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Flight From 1903 To 1913

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AIR FORCE Magazine



March 23, 1903.   First Wright brothers’ airplane patent, based on their 1902 glider, is filed in America.

Aug. 8, 1903.   The Langley gasoline engine model airplane is successfully launched from a catapult on a houseboat.

Dec. 8, 1903.   Second and last trial of the Langley airplane, piloted by Charles M. Manly, is wrecked in launching from a houseboat on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

Dec. 17, 1903.   At Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville Wright flies for about 12 seconds over a distance of 120 feet, achieving the world’s first manned, powered, sustained, and controlled flight in a heavier-than-air machine. The Wright brothers made four flights that day. On the last, Wilbur Wright flew for 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet. (Three days earlier, Wilbur Wright had attempted the first powered flight, managing to cover 105 feet in 3.5 seconds, but he could not sustain or control the flight and crashed.)



Jan. 18, 1905.   The Wright brothers open negotiations with the US government to build an airplane for the Army, but nothing comes of this first meeting.

Feb. 5, 1905.   T.S. Baldwin takes part in a 10-mile race between his dirigible and an automobile. The dirigible and its pilot win by a three-minute margin.

June 23, 1905.   The first flight of the Wright Flyer III is made at Huffman Prairie, outside Dayton, Ohio. The Wright brothers’ first fully controllable aircraft is able to turn and bank and remain aloft for up to 30 minutes.

Oct. 5, 1905.   Orville Wright flies 24.2 miles in 38 minutes, three seconds at Dayton, Ohio, establishing a world distance and duration record.



May 22, 1906.   After turning down two previous submissions, the US government issues the Wright brothers the first patent on their flying machine. “ The Wright Stuff,” Air Force Magazine, July 1987.

Nov. 12, 1906.   Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont sets the first recognized absolute speed record of 25.66 mph in the Santos-Dumont Type 14-bis at Bagatelle, France. However, this speed is slower than speeds posted by the Wright brothers in the United States.



Aug. 1, 1907.   The Aeronautical Division of the US Army Signal Corps, forerunner of US Air Force, is established.

Oct. 26, 1907.   Henri Farman sets the recognized absolute speed record of 32.74 mph in a Voisin-Farman biplane at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.

Dec. 5, 1907.   Wilbur Wright appears before the Board of Ordnance and Fortification and offers the US government an airplane capable of carrying two people, for $25,000.

Dec. 23, 1907.   The Army’s Chief Signal Officer, Brig. Gen. James Allen, issues the first specification (Signal Corps Specification 486) for a military airplane.



Jan. 13, 1908.   Henri Farman wins the 50,000-franc Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize for the first officially observed one-kilometer circular flight in Europe.

May 14, 1908.   The first passenger flight takes place in the Wright airplane at Kitty Hawk in preparation for delivery of a government airplane. Wilbur Wright pilots the machine, with Charles Furnas, an employee, as the first passenger.

May 19, 1908.   Signal Corps Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge becomes the first soldier to fly a heavier-than-air machine.

July 4, 1908. Glenn H. Curtiss wins the Scientific American trophy with his June Bug biplane by flying for more than a mile over Hammondsport, N.Y. Speed for the trip is 39 mph.

Aug. 8, 1908.   At Camp d’Auvours, France, Wilbur Wright surpasses French flight records for duration, distance, and altitude.

Aug. 28, 1908.   The Army accepts its first dirigible at Ft. Myer, Va. Built by Thomas Baldwin in Hammondsport, N.Y., at a cost of $6,750, the dirigible is designed to carry a crew of two and a payload of 450 pounds (which includes 100 pounds of ballast). The airship is designated Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1.

Sept. 3, 1908.   First test flight of an Army flying machine is made at Ft. Myer, Va., by Orville Wright.

Sept. 17, 1908.   Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge becomes the first person killed in a powered aircraft accident when a Wright Flyer crashes at Ft. Myer, Va. Orville Wright, at the controls, suffers a broken hip.

Nov. 13, 1908.   Wilbur Wright, in a Wright biplane at Camp d’Auvours, France, and Henri Farman, in a Voisin at Issy, France, concurrently set a world altitude record of 82 feet.



April 24, 1909.   Wilbur Wright pilots a Wright biplane at Centocelle, Italy, from which the first aerial motion picture is taken.

June 3, 1909.   Orville Wright makes the first demonstration flight of the 1909 Military Flyer for the Army at Ft. Myer, Va.

July 25, 1909.   Louis Bleriot, of France, becomes the first person to fly across the English Channel.

July 27, 1909.   Orville Wright, with Army Lt. Frank P. Lahm as passenger, flies the 1909 Military Flyer from Ft. Myer, Va., for one hour, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds and covers 40 miles. This first official test flight meets the Army’s endurance requirement as stated in Signal Corps Specification 486, which is the order for the first military airplane.

July 30, 1909.   The second test of the Army Wright airplane is completed: a 10-mile cross-country flight over a stipulated course from Ft. Myer, Va., to Alexandria, Va., and back, at a speed of 42.583 mph, for which the Wrights receive a bonus of $5,000 (10 percent of the base price of $25,000 for each mile per hour over 40), making the purchase price $30,000.

Aug. 2, 1909.   The Army accepts its first airplane, bought from the Wright brothers for $25,000, plus a $5,000 bonus because the machine exceeds the speed requirement of 40 mph in its second test conducted on July 30, 1909.

Aug. 23, 1909.   At the world’s first major air meet in Reims, France, Glenn Curtiss becomes the first American to claim the recognized absolute speed record as he flies at 43.385 mph in his Reims Racer biplane.

Aug. 25, 1909.   Land for the first Signal Corps airfield is leased at College Park, Md.  

Oct. 23, 1909.   Army Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois takes his first flying lesson from Wilbur Wright at College Park, Md.

Oct.26, 1909.   Lt. Frederick E. Humphreys becomes the first Army pilot to solo in the Wright Military Flyer, US Army Aeroplane No. 1, at College Park, Md. A few minutes later, Lt. Frank P. Lahm becomes the second.

Nov. 3, 1909.   Lt. George C. Sweet becomes the first Navy officer to fly, as a passenger in the Wright Military Flyer. Army Lt. Frank P. Lahm was the pilot.



Jan. 19, 1910.   Army Signal Corps Lt. Paul Beck, flying as a passenger with Louis Paulhan in a Farman biplane, drops three two-pound sandbags in an effort to hit a target at the Los Angeles Flying Meet. This is the first bombing experiment by an Army officer.

March 2, 1910.   Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois, a former military balloonist, makes his first solo flight in Army Aeroplane No. 1 (the Wright 1909 Military Flyer) at Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. Ordered to leave College Park, Md., for the winter, Foulois and a few ground crewmen arrived in Texas in February and reassembled the aircraft. Foulois taught himself to fly with correspondence help from the Wright brothers.

March 19, 1910.   At Montgomery, Ala., Orville Wright opens the first Wright Flying School, on a site that will later become Maxwell Air Force Base.

March 28, 1910.   Henri Fabre, an engineer who had never flown before, makes the first flight of the world’s first seaplane, as he pilots his “Canard” (Duck) from La MPde Harbor near Martigues, France. The flight covers about 1,600 feet and the aircraft reaches an altitude of seven feet.

May 25, 1910.   In Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright fly together for the first time.

July 10, 1910.   Walter Brookins becomes the first airplane pilot to fly at an altitude greater than one mile. He reaches 6,234 feet in a Wright biplane over Atlantic City, N.J.

July 10, 1910.   Leon Morane pushes the recognized absolute speed record to 66.181 mph in a Bleriot monoplane at Reims, France.

Aug. 20, 1910.   Army Lt. Jacob Fickel fires a .30-caliber Springfield rifle at the ground while flying as a passenger in a Curtiss biplane over Sheepshead Bay Track near New York City. This is the first time a military firearm has been discharged from an airplane.

Sept. 2, 1910.   Blanche Scott becomes the first American woman to solo, flying a Curtiss pusher at the Curtiss company field in Hammondsport, N.Y. She is not granted a pilot’s license, however.

Oct. 11, 1910.   Former President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first Chief Executive to fly. He goes aloft as a passenger in a Wright biplane over St. Louis.

Nov. 7, 1910.   Phillip O. Parmalee, in a Wright B-10 aircraft, performs the world’s first air cargo mission, flying a bolt of silk from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, on contract for the Morehouse-Martens Co. “ A Bolt From the Blue,” Air Force Magazine, May 1986.

Nov. 14, 1910.   Eugene Ely, a civilian pilot takes off from a wooden platform built over the bow of the light cruiser, USS Birmingham, while it is at anchor in Hampton Roads, Va. He was flying a 50-hp Curtiss biplane and landed on Willoughby Spit.



Jan. 18, 1911.   Civilian Eugene Ely, flying a Curtiss pusher, makes the first landing on a ship. He touches down on a 119-foot-long wooden platform on the stern of the cruiser USS Pennsylvania, riding at anchor in San Francisco Bay. He then takes off and flies to Selfridge Field in San Francisco.

Feb. 1, 1911.   The first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the US, the Burgess and Curtis Co. (no relation to the company founded by Glenn Curtiss), of Marblehead, Mass., receives authorization from the Wright Co.

March 31, 1911.   Congress makes the first appropriation for Army aeronautics, $125,000 for Fiscal Year 1912, with $25,000 to be made available immediately. Chief Signal Officer James Allen quickly orders five new aircraft at a cost of approximately $5,000 each.

April 11, 1911.   The Army’s first permanent flying school is established at College Park, Md.

May 4, 1911.   After a number of crashes and reconstructions leave Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 1 (the Wright 1909 Military Flyer) unfit to fly, the War Department approves restoration to its original condition and transfer to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent display.

May 8, 1911.   The first Navy airplane, the amphibian A-1, is ordered from Glenn Curtiss. This date has been officially proclaimed the birthday of naval aviation.

May 10, 1911.   Lt. G.E.M. Kelly, flying Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 2 (a Curtiss Model D pusher) on his pilot qualification flight, is killed as he crashes into the ground on landing at Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. He was the first student pilot to lose his life in the crash of an airplane he was piloting.

May 12, 1911.   Edward Nieuport sets the recognized absolute speed record of 74.415 mph in a Nieuport monoplane at Chalons, France. On June 16, he will push the speed record to 80.814 mph.

Sept. 17–Dec. 10, 1911.   Calbraith Perry Rodgers, in the Wright EX biplane Vin Fiz, makes the first transcontinental flight, from Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif. He makes 76 stops and crashes 20 times.



Feb. 22, 1912.   Jules Vedrines pushes the recognized absolute speed record past the 100 mph barrier, as he hits 100.22 mph in a Deperdussin racer at Pau, France.

Feb. 23, 1912.   First official recognition of the rating “Military Aviator” appears in War Department Bulletin No. 2.

March 12, 1912.   Lt. Frank P. Lahm opens the Philippine Air School at Ft. William McKinley, Philippines. Nine days later, he would make the first flight in the islands, taking off in a Wright Model B from the fort’s polo grounds. He would teach an officer and an enlisted man to fly before the arrival of the rainy season in July

May 30, 1912.   Wilbur Wright dies of typhoid fever at his home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 45.

June 5, 1912.   Lt. Col. C.B. Winder of the Ohio National Guard becomes the first National Guard pilot. He was taught at the Army Aviation School.

June 7, 1912.   At College Park, Md., Capt. Charles deForest Chandler becomes the first aviator to fire a machine gun from the air. He shoots a Lewis low-recoil machine gun at the ground while flying as Lt. Thomas DeWitt Milling’s passenger in the Wright Model B aircraft. The results are so promising that the aviators order 10 additional guns, but the Army Ordnance Department cannot supply them, as the Lewis gun had not yet been accepted for Army use.

June 14, 1912.   Cpl. Vernon Burge becomes the Army’s first enlisted pilot.

July 5, 1912.   Army Capt. Charles deForest Chandler and Army Lts. T.D. Milling and H.H. “Hap” Arnold become the first fliers to qualify as “Military Aviators.”

Sept. 28, 1912.   The first airplane crash that results in multiple fatalities occurs in College Park, Md., as Lt. Lewis C. Rockwell, flying Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 4 (a Wright Model B), attempts to glide in for a landing. The aircraft suddenly plunges to the ground, and Cpl. Frank B. Scott, who was riding as a passenger, is killed instantly. He also is the first enlisted man to die in a crash. Rockwell dies of his injuries three hours later.

Nov. 5, 1912.   First artillery adjustments directed from an airplane begin at Ft. Riley, Kan., by Army Lts. H.H. “Hap” Arnold, pilot, and Follett Bradley, observer.

Nov. 27, 1912.   The Army Signal Corps purchases the first of three Curtiss-F two-seat biplane flying boats.

Dec. 8, 1912.   The Army’s first permanent flying installation is established at North Island, San Diego, Calif., following the arrival of the “Curtiss contingent,” which consists of Lts. Lewis H. Brereton, Joseph D. Park, Lewis E. Goddier, Harold Geiger, and Samuel H. McLeary, from College Park, Md. After the arrival of the “Wright contingent” from Texas City, Tex., in June 1913, the facility is formally designated as the Signal Corps Aviation School.

Dec. 11, 1912.   A French pilot, Roland Garros, sets an altitude record of 18,406 feet in a Morane airplane at Tunis.



Feb. 11, 1913.   The first bill for a separate aviation corps, H.R. 28728, is introduced in Congress by Rep. James Hay of West Virginia. It fails to pass.

March 2, 1913.   First flight pay is authorized: 35 percent over base pay for officers detailed on aviation duty.

March 5, 1913.   Field Order No. 1, Hq. First Aero Squadron, in the field near Texas City, Tex., states: “The First Aero Squadron is hereby organized.” The organization is provisional.

April 27, 1913.   Pilot Robert G. Fowler and cameraman R.A. Duhem make the first flight across the Isthmus of Panama. They are arrested by Panamanian authorities upon publication in a newspaper of the story and pictures of the flight.

May 10, 1913.   Aerial bombing in America was inaugurated when Didier Masson begins a series of bombing raids for Mexican Gen. Alvarado Obregon against Mexican federal gunboats in Guaymas Bay.

May 13, 1913.   The first flight of the world’s first four-engine airplane, The Russian Knight, affectionately called “Le Grand,” takes place in Russia. The aircraft is designed by Igor I. Sikorsky.

May 30, 1913.   The Massachusetts Institute of Technology begins teaching aerodynamics.

June 13, 1913.   The first Navy aviator is killed as Ens. W.D. Billingsley, piloting the Curtiss B-2 seaplane at 1,600 feet over water near Annapolis, Md., is thrown from the airplane and falls to his death. Lt. John Towers, riding as a passenger, is also unseated but clings to the airplane, falling with it to the water, and receives serious injuries.

June 21, 1913.   Eighteen-year-old Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick becomes the first woman to make a parachute jump in the US. Her 1,000-foot leap takes place over Los Angeles.

July 19, 1913.   In the skies over Seattle, Wash., Milton J. Bryant begins a new form of advertising—skywriting.

Aug. 27, 1913.   Lt. Petr Nikolaevich Nesterov of the Imperial Russian Army performs history’s first inside loop while flying a Nieuport Type IV over Kiev.

Nov. 30, 1913.   In late November or early December, the first known aerial combat takes place over Naco, Mexico, between Phil Rader, flying for Gen. Victoriano Huerta, and Dean Ivan Lamb, with Venustiano Carranza. Details are unknown, except that a dozen pistol shots are exchanged.

  Courtesy of AIR FORCE Magazine



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