Sunday, May 20, 2012
TPE: The Flight Circle
It may be forgotten today, but the Flight Circle was a vibrant part of Tomorrowland in its early years. Young pilots gave demonstrations of U-control aircraft hourly, doing some fancy flying and teaching others how to fly. Leroy Cox managed quite an advertising coup when he got his aircraft and employees chosen for these demos, seen by hundreds of thousands of Disneyland guests. The “Flight Circle” had operated initially by flying club members and then by the Wen-Mac company, but Cox’s reputation as a more reliable manufacturer got them into the premium Tomorrowland space starting in the summer of 1958 until it closed in 1965.
The young flyers would sometimes fly two or three aircraft at a time or bring people from the crowd in to try their hand at flying Cox aircraft. Many thanks to “Cox Pilot” for all of the information and photos that he has allowed me to use over the years. Without him, I never would have known about this attraction.
From Cox Pilot: This badge was issued to me by mistake because they were in such a rush to get me signed in and off to work. Normally, only WED employees were issued these badges. The backside has a pin, and a loop for a lanyard. The badges and ID cards were to be turned in upon leaving employment at the park, but since we really didn't work for WED, Bart Klapinski and I just left at the end of that last day in September (I never wore the badge while working). “Wally Gets His Wings”
We all wore the wings along with a very small tie pin made from Cox’s smallest engine which was tied in with a promotional film called “Wally Wins His Wings.” It played on TV a little. I was in the film teaching “Wally” how to fly.
I wasn't sure who was in the Flight Circle in this August 1965 photo, so naturally I sent it to Cox Pilot for I.D.
From Cox Pilot: "I'm not positive, but I think it's me. By August of '65, Bart Klapinski and I were the only ones working the Circle. The company (L.M. Cox) had informed us that Disney would be ripping out all of Tomorrowland, so they cut the crew down. Keith Palmer had already transfered into the sales department at Cox (Santa Ana, CA), and I was to transfer to the research and development lab after September (we called it the skunk works because it was sealed off with special combination locks. The security there was better than when I worked at Hughes Aircraft Co in Fullerton."
Here are some shots taken on the last day of the Flight Circle's operation. The first shot shows Bart Kapinski:
And Cox Pilot himself:
Here's Bart clowning around backstage on the same day:
Many thanks again to CP for all his assistance!
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