ENGEL, ALBERT JOHN (12 May 1879-30 Dec. 1978) was among the first Clevelanders to own a plane and the first Clevelander to fly one extensively. In 1978, he became the first inductee to the Western Reserve Aviation Hall of Fame.
Born in Cleveland to John and Mary (Billenstein), Engel was raised on the West Side and worked for the Water Works Department from 1906-1910. Intrigued by flight, Engel attended the Curtiss Airplane Co. flying school at Hammondsport, New York. By 1911 Engel was airborne.
Engle crashed his first airplane near Cleveland in the fall of 1911. After working for Curtiss in San Diego, he returned to Cleveland in 1912, buying a new hydroaeroplane (seaplane) from Curtiss for about $6,000. Engel promoted a contest, for ladies only, to name the new plane. "Bumble Bee" was chosen and the winner received a free flight. He flew exhibition and passenger flights throughout Northeast Ohio and air meets in Chicago and Buffalo. During the summer of 1914, Engel flew "Aeroplane Mail" (airmail) across Lake Chataqua, NY. Engel retired the "Bumble Bee" after the 1914 season and continued with Curtiss in Buffalo.
During WORLD WAR I he taught flying to Army recruits in Spain. In 1918 he opened the Engel Aircraft Co., acting as vice president. The business collapsed in 1919 and Engel stopped flying.
During WORLD WAR II Engel built Army gliders as general manager of the National Aircraft Co. After the war Engel retired to Cleveland. In 1946 he sold the "Bumble Bee" to the Thompson Products Museum. The restored plane now rests in the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum of the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Engel was twice married. He married Nettie Stanek in 1899 (divorced 1903). In 1906 he married Elizabeth Schroeder (died 1956). Engel was childless. He is buried in Sunset Memorial Park.