VIGNETTE > First Flight Over Mill Valley
On December 19, 1911, hundreds of people waited near the Locust Station on Miller Ave. to see a flying machine. Weldon Cooke had taught himself how to fly that summer. Two young men with no experience in flying built the unusual plane, named “The Diamond.” Cooke sat in a chair in front of the engine and the propeller behind it. Cooke’s plan was to fly from Oakland, circle over Mt. Tam, cross the Golden Gate and head back to Oakland. He started late to avoid strong winds, taking off at 3:46 pm. When he flew over U.C. Berkeley, he dropped two letters from the plane—one for his brother and the other for University President Wheeler. Cooke then flew over the bay at 4200 feet and circled Mt. Tam at 3000 feet. As he flew toward Mill Valley the engine failed. Without power, he glided in a circular motion, dropping to 2000 feet in 2 minutes. He knew the Mill Valley area fairly well, having visited his sister-in-law’s home there more than once. He managed an emergency landing in a muddy marshy area near where Sycamore Park is today. He was not injured and the plane suffered little damage.