The Decade After: NOV 1909 to Feb 1912
Faster, Higher, Farther
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he pioneer aviation era literally flew by, lasting just a little more than a decade from the first wavering flights at Kitty Hawk to the beginning of World War I. By this time "second generation" aircraft had begun to emerge, combining both maneuverability and stability. This rapid development is all the more remarkable when you consider that for the first few years, the Wright brothers were the only successful pioneers. A few visionaries in America and Europe made brief hops in a handful of airplanes, but nothing approaching the performance of the Wright Flyer in its final 1905 form. This despite the fact that these builders had access to the Wrights' published patents. It wasn't until the Wrights began demonstrating their airplane in 1908 that the rest of the world fully understood the necessity of three-axis control and how to use it.

From that moment, aviation accelerated at an unprecedented rate – and for good reason. Across the globe, politicians were struggling mightily to maintain the "balance of power." Diplomacy had become a tangled web of treaties promising mutual aid in the event of attack. Germany was locked in an arms race with France and England. World war was imminent and the airplane looked to be a versatile and deadly weapon.

  • Landing Without Crashing, 1903 to 1905 The Wright Brothers develop their temperamental Kitty Hawk Flyer into a practical flying machine.
  • Wake Up Call, 1905 to 1909 The Wright brothers accomplishments alert aeronautical scientists and engineers in America and Europe to the possibilities of fixed wing aviation.
  • Faster, Higher, Farther, 1909 to 1912   Pilots and engineers begin to explore the capabilities and push the possibilities of aircraft.
  • Girding for Battle, 1912 to 1914 As the First World War approaches, nations develop the airplane into a weapon.





January 7 Lt. M. S. Crissy drops live bombs over San Francisco Bay from a Wright airplane piloted by Philip O. Parmalee. It is the first time live bombs have been dropped from an aircraft.

January 18 Eugene Ely takes off from Presidio Military Base in San Francisco and lands on a temporary wooden deck on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. This feat is made possible by the use of a tail hook, invented by Ely's friend and fellow pilot, Hugh Robinson. Ely has lunch with the captain and flies back to San Francisco. This is the first round trip to and from a ship by airplane.

January 26 Glenn Curtiss flies the first practical seaplane from San Diego Bay in California. It is basically a standard Curtiss Model D fitted with a single float beneath the wings.

January 28 Lt. T. Gordon Ellyson solos in a Curtiss aircraft, becoming the US Navy's first aviator.

February 24 Glenn Curtiss attaches wheels to the float of his seaplane and creates the Curtiss Triad, the first amphibious aircraft.

February-March Léon Lemartin, a pilot-engineer for Blériot, flies a Blériot XIII Aerobus with 7 passengers, then 8, and finally 13 (although on the last flight, some of the passengers are young boys). This series of flights demonstrates the possibility of multi-passenger air transports.

February 18 French pilot Henri Pequet flies the world's first official air mail in Allahabad, India.

March 3 Lt. Benjamin Foulois and Phil Parmalee fly a Wright Model B from Laredo to Eagle Pass, Texas, scouting for Mexican rebels who are raiding Texas farms. This is the first military reconnaissance mission in an aircraft. Foulois has installed a wireless telegraph set in the aircraft and taps out messages along the route, marking the first use of radio on a military aviation mission.

March 21 Feng Ru arrives in China at the invitation of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yixian (Sun Yat Sen). He brings two Curtiss-derived airplanes that he built in San Francisco to aid in the rebellion against the Manchu Qing monarchy. Although there is no record of his flights in China, Feng Ru was made a captain in the rebel army and it is likely that he flew the first war-time missions in an aircraft.

April 1 — The British form the Air Battalion Royal Engineers, the first British military aviation division.

April 12 Pierre Prier, flying a Blériot monoplane, makes the first non-stop flight between London and Paris.

May 8 — The United States Navy establishes the US Naval Aviation Division, the beginning of naval aviation in the US.

July 1 Glenn Curtiss delivers the US Navy's first airplane, a Curtiss Triad amphibian, designated as Navy type A-1.

July 6 The United States Navy establishes its first naval air base at Annapolis, Maryland.

July 21 Denise Moore, France, falls 150 feet from her capsized aircraft and becomes the first woman pilot to be killed in an airplane accident.

August Pilot Hugh Robinson lands his Curtiss seaplane on Lake Michigan to rescue another pilot who crashed into the lake. It is the first air-sea rescue.

August 1 Harriet Quimby, a New York drama critic, becomes the first licensed woman pilot in America.

August 14-25 Harry Atwood flies his Wright Model B from St. Louis to New York – 1265 miles (2036 kilometers) in nine days.

September 17 to December 10 Cal Rodgers crosses America from Sheepshead Bay, NY to Long Beach, CA in a Wright Model EX dubbed the Vin Fiz, after his sponsor. The trip covers 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) and takes 84 days. Despite 5 major crashes and a host of smaller mishaps, it is the first time anyone crossed a continent in an airplane.

September 19 Gustav Hamel flies the first English air mail between Hendon and Windsor in a Bleriot monoplane.

September 23 Earl Ovington delivers the first official air mail for the U.S. Post Office in a Blériot monoplane.

October 10 Lt . Riley Scott of the U.S. Army invents and tests the first bomb sight attached to a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland. Although the bomb sight is successful, the Army declines it. Later, the French will adapt Riley's invention to their aircraft.

October 22 Captain Carlo Piazza, Italy, makes a reconnaissance flight in a Blériot monoplane, taking off from Tripoli and observing the Turkish army near Benghazi. This is the first record of an airplane being used for a military mission.

October 24 Orville Wright returns to Kitty Hawk test a new glider. On one flight, he remains in  the air for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, setting the first world's record for soaring flight. It stands for ten years.

October 26 The 1909 Wright Military Flyer, Signal Corps No. 1 or Miss Columbia, is enshrined at the Smithsonian Institution.

October 31 John Montgomery, the first American gliding pilot, dies in a gliding accident in California.

November — Plagued by accidents, the Wright Company dissolves its exhibition team.

November 1 Lt. Giolio Gavotti and his passenger carry out the first wartime aerial bombardment, bombing Turkish forces in Libya.

December 4 Geoffrey de Havilland, working at the Royal Aircraft Factory in England, pilots the RAF B.E. 1 on its first flight. This tractor biplane with an enclosed fuselage is generally considered to be the first of the "second generation" airplanes. It is also the first aircraft to be granted an "airworthiness certificate." The B.E. series will become the prototypes for World War I fighter airplanes.

Lt. M.S. Crissy re-acts the dropping of the first live aerial bomb.

Glenn Curtiss tests the first practical seaplane.

Glenn Curtiss taxis a Triad ashore at North Island, near Sand Diego.

Henri Pequet flew a Sommer biplane in India.

Feng Ru was a self-taught aeronautical engineer. In 1909 he flew a plane of his own design in California to become the first to fly west of the Mississippi River.

Pierre Prier went on to design Bleriot-derived monoplanes for the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company ("Bristol").

Lt. Ellyson flies a Curtiss Hydroplane over the Potomac River near its base in Annapolis.

Hugh Robinson (center, in cap) with his Curtiss Hydro. A year after he rescued a pilot from Lake Michigan, he himself needed rescue when he crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Harry Atwood taking off in his Wright Model B.

Gustave Hamel about to take of in his Bleriot.

The Scott bombsight installed. The operator lay prone on the wing in a protective enclosure and looked down past the bombs.

Orville Wright soaring above the dunes at Kitty Hawk in 1911.

John Montgomery's glider, the "Evergreen," overturned after the crash that killed him.

Demonstrating how bombs were dropped from a Bleriot in Libya. Lt. Giolo Gavotti is the pilot.

Eugene Ely lands on a wooden deck built on the battleship USS Pennsylvania.

Lt. T. Gordon Ellyson at the controls of a Curtiss Model D.

The Bleriot XIII "Airbus" with eight people board. It actually had seats for four.

Lt. Benjamin Foulois (left) and Phil Parmalee (right) at Fort MacIntosh in Laredo, Texas. The radio equipment next to Foulois is covered to protect it from dust.

The Air Battalion Royal Engineers was split into two sections, lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air machines. The heavier-than-air section was headquartered at Farnborough, shown here.

A Curtiss Triad A-1 taking off from the Potomac River..

E. Jane Wright flew under the name of Denise Moore to hide her aviation ambitions from her family.

Harriet Quimby in the cockpit of her Bleriot.

Cal Rodgers wets the wheels of his Vin Fiz in the surf at Long Beach, California, completing his cross-country flight.

Ovington takes the first U.S. airmail on board. Postmaster Morgan is on the far left.

Capt. Carlo Piazza (in cockpit) with his Bleriot and flight crew in Tripoli, Libya.

The 1909 Wright Military Flyer hanging in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.

Wright exhibition pilot Arch Hoxsey in a fatal dive. The aircraft impacted seconds later.

The RAF B.E. 1 set a new standard in aviation.
1912  January 10 Glenn Curtiss test-flies the Curtiss Model E, the first successful flying boat. It had evolved from the A-1 Triad, but had larger wings for increased lift, a more powerful engine, and a boat hull in place of a pontoon. The design won Curtiss the 1912 Collier Trophy.

February 22 Jules Vedrines pushes a  Deperdussin racer to just over 100 mp (161 kph) in the skies over at Pau, France. Later in the year, he will win the 1912 Coupe Michelin for flying 108 mph (174 kph).

The Curtiss Model E Flying Boat above Lake Keuka. The design was revolutionary and by the end of 1912,. no less then seven navies worldwide were operating flying boats.

The Deperdussin Racer had a sleek cigar-shaped fuselage, reducing drag and increasing speed. Pilot Jules Vedrines is second from the right.

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