Aviation and the Military | 30 November2011
By: Michelle Hays | How the development of Aviation shaped our early twentieth Century Military |
On 17 December 1903, just outside of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright made a major impact on history when they successfully launched the first motorized airplane; not only on our society as a whole but also the United States military and the way wars would be fought forever. Because of this one specific day in history the Wright brothers are accredited for the first of countless days in our history that we contribute what we know today as aviation. On that one day, the brothers sustained a total of four flights with ...view middle of the document...
The brothers’ growing business slowly gained recognition across the country and across the globe.
It was not until 1909 that the United States Army contacted the Wright brothers in regard to building an airplane for the military. Negotiations were made and in April 1911 the Army’s Signal Corps purchased two Wright Brothers Airplanes. Both planes were in the process of construction at the Wright Brothers factory in when army representatives Henry “Hap” Arnold and Thomas Dewitt Milling from the Army’s Signal Corps showed up at the factory to begin their lessons on flying and maintaining the new airplanes. These lucky men were to become the first pilots and flight instructors for the Army.
The two men began training at the factory putting in twelve hour days of ground instruction; learning how the planes were constructed and maintained. They knew that when the two planes were delivered to the military they would have to teach the mechanics how to maintain them and the “pilots” how to fly them. On 3 May 1911, Arnold and Milling took their first flight for a total of nine miles. They were very nervous Arnold has been quoted in saying, “When a man took off in an airplane in 1911, he was doing something only a few dozen people had done before him and he was entrusting his life to a machine that was not much more trustworthy than a tiger”. Training was extremely short in comparison to the training of pilots today. Aileron had not been invented yet so lateral control of the plane was maintained by slight warping with the same stick that controlled the rudder; the balance was too delicate to tolerate more than a minor mistake. According to Arnold, “One had to become instinctual when he was actually flying the machine”. Arnold and Milling logged only three hours and forty-eight minutes average over the next eleven days and were ready for their solo flights. They continued training for the next six weeks and obtained certificates by mid-June with only fifteen hours of flight. Later, they would both become pillars in the history of military aviation through both World Wars and the Korean War. However, it was not easy to convince the Army, the Generals, Congress, and the President of the possibilities of the airplane in the military in the early 1900’s.
After the training, the two planes, Arnold, Millings, fifteen enlisted men and two Signal Corps officers were sent to a new military base seven miles northeast of Washington D.C. to form what will become the first Army Flying School and Air Base. The Army had not explained to them what their mission would be. Most everyone including people in the Signal Corps believed that airplanes were no more than a toy; at best they would be an observation platform or they could be used for carrying messages. That soon changed. Officer Riley E. Scott arrived at the Air Base with a new invention called “the bomb dropper”. This new idea came complete with a telescope to measure airspeed and a table to...