Niagara Falls men were forced down here for lack of fuel.

The large plane, its propellor spinning it slowly down to a landing on the Jackson baseball park, was short of fuel and its occupants lit here to take on extra gas.  So perfect was its landing that, its wheels made; a bare three-quarters turn after touching the ground.

Riling in the plane were Russ Case and Bill Ferrisi, bound for Knoxville, Tenn. where they are employed by T.V.A. 

Numerous residents braved a chilling rain to visit the plane during the short time it was here.
Igor Sikorsky was the passenger in this Sikorsky R-4 in 1944. The helicopter was one of the first mass-produced in the United States and may have been the model flow into Jackson in 1948. Source

The men refueled the helicopter and, to the delight of a large crowd, lifted off as they continued their journey. Over the years, thousands of helicopters visited Breathitt County, including one that carried Lady Bird Johnson back to Lexington after her visit in 1964. Daily flights of the medical helicopters come and go from the Kentucky River Medical Center, and frequent flights of the Kentucky National Guard hover over the county mainly in the fall of the year for some reason.

It may seem strange to the modern observer who frequently sees helicopters and planes in the sky. There was a simpler time in our county when these new things brought wonder and amazement to the people of our community. Many old timers still remember that rainy day in 1948 when Jackson was visited by our first helicopter.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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1 Response to Jackson’s First Helicopter Visit

  1. appalgal says:

    I can remember everybody coming out on our porches and sidewalks when the sound of a helicopter reached our ears. It happened anytime a motorboat could be heard on the river too! They were both rare sounds when I was a child.


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