The Mountain Times

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Historic marker commemorates Rutland child prodigy of aviation

RUTLAND - A new marker Vermont Historical Preservation marker was recently placed in Rutland. The sign is outside the Route 4 entrance to the State Fairgrounds and it honors a pioneer pilot who spent his too-brief life advancing the young science of aviation.
By all accounts available, George Schmitt can be considered a child prodigy. Before he was 10-years-old, he was drawing diagrams of gliders and he built Vermont's first glider in Rutland at age 16.  In 1910 when Schmitt was 18, he was flying gliders at the Rutland Fairgrounds.

He learned more about flying in Minneola, NY. By the time he returned to Rutland, he was so popular with the local community that funds were quickly raised to buy him a plane.  Unfortunately, he cannot claim to be the first aviator in Vermont. Local expert, Nakki Goranin lamented this fact during the dedication ceremony. "He was going to fly in St. Johnsbury and he had a problem with the carburetor. A call was made to an accomplished pilot from Boston who took a train the Vermont to see if he could help," she said. "He went up in the air for one minute to diagnose the problem!" That was before George Schmitt, but he would soon take to the air and log many hours, flying all around Vermont.

George Schmitt began flying for exhibition shows and he helped spread the wonder of aviation to many people in New England and abroad. By 1910 most Americans living in major population centers had seen an airplane in flight. The same could not be said of Vermonters and others living in rural areas before George Schmitt flew in Rutland. Sadly, Schmitt's flying career ended in the same place it began.

He was killed during a flying exhibition at the Rutland Fairgrounds in 1912.

He toured Caribbean Islands as well as Central and South American countries with his plane. Schmitt was the first aviator to fly in Colombia and the dedication ceremony in Rutland featured a guest speaker who thanked the people of Rutland for honoring the young pilot and told the guests about how Schmitt was recently honored in Colombia as a part of their 100th anniversary of flight.
Finally, descendants of Schmitt spoke about how proud they are of the support Rutland displayed more than 100 years ago and continues to display today.

Photos by Nathan Allen