Throwback Thursday: Naval Aviation First 1910

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Eugene Ely Image One
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One hundred, nine years ago, today, aviator Eugene Ely made naval aviation history, taking off from a wooden platform secured to the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham. Captain Washington Chambers, USN, was tasked by the Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer to investigate uses for aviation in the Navy. Ely successfully took off in a Curtiss Pusher from the Birmingham, barely. The airplane rolled off the platform, plunged downward, skipping the water, which damaged the propeller but, he managed to stay airborne, landing two and a half miles away on Willoughby Spit. 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 communicated with the United States Navy requesting employment but, United States naval aviation was not yet organized. Ely continued flying in exhibitions while Captain Chambers promised to “keep him in mind” if Navy flying stations were created.

On October 19, 1911, while flying at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, his plane was late pulling out of a dive and crashed. Ely jumped clear of the wrecked aircraft but, his neck was broken and he died a few minutes later.

On February 16, 1933, Congress awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously to Ely, “for extraordinary achievement as a pioneer civilian aviator and for his significant contribution to the development of aviation in the United States Navy.”

Naval Aviation Hall of Fame

Eugene Ely Smithsonian Image Two
Eugene Ely
Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

28 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Naval Aviation First 1910

    JT Twissel said:
    November 15, 2019 at 5:58 PM

    Those early aviators were really dare devils, weren’t they?

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      November 15, 2019 at 6:38 PM

      OY. Crazy. šŸ˜³

    badfinger20 said:
    November 16, 2019 at 12:02 AM

    The ending was not what I wanted…I thought the guy was going to make it. Pioneers are special people. I never knew they were thinking of that… that long ago. We build the world on their shoulders.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      November 17, 2019 at 2:57 AM

      Yeah. It was sad when I was reading about it. It reminded me of Ken’s older brother. Ken had a paternal, half brother that was, roughly, 12, 13 years older than he was. This guy was an adrenaline junkie. When he was in the Air Force in the 50s, he tinkered on jeeps and raced them. Then, he was drag racer:

      He was also a barnstormer. That’s what actually got him. His daughter told me that he went up with another guy for some acrobatics and the plane crashed in 1972. No one really knew which one was flying the plane. She has pix on her FB page showing where he was inducted into the Phoenix, AZ, drag racing Hall of Fame.

        badfinger20 said:
        November 17, 2019 at 9:16 AM

        Wow…that is someone who enjoys life in an exciting way.
        Those people are just built different. I want to read more about the car also. Did he race cars until he died?

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          November 17, 2019 at 2:25 PM

          As far as I know. Jill never said he stopped. He was in his early 40s when the crash happened. Jill was nine. I imagine he diversified his thrill seeking.

          Found another one:

            badfinger20 said:
            November 17, 2019 at 3:13 PM

            Love seeing those old pictures. I wish I had a little of that in me… wow Diversified Thrill Seeking…a great title for a book.
            That thrill hits people different.

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              November 17, 2019 at 3:32 PM

              I have a bit of adrenaline love in me. I love roller coasters, flying, been in a racing Vette pulling Gs… I would never bungee jump. I’ve toyed with the idea of skydiving but, I’m the type that would be more interested in flying the plane than jumping out of it.

              Ken liked fast cars, too. He just didn’t race them. But, he does not like heights & would never get on a rollercoaster. Ne-ver.

              Heh. Thanks. Does sound like an interesting book. šŸ˜‰

                badfinger20 said:
                November 17, 2019 at 8:39 PM

                Iā€™m with him on the heightsā€¦The only thing I like is spinningā€¦fast.
                As afraid of heights as I amā€¦jumping out of a planeā€¦I think I could do. I canā€™t explain thatā€¦but dontā€™ put me on a roof.

                  The Hinoeuma responded:
                  November 17, 2019 at 4:19 PM

                  Spinning? I would barf & pass out, probably. I don’t do roofs, either. The pitch of them messes with our equilibrium.

                    badfinger20 said:
                    November 17, 2019 at 4:48 PM

                    Ours is steepā€¦ basically two A Frames put together in an odd way. The roofers tied ropes to themselvesā€¦ like the Matterhorn.

                    Yea spinningā€¦ tilt a whirl is my favorite ride

                      The Hinoeuma responded:
                      November 17, 2019 at 5:53 PM

                      Yeah, that’s quite a pitch. I have an uncle that lives in an A-frame on Bass Mountain. The front is all glass.

                      Oh, yeah. Tilt A Whirl. I’ve been on one of those YEARS ago. I think I already told you about the old Open Bucket @ Carowinds. Don’t honestly know if I could ride those, now.

                      badfinger20 said:
                      November 17, 2019 at 11:10 PM

                      We are not on a mountain but I know exactly what you are talking about. This house is a Frankenstein. Two public attorneys lived here and had a simple A Frame 800 sq footā€¦ they married and had a kidā€¦added a wing, had another kid and added another wing. We have 3 atticsā€¦but yea we have some glass in frontā€¦giant windows but not entirely like the one you are talking about.

                      If I won the lotteryā€¦I would go Michael Jackson and have a Tilt a Whirl in the back yard.

                      The Hinoeuma responded:
                      November 17, 2019 at 6:21 PM

                      Heh. Sounds like a small version of the Winchester house.

                      The grandkids would LOVE you. Weeeeeeee! Hm. No Tilt A Whirl emoji…šŸ¤”ā˜¹

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          November 17, 2019 at 2:46 PM

          His name shows up in HotRod Magazine issues from 1959 & 1964.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          November 17, 2019 at 2:53 PM
            badfinger20 said:
            November 17, 2019 at 3:15 PM

            Wow 168 mph in that short of time. I’ve watched them when I was a kid… a place called Beach Bend in Kentucky…we would go to the amusement park and they would have drag races there.

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              November 17, 2019 at 3:36 PM

              If there are drag races in NC (legit, not street racers running from the cops), I don’t know where. This state is mostly eat up with NASCAR. Look! They’re making a left turn! Look! They’re making another left turn! *yawn*

                badfinger20 said:
                November 17, 2019 at 3:40 PM

                LOL…yea NASCAR doesn’t intrest me either…I watched as a kid for the wrecks…that is terrible but the truth.

                  The Hinoeuma responded:
                  November 17, 2019 at 4:22 PM

                  That’s why most people watch…the wrecks! We’re no different than the blood-thirsty Romans in a coliseum. šŸ™„

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          November 17, 2019 at 3:07 PM

          And…just found this:

          Stuff I did not know. There is a lot Jill doesn’t remember. She never mentioned Grantham Engineering and couldn’t remember much about her paternal side.

          Ken will find this interesting. He is a little light on the Grantham information, too. Depending upon Dale’s b-day, that makes him 11, 12 years older than Ken.

            badfinger20 said:
            November 17, 2019 at 3:16 PM

            Does Jill remember him well? Was she just a kid or a little older when he died?

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              November 17, 2019 at 4:15 PM

              She was born in ’63. He died in ’72. Eight, nine…depending. She remembers her dad. She loved him but, he was trouble. He ran around on her mom quite a bit (more thrill seeking). They were still married when he died but, actually together, IDK. Jill never said. She has a greater love for her stepfather.

              She followed in daddy’s footsteps on the flying thing, tho. She’s been a flight attendant for YEARS. And…just got married for the first time @ 56. She was a breathtaking BEAUTY in her younger years. I mean MODEL beauty. Dark, curly, thick hair, long legs…gorgeous smile.

                badfinger20 said:
                November 17, 2019 at 4:57 PM

                Glad she had a good step father. The first time? Wow I guess she wanted to make sure lol.
                Yea guys like that usually donā€™t make great husbands or boy friends

                  The Hinoeuma responded:
                  November 17, 2019 at 6:16 PM

                  Well, think about the life of a flight attendant. Always gone… She wouldn’t have been a stay at home wife or mom. She has no kids…not likely to have any, now.

                  Interestingly, Ken’s daughter has no kids, either. The Grantham line has stopped. Both men were older fathers. Dale was 31 when Jill came along & Ken was 33 when Jennifer came along.

                    badfinger20 said:
                    November 17, 2019 at 6:24 PM

                    Yea that would have been true… I didn’t know if they came home a normal amount or were constantly flying .

                    Ok… Yea I was 33 when Bailey was born…I’m with him on that. That sucks though that the line has stopped.

    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    November 16, 2019 at 4:44 AM

    These were so so brave. Real spirit of pushing the boundaries

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      November 17, 2019 at 12:33 AM

      Yes, they were.

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