Cheston Lee Eshelman

Cheston Lee Eshelman

Cheston Lee Eshelman (January 23, 1917 - November 7, 2004) was born in McKnightstown, Pennsylvania near Gettysburg, and was an American inventor, aviator, manufacturer of aircraft, boats, garden machinery and small automobiles, and founder of the Cheston L. Eshelman Company and Eshelman Motors Corporation in Baltimore and Dundalk, Maryland.

Since 1916 his parents Samuel Clarence Eshelman and Bertha Eshelman (née Musselman, sister of canner-grower Christian H. Musselman of the CH Musselman Company, today part of Knouse Foods) had owned and operated the Fox Hill orchards in McKnightstown, and eventually expanded into retailing agricultural implements including Centaur tractors.

As a youth Cheston was a member of Boy Scout Troop 76 at the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church and a member of the Future Farmers of America.

On June 6, 1939 at age 22 Cheston Eshelman, now an aviation student, made the worldwide press after crashing a rented Luscombe all-metal 2-seat monoplane into the Atlantic Ocean near Georges Bank 180 miles southeast of Boston, Massachusetts on his second solo flight. The long-overdue craft was equipped with a radio and blind-flying instruments. The airplane's owner, an Edward Walz, pressed theft charges and the laughing Cheston was jailed after claiming (most likely tongue-in-cheek, though that certainly escalated the story) that he was attempting to fly to Mars. A police search on his person turned up 55 cents and eight bullets; he claimed the revolver was lost with the airplane. His written statement said the Mars attempt was "to survey a temporary hideout for the harmless people so they may escape in time of war the slave-enforced ultra-tragedy when the maniacs versus the he-men feud to destroy themselves and their possessions". A few months later the trawler Plymouth snagged pieces of the wrecked Luscomb in its nets off Georges Bank.

Two years later, Cheston Eshelman developed, built and repeatedly demonstrated a wingless pancake-shaped airplane, the NX28993 and NC22070 "Flying Flounder" which was claimed to be faster than any other fighter aircraft then in use. The federal government praised the prototype but did not place an order.

On January 7, 1943 he was awarded Patent 42395 for his small Flying wing airplane design.

By 1945 he was producing light commercial aircraft in Dundalk, including the Eshelman Winglet. By mid-century he had set up the Cheston L. Eshelman Company at 109 Light Street in Baltimore, Maryland to produce light agricultural implements including lawn mowers, plows and garden tractors and, by 1953, tiny one-cylinder automobiles, golf cars and motor scooters which were advertised in small ads within mechanical magazines. After a 1956 plant fire, Eshelman's interests turned primarily to his cars. Resuming limited production in Crisfield, Maryland, he produced several new subcompact models including the fiberglass Sportabout for three adults and battery-powered children's cars.

In the 1960s Eshelman developed and patented several concepts of resilient automobile safety bumpers [1] [2] . One of his cars, the 1967 Eshelman Golden Eagle Safety Car, was equipped with a patented 15MPH impact-resistant front bumper utilizing the car's spare tire.

Cheston Eshelman's retirement years were spent in Miami, Florida, where he resided at 630 NE 30 Terrace, and in Hialeah, Florida, where he died in 2004.

See Eshelman.

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