The Decade After: Mar 1912 to Oct 1914
Girding for Battle

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   The Decade    


Landing Without     

Wake Up Call  

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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.





March — Anton Fokker establishes an airplane factory, Fokker Aeroplanbau, near Berlin, Germany. Ninety percent of his planes are sold to the German military.

March 1 Albert Berry makes the first successful parachute jump from an airplane, dropping 1500 feet from a Benoist pusher piloted by Tony Janus.

March 29  The Aéronautique Militaire becomes a division of the French armed forces.

April 16 Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to fly across the English Channel. She pilots a Blériot from Deal in England to Cap Gris-Nez in France.

May 30 Thirteen years to the day after he first wrote the Smithsonian Institution asking for information on aeronautics, Wilbur Wright dies of typhoid fever in his home in Dayton, Ohio. Orville Wright takes over as president of the Wright Company.

Summer A.V. Roe builds and tests the first enclosed-cabin airplane. The Avro F monoplane has a steel frame, a skin of linen and aluminum, and celluloid windows.

June 7 — At the request of inventor Isaac Lewis, Capt. Charles Chandler fires the Lewis machine gun from a Wright Model B piloted by Lt. Thomas de Witt Milling at College Park, Maryland, USA. It is the first time a machine gun has been fired from an airplane. Despite the success of the test, the US Army declines to adopt the gun. Lewis takes it to England where it becomes standard armament on British aircraft.

June 20 Lt. John H. Towers is nearly thrown from the passenger seat of a Wright Model B when a gust of wind catches it and forces it down into the Chesapeake Bay. The pilot, Ensign W.D. Billingsley, is thrown out and killed – the first casualty of naval aviation. Towers' accident report and recommendation result in the U.S. military installing seat belts and safety harnesses in its aircraft.

June 21 Tiny Broadwick becomes the first woman to parachute from an airplane. The airplane is piloted by Glenn Martin.

July 27 Lt. John Rodgers and En. Charles Maddox send the first wireless message from an aircraft to a ship. Flying a Wright Model B, they contact the torpedo boat USS Stringham.

August 5-16 — Six active US Army pilots – Lt. Harry Graham, Lt. T. Dewitt Milling, Lt. Benjamin Foulois, Lt. Harold Geiger, Capt. F. B. Hennessey, and Lt. Henry "Hap" Arnold – plus Pvt. Beckwith Havens, a Curtiss pilot recruited just for the occasion, participate in the first war games to use airplanes. The Red and Blue Armies fight over Danbury, Connecticut. Each side uses aircraft equipped with wireless telegraphy for reconnaissance.

October 1 — The German armed forces establishes the Military Aviation Services.

October 26 Lt. John H. Towers experiments with the use of aircraft for anti-submarine warfare. Later, he will demonstrate this capability during U.S. naval exercises  at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

November 12 The Navy launches a Curtiss seaplane, flown by Lt. T. Gordon Ellyson, from a coal barge using a compressed air catapult. This was the first successful catapult launch from a ship of any kind.

November 19   The British Admiralty asks Vickers LTD to produce an aircraft armed with a machine gun, the first aircraft purposefully designed for shooting down other aircraft.

November 28 Italy establishes the first autonomous air force, the Flotta Aerea d'Italia. It's not connected to any other branch of their armed forces.

Anton Fokker in his first aircraft, the Spinne (Spider). Fokker developed this into the Eindecker monoplane.

The French Aéronautique Militaire adopted the familiar "roundel" to identify their airplanes in the air.
Wilbur Wright's funeral procession in Dayton, Ohio.

Captain Charles Chandler (with Lewis Gun) and pilot Lt. Roy Kirtland in a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland.

Tiny Broadwick hanging behind a wing, ready for a parachute jump. The parachute is rolled up on a ledge above her.

Signal Corps No. 2 (a Curtiss aircraft) and Lt. Harold Geiger (facing camera) at the Connecticut War Games.

The Curtiss A-1 Triad could be flown low and slow, making it a good aircraft for searching out and bombarding submarines.

The Vickers EFB-1 was the first aircraft designed and built with an onboard machine gun.

Albert Berry (right) about to make a parachute jump. The chute is rolled up in the cone beneath his feet and to the right. Parachute "packs" were invented later.

Harriet Quimby is carried triumphantly on the shoulders of French spectators after crossing the English Channel.

The Avro F was not popular. Aviators resisted enclosed cockpits for years, saying the cabin limited visibility..

Lt. John H. Towers trained to fly Curtiss aircraft, which is why he was in the passenger seat of the Wright airplane when it ditched.

Military Wright Model B equipped with wireless telegraphy. The pilot or passenger tapped out a signal in Morse code.

Soon after the German Military Aviation Services formed, they adopted the Iron Cross as their identifying insignia.

Launching a Curtiss seaplane from a coal barge.

The Flotta Aerea d'Italia (Air Fleet of Italy) included both heavier- and lighter-than-aircraft. These are Italian military dirigibles bombing Turkish troops in Libya in 1912

February 14-22 The Olympia Aero Exhibition in London, England marks the beginning of the end of pioneer aviation. Gone are the open, kite-like air frames; all the latest aircraft have enclosed fuselages with cockpits and control panels. Aircraft motors brag of almost 200 horsepower, design emphasizes streamlining and speed, stick-and-rudder control systems are becoming standard. More ominously, the show introduces a new type of aircraft, the "war airplane."

February 27  Judge John R. Hazel of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York returns his decision on the Wright vs. Curtiss patent suit. He finds in favor of the Wright brothers and awards the Wright patent "pioneer" status. This affords the patent holder a much broader interpretation of his claims and greater protection under US patent law. Glenn Curtiss files an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals and Judge Learned Hand is assigned to the case.

March 15 The United States Army forms the 1st Aero Squadron under Capt. Charles Chandler to scout for rebel Mexican troops and bandits along the border. The squadron is based at Texas City, Texas

April 1 Alfred, Lord Northcliffe, publisher of the London Daily Mail offers a prize 10,000 pounds for the first pilot to cross the Atlantic in an airplane. The prize is withdrawn at the start of World War I but renewed shortly thereafter.

April 16 Maurice Provost,  flying a Deperdussin, wins the first Schneider Trophy contest, a speed trial for seaplanes in Monaco. More than any other contest, the Schneider Trophy spurs the development of aircraft engines.

May 13 Igor Sikorsky pilots the huge Russky Vityaz on its first flight, carrying 8 passengers. With 4 engines, a wingspan of 92 feet, an open-air observation deck, and a total weight of 4080 kilograms (8995 pounds), it is the largest airplane in the world. Although many European engineers had predicted its failure, the Russky Vityaz proves the feasibility of large aircraft.

June French engineer Louis Bechereau of Societé de Production Armand Deperdussin (SPAD) unveils their newest monoplane racer with a monocoque fuselage. This revolutionary method of construction uses the skin of the aircraft to carry structural loads. This, in turn, reduces the number of structural parts, making the aircraft lighter, more streamlined, and simpler to build.

August 10 Lawrence Sperry and Lt. Patrick Berringer test an experimental device that uses 4 gyroscopes turning at 7000 rpm to stabilize a Curtiss Model F in flight. It is the beginning of the modern autopilot.

September 9  Pyotr Nesterov, a young Russian officer out for a joy ride, flies the first loop-de-loop on record in a Nieuport IV. He is promptly placed under house arrest for endangering government property.

September 18 A.V. Roe develops the Avro 504, a two-seat military scout and trainer that was used up until the 1930s. More Avro 504s are manufactured during World War I than any other aircraft.

September 21   Adolphe Pegoud flies the first public loop-de-loop in a Bleriot monoplane near Buc, France. This and other stunts (such as flying inverted) make him the first aerobatic pilot. These aerobatics would soon become the basis for evasive maneuvers used by combat pilots in World War I.

September 21   Roland Garros flies 453 miles (729 kilometers) across the Mediterranean in a Morane-Saulnier monoplane, from Saint-Raphael to Bizerte in Tunisia.

November T.O.M. Sopwith develops the Tabloid Scout, a highly maneuverable biplane able to climb to 15,000 feet in 10 minutes. This will develop into the Sopwith Camel, one of the most effective fighters of World War I.

November 21 Spanish pilot Lt. Rios and observer Capt. Manuel Barreiro are seriously wounded be rifle fire from Moroccan soldiers on the ground in Tangiers, dispelling the notion that airplanes present a target that is impossible to hit from the ground. 

November 30 — During the Mexican Revolution, American mercenary pilots Dean Ivan Lamb, flying for the Carrancistas (supporters of Venustiano Carranza), and Philip Rader, flying for then-President Victoriano Huerta, exchange pistol shots over Naca, Mexico in the the world's first aerial combat. Neither is hit.

December 10Igor Sikorsky flies the huge 4-engine Ilya Muromets, the first true airliner. It is equipped with a heated cabin,  electric lighting, wicker chairs, a bedroom, a lounge and even the first airborne toilet. Sikorsky later flies it with 16 passengers and it might have gone into commercial service had not World War I broken out. Instead, it is converted to become the first heavy bomber.

December 28 Georges Lagagneux climbs to a record-breaking altitude of 6120 meters (20,079 feet) in a Nieuport II-N and becomes the first pilot to use oxygen in flight.

The fourth annual Aero Exhibition filled the massive Olympia with 4 acres (16,200 square meters) of airplanes, engine, dirigibles, and other new aviation equipment

A panoramic view encompassing the entire 1rst Aero Squadron in Texas City, Texas.

Lord Northcliffe (center, closest to the camera) offered dozens of cash prizes through The Daily Mail to spur the development of aviation -- and generate interesting news.

Sikorky's Russky Vityaz ("Russian Knight") first flew with just two engines (shown); two more were added later.

Lawrence Sperry and his gyroscopic stabilizer.

Although designed as a trainer, the Avro 504 was also used as a fighter and bomber early in World War I.

Roland Garros immediately after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The Spanish expeditionary force in Tangiers included four Lohner Pfeilfliegers ("Arrow Flyers"), one of the first swept-wing aircraft. Rios and Barreiro were flying one of these when they were shot.

An unidentified adult and child stand beside a replica of the huge Ilya Muromets, built for a Russian museum. Ilya Muromets was a legendary hero who saved Russia from invaders.

Among the many airplanes at the Olympia Aero Exhibition was this sleek Vickers "War Monoplane."

Certificate granting O.Wright and W. Wright patent No. 821,393 on a "Flying Machine."

Maurice Prevost at the controls of his Deperdussin seaplane off the shores of Monaco where he won the first Schneider Trophy..

A SPAD worker carries a monocoque Deperdussin fuselage to show it's light weight.

The very first aerobatics were performed by Pyotr Nesterov in a French Nieuport IV.

Adolphe Pegoud at the beginning of a loop.

The Sopwith Tabloid was so-called because of its relatively small size and the sensation it caused when first introduced. With just an 80 hp Gnome rotary engine, it flew 92 mph (148 kph).

The first aircraft to engage in a dogfight were a beat-up Curtiss Pusher (top) flown by Lamb, and a Christofferson Pusher (bottom) in only slightly better condition flown by Rader.  According to Lamb, the dogfight was staged; the pilots were friends and didn't want to hurt each other.

The tiny, fast Nieuport II-N carried Georges Lagagneux nearly 4 miles (6 kilometers) above the earth.

January 1 P.E. Fansler  founds the first regularly scheduled airline to use fixed-wing aircraft, with pilot Tony Jannus flying both passengers and freight between Tampa and St. Petersburg (22 miles or 34 kilometers) in a Benoist flying boat. The airline survives only until March, but carries 1,024 passengers without a single mishap. On this same day, the Chinese Army forms the Chinese Army Air Arm.

January 13 A panel of three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upholds Judge John R. Hazel's original decision concerning the Wright vs. Curtiss patent suit, including the pioneer status of the Wright patent. This establishes the Wright brothers as both the historic and legal inventors of the three-axis aerodynamic control system (roll, pitch, yaw) for the airplane.

February Glenn Curtiss begins to build a huge flying boat, the America, to capture The Daily Mail Atlantic Prize for the first flight across the Atlantic. Flight tests continue into the summer. 

February 24 — After a rash of fatal accidents, the U.S. Army grounds all Wright and Curtiss "pusher" airplanes, leaving the Army with almost nothing to fly. Glenn Martin offers a tractor biplane to fill the gap, the the Martin Model T becomes the Army's first "safe" training airplane.

April 20   The USS Mississippi transports three Navy aircraft to support US troops and fly reconnaissance in Vera Cruz, Mexico. This is the US Navy's first aviation mission.

April 24   Glenn Curtiss unveils the Curtiss Model J, a tractor biplane designed by B. Douglas Thomas. Thomas had formally been an engineer for Sopwith Aviation in England, and the Model J incorporates all the latest advances in European biplane design. 

May 28 In an attempt to nullify the legal decision of Curtiss vs. Wright, Glenn Curtiss "restores" the 1903 Langley Aerodrome and flies it from Lake Keuka ostensibly to prove the Aerodrome was the first airplane capable of manned flight. In reality, Curtiss has made over 30 major modifications to the Aerodrome to make it airworthy. The flights have no effect on the patent litigation.

July 4Tiny Broadwick makes the first jump with a modern parachute – packed in a backpack and released with a rip cord – over San Diego, California.

June 29 Igor Sikorsky and his crew serve the first inflight meals aboard the Ilya Muromets on a flight from Kiev to St. Petersburg.

July 14 Robert H. Goddard is granted a patent for a liquid-fueled rocket.

June 18 Lawrence Sperry and Emil Cachin demonstrate a gyroscopic automatic stabilizer in a Curtiss C-2 at the Concours de la Securité en Aéroplane in France. While in flight, Sperry and Cachin walk out on opposite wings while the aircraft flies itself past the review stand.

August 1 — World War I breaks out in Europe. At this time, the US Army Aviation Division has only 12 officers, 54 enlisted men, and 6 airworthy airplanes. Glenn Curtiss cancels his plans for a trans-Atlantic flight. The America is assigned to submarine patrol duty.

August 17 Capt. Lewis E. Goodier Jr. tests a bomb-dropping device designed by Lt. Riley Scott in a Martin Model T at the Signal Corps Aviation School at North Island, California.

August 30Paris, France is bombed by the Germans. It is the first time a capital city comes under attack from the air.

September Glenn Curtiss and B. Douglas Thomas rework the Model J to produce the Curtiss Model N. It just squeaks by a military review board, barely meeting the Army's new qualifications.  Curtiss and Thomas later refine the design to create the capable Curtiss Model JN or "Jenny."

September 24 Royal Flying Corps pilots use both aerial photography and wireless telegraphy to direct artillery fire during the Battle of the Aisne in France. Their aircraft carry 75-pound Morse-code transmitters.

October 5 French Corp. Louis Quenalt, an observer flying in a Voisin piloted by Sgt. Joseph Frantz, shoots down a German Aviatik with a Hotchkiss machine gun. This is the first air-to-air kill.

October 31 —  Lt. Francis H. Humphreys of the Royal Flying Corps carries out the first recorded strafing attack, firing 250 rounds at a German convoy.

The Benoist XIV on one of its many runs across Tampa Bay in Florida. It rarely flew more than a few dozen feet above the water.

Although Orville Wright (seated next to his sister Katharine) won the patent suit, he didn't capitalize on it. Instead of creating a "patent monopoly" as his investors pushed him to do, he simply licensed other manufacturers to use the Wright patent.

The Martin T was the first of the "second generation" aircraft flown by the U.S. military.

The Curtiss Model J was briefly the fastest airplane in America at 87 mph (140 kph).

Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick preparing for a jump with a parachute pack on her back.

Robert Goddard demonstrating how to get from the earth to the moon via rocket.

The America takes off on its maiden flight.

The Curtiss Model N, although it met military specs, was tail-heavy and slow.

Curtiss and Thomas reworked the N design to create the "JN." This became the first in a successful series of military trainers and reconnaissance aircraft.

The first airplane to shoot down another was the Voison III.

A few months before the St. Petersburg/Tampa airline began, Roy Knabenshue was taking passengers on scheduled flights in the White City airship to see Pasadena, California. Although it did not use airplanes, this was the first U.S. airline.

The Curtiss America under construction on Lake Keuka near Hammondsport, New York. The engine on the top wing was later eliminated.

The USS Mississippi (B-23) carried three Curtiss C-2 flying boats. The airplanes launched from a ramp at the stern of the ship and were retrieved by a crane.

The modified 1903 Langely Aerodrome in flight above Lake Keuka in New York.

The Ilya Muromets makes a low pass with passengers standing on the observation deck.

Sperry ventures onto the wing of a Curtiss flying boat outfitted with his automatic stabilizer. Pilot Cachin would soon join him.

Riley Scott loads practice bombs onto a Martin T aircraft at North Island.

Aerial view of a Royal Flying Corps aircraft over the trenches in France during World War I.

A convoy of German trucks destroyed by aerial strafing and bombing.

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