Above is an LS Cruiser, built by Lincoln Standard Aircraft Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, and shown here sometime between 1920 and 1922. The photo is from the NSHS collections and appears in Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs, published by the NSHS a few years ago.
I like this photo because the aircraft is obviously a transitional model — one of the first with an enclosed cabin for passengers. But why leave the cockpit out in the open, where the poor pilot would be exposed to cold winds and rain?
I asked the book’s author, Vince Goeres, about this. Vince explained that the early pilots preferred this setup because they that felt that being inside a cabin would restrict visibility. Considering that early pilots were used to navigating by landmarks and often making forced landings in unmarked fields, this made sense.
But aviation technology was changing rapidly. The plane above became obsolete in just a few years. Pilots adapted. The man standing on the left, Eyer Sloniger, got his start flying in World War I, and by the time of this photo was working as a test pilot, salesman, and stunt pilot for Lincoln Standard. He went on to a long career with American Airlines, which assigned numbers to its pilots based on seniority. “Slonnie” was number one.
—David Bristow, Associate Director / Publications