Dixon helicopter photo was accurate

Published 11:59 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

In November, I wrote an article for publication in the Star-News. The article was about Jesse Dixon and his helicopter. The article included a photograph of Jesse at the controls of his helicopter and airborne. I stated the photograph was retouched to make it look as though it was flying. I was dead wrong. The photograph was not retouched or altered in any way. I am very sorry I made such a statement and I wish to retract it and apologize for my error.

Jesse Dixon’s first interest in flying came with gliders. While living in Dixie, he built a glider and flew it several times. They would tie the glider to a car and pull it across his airport in Dixie until there was enough speed to become airborne. A family member is an eyewitness to this event.

Jesse built several airplanes and gliders at his new airport in Andalusia. Ed Hand taught Jesse to fly airplanes and he also helped him with their maintenance. Ed and Jesse would fly passengers for money to help with expenses at the airport. Ed Hand was like a member of the family and stayed with them for a long time.

Jesse and Ed flew into each other in their airplanes when one was taking off and the other was landing with passengers in their planes. No one was seriously hurt but the planes were almost totaled.

Jesse was always interested in flying and when the Dixon Retort plant burned in 1940, he started on plans for his “flying ginny.” Luke Feagin helped with the welding and Ed Hand helped with the design. It took several years of work to complete the helicopter. When he finally succeeded in the helicopter lifting itself off the ground — actually flying — it was his dream come true. Jesse was not the type to seek publicity. Jesse did not take the photo. The Opp News, or the old Andalusia Star made the photograph and carried the story of Dixon’s helicopter. There was no retouching by the newspapers, nor any need to retouch as they photographed Jesse in the helicopter flying only a short distance, but actually flying.

When World War II began, a company in Ohio hired Jesse and his helicopter. He moved his family there for several years where he worked in the development of the helicopter for the company.

I am glad to retract my statement about the photo being retouched. It is good to set the record straight and I apologize again for my error.

G. Sidney Waits