A Sauk County Flying Legend
George Schlieckau, born in 1904, was the oldest aviator to regularly use the Reedsburg airport. George’s name has been linked to the Reedsburg port ever since he soloed Cecil Hess there in 1928. He himself had soloed just the year before when he was 23 years old.
Schlieckau owned the first airplane in Sank County and owned eight different planes during his lifetime.
George had many flying stories to recount when interviewed in 1997 for Reedsburg Remembers 150 Years. This one he tells often. After he first received his license, his parents wanted to go to Kansas to a wedding so George took them to the train station. The next morning he secretly left by plane for the same Kansas town. His plane had no brakes or compass; he had very little experience.
George will never forget the landing — in a Kansas wheat field. From the air the wheat looked to be six inches tall; it turned out to be three feet. The plane was about to nose over, but he applied more gas which brought the tail back down.
After staying with relatives for five days, George had to find a way out of that field. Cousins and neighbors helped get the plane to the road. There were highlines on either side, but he managed to take off with a yard on each side to spare. He noted that, “It was a damn foolish thing to do.”
Although George never knew Charles Lindbergh personally, he was his inspiration. “Lindbergh would fly around the country to give demonstrations,” said Schlieckau. "I took them all in. I told my brother that if Lindberg made it over to Paris [in 1927], I was going to buy my own plane. Four days after he flew to Paris,” recalled Schlieckau, “I purchased an airplane. It was a World War I primary trainer—a Curtis biplane with an Ox-5 engine."
George had the plane but now he had to go to Illinois for flying lessons.
Schlieckau recalled, in a 1991 Baraboo News Republic article that, “The first time I took the plane up by myself, I knew I would be having trouble with the gliding before the landing. If I went too fast, I overshot the landing field and if I came in too slow, I’d drop before the field.
“When I tried to come in to land on my first flight, I hit the ground before the landing field,” he said. “I bounced so hard that I went up 12 feet and cleared the trees and fence to get to the landing field. My instructor was in the field waving for me to go up again and circle around before landing. I forgot for a minute why he was there and waved back to him!
I did go up again,” said George, “and managed to land fine on the second try, although, I almost went through the hanger at the other end of the field.”
After three days of instruction during a week of fog and rain, and three and one half hours of flying time, he took the plane home to show it off to his friends and neighbors. “It was a pretty exciting time on the telephone lines,” he said, as neighbors passed along the sights they had seen. By his second flight at home, he was already giving rides. “Practically everyone around this area had a ride,” said Schlieckau.
At 93, Schlieckau had cataracts removed and laser treatment on his eyes and he said he could see as well as a ten-year old. He continued flying until shortly before his death in 1999.