Those Magnificent Men: 100 Years Of Naval Aviation

A century ago, a skilled and fearless stunt pilot landed a wire-and-wood aircraft on a ship's deck -- and introduced the era of naval aviation

On November 14, 1910, a professional “aviationist” named Eugene Ely stood by his plane on a temporary platform built over the foredeck of the USS Birmingham, a scout cruiser moored at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. On this rainy day, the 24-year-old pilot proposed to be the first man to fly an “aeroplane” from a ship at sea, seven years after the Wright Brothers’ initial flight. Read more »

“A Machine of Practical Utility”

While lauded for their 1903 flight, the Wright brothers were not convinced of their airplane’s reliability to sustain long, controlled flights until October 1905

On the morning of October 5, 1905, Amos Stauffer and a field hand were cutting corn when the distinctive clatter and pop of an engine and propellers drifted over from the neighboring pasture. The Wright boys, Stauffer knew, were at it again. Glancing up, he saw the flying machine rise above the heads of the dozen or so spectators gathered along the fence separating the two fields. The machine drifted toward the crowd, then sank back to earth in a gentle arc. The first flight of the day was over in less than 40 seconds. Read more »

Out of the Blue

In 1929 Germany announced that the mighty new dirigible Graf Zeppelin would fly around the world. This stirred a great deal of excitement in the United States, not only because such gigantic airships were thought to be the future of aviation but also because the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst had put up two hundred thousand dollars to finance part of the Zeppelin’s flight and was promoting it aggressively. Read more »

The First Season at Kitty Hawk

What the Wright brothers did in a wild and distant place made its name famous around the world. Their biographer visits the Outer Banks to find what remains of the epochal outpost.

Wilbur Wright boarded a Big Four train at the Union Station in Dayton, Ohio, at six-thirty on the evening of Thursday, September 6, 1900. Thirty-three years old, he was setting off on the first great adventure of his life. Other than a trip to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago with his younger brother, Orville, in 1893, Wilbur had ventured no farther than a bicycle ride from his home in more than sixteen years.Read more »

Navy Power-A View From The Air

Seventy-five years ago a powered kite landed on a cruiser. From that stunt grew the weaponry that has defined modern naval supremacy.

For hundreds of years ships of war were of wood, moved by the wind. Their long-range weapons were simple cannon, while at short ranges, with ships locked alongside one another in deadly embrace, the sailors used cutlasses, sabers, pikes, and small arms. The strategy of sea power consisted of maneuvering, out of sight and beyond knowledge, into position where the power of the guns and their trained crews could become decisive.

How Not To Fly The Atlantic

A few days after Lindberg's crossing, the second flight across the Atlantic carried the first passenger and was lucky to make it to Germany.

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Death of a Dirigible

“Come and see the boiling cloud,” said a woman on the ground; aloft, the slender Shenandoah headed straight into the eye of the vicious squall

Over Lakehurst, New Jersey, the sky was unsettled on the afternoon of September 2, 1925. At times it was almost clear; then ominous clouds would scud across the field of the Naval Air Station and disappear as quickly as they had come. The airship Shenandoah , nose to her high mooring mast, was floating gracefully with the variable breezes. Her twenty gas bags were about 91 per cent full, her tanks loaded with 9,075 pounds of water and 16,620 pounds of gasoline. Sailors were riding up the elevator to the top of the mast.