Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Rotorcraft Report: U.S. Military Aviation Marks Centennial
U.S. military services on Sept. 6 hosted a celebration in Washington of the celebration of the centennial of military aviation in the nation.
Orville Wright left his home in Dayton, Ohio in mid-August 1908 for Washington, where he would conduct acceptance tests of the Wright Flyer for the U.S. Army. Two mechanics joined him for the trials: Charles Taylor and Charles Furnas. They spent Aug. 21 through Sept. 2 installing the engine in the airframe and testing the powerplant.
Wright commenced demonstration flights at Fort Myer, Va., across the Potomac from Washington, on Sept. 3 before a committee of Army officers that included Maj. George Squier, Maj. Charles Wallace, and Lts. Frank Lahm, Thomas Selfridge, and, Benjamin Foulois. In August, those officers had overseen acceptance tests of the Baldwin SC-1 airship.
Wright conducted 19 flights of progressively increasing endurance through Sept. 12. Witnesses included Octave Chanute and the secretaries of War, Commerce and the Navy at the time. High winds kept the aircraft grounded until Sept. 17, when Wright took off with on board Selfridge. On their third circuit of the field, the aircraft suffered an in-flight failure and crashed. Wright was severely injured and Selfridge died from his injuries, becoming the first person killed in the crash of a heavier-than-air crash.
Despite the crash, the Army was convinced of the value of heavier-than-air flight and military aviation in the U.S. took off. The Army has set up a Web site on the history of its aviation endeavors at www.army.mil/aviation/index.html.