We Missed An Aviation Milestone This Past Week.

On November 14, 1910, November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely took off in a Curtiss Model D pusher aircraft from a wooden platform built on top of a US cruiser named the USS Birmingham. In doing so, Ely is credited with the proof of concept that planes could take off (and presumably land) on ships.

The odd thing is that when Ely took off, hos plane plummeted toward the water. Before he could regain total control, his landing gear and the propeller struck the water, damaging the propeller. Ely was forced to land near the beach in Hampton Roads, Virginia. As he climbed from the plane, he thought he had failed.

He hadn’t and his achievement was widely heralded and celebrated.

Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely landed his Curtiss pusher airplane on a platform on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay. Ely flew from the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, California and landed on the Pennsylvania, which was the first successful shipboard landing of an aircraft. This flight was also the first ever using a tailhook system, designed and built by circus performer and aviator Hugh Robinson. Ely told a reporter: “It was easy enough. I think the trick could be successfully turned nine times out of ten.”

The video above is the story of that achievement. Around the 1:50 mark, the video talks about the controls of the plane. When you see the big steering wheel in the pilot’s hands of the Curtiss pusher aircraft, you think of the controls of today’s planes. Watch the video to find out how the plane was controlled in the air. It is an amazing feat of engineering. (And it is not wing warping.)

Sadly, Ely died in a crash less than a year later on October 19, 1911 in a plane crash in Macon, Georgia a little before his 25th birthday, but his achievements still lives on to this day.

Watch as American Barnstorming Aviators, Eugene Ely and Glenn Curtiss attempt the first ever flight from the deck of a ship using the Model D Curtiss Pusher.

Comments are closed.