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Ohio, often referred to as the birthplace of aviation, has battled with North Carolina over that distinction for many years. But for pioneering aviator Lonnie Carmon, it appears that he will forever stand as the first African-American to fly in Central Ohio in an aircraft he built from scratch.

According to accounts from Carmon’s family and several historical societies, Carmon’s historic flight took place in 1926. What makes Carmon’s achievement all the more impressive is that he built his plane using piles of material he obtained from his recycling business.

A so-called “junk man,” people handed over their unwanted goods to Carmon who refurbished and resold them at his Columbus home. As told by his granddaughter Yvette Davis, Carmon came across a motorcycle engine and began crafting his plane around it. Without any prior training or blueprints, the naturally gifted Carmon built a fully functional aircraft.

Carmon stored his plane at a farm in the nearby Black community of Urbancrest, south of Columbus. Every weekend, he would take his plane out and fly over his town which thrilled his the residents and his family. Eventually, Carmon was able to purchase a single engine Piper Club aircraft.

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