Altitude record broken in Ohio

Published 12:10 am Sunday, October 6, 2013

I continue to be amazed that in the days of the Depression, aviation attracted so much attention and also about our Lawrence County airport playing such a big part.

Both Irene Crum and Howard Mayes Jr. were internationally known record breakers.

It was reported, in the Portsmouth Ohioan of October 1936, that Irene Crum, on Aug. 23, 1936, established a new altitude record for light planes. It was at the Air Show and Regatta in Gallipolis, which was sponsored by Dr. Charles E. Holzer Jr., and “attended by thousands.”

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The outstanding event of the day was the achievement of Irene Crum, a sales woman of Huntington, who broke the world’s altitude record for light planes. She ascended 19,600 feet and was out of sight for more than an hour.

Bitter cold — 10 degrees below zero — kept her from going any higher, she reported.

The ground level temperature that day was reported to be 105 degrees. Officially, this internationally recognized record is 19,425.81 feet.

According to Howard Mayes Jr., Irene learned to fly at Mayes Field (Lawrence County Airport).

Irene did this in an Aeronca C-2N plane weighing just 439 pounds and as far as I can determine, this record still stands today. The Aeronca plane was powered by a two-cyclinder horizontally opposed, 36 horsepower engine. The new plane cost $1,495 in the 1930-31 Depression era.

It is know by the nickname “The Flying Bathtub,” inspired by its unique fuselage design. This plane still exists today in the EAA Air Adventure museum in Oshkosh, Wis. It was flown by Howard Mayes Jr. from the Lawrence County Airport to a record altitude for young pilots of 19,975 feet.

The Huntington Advertiser also covered the event and had this to say about Miss Crum, “The flier insisted on sharing the credit for the flight’s success with Lt. Howard Mayes, manager of the Huntington-Ironton-Chesapeake airport and owner of the plane.”

According to various sources, what is now known as the Lawrence County airport was known as Mayes Field, Huntington Downtown airport as the Huntington-Ironton-Chesapeake airport.

Crum also enlisted in WASP (Women’s Air Force Service Pilots) in World War II where she served as a captain. They were vital in the Army Air Corps ferrying bombers, fighter planes and cargo planes around the country.


Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at