100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

First Wartime Use of an Airplane in Northern Africa

The Mexican Revolution saw the first use of the airplane connected to battle when in February 1911 the Mexican government engaged Rene Simon, a member of an aerial circus touring the south-western United States, to reconnoitre rebel positions near Juarez. In March of 1911, Robert J Collier loaned his plane out to the Army which assigned it to Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois. Foulois and civilian Wright Company pilot Phil Parmalee used this aircraft to fly along the Rio Grande border of Mexico and the United States in the first scouting duties by the U.S. Army using an airplane. Foulois and Parmalee later crashed the airplane into the Rio Grande but escaped from drowning.

In Italy’s pursuit for colonies in Northern Africa, they have brought every technological advantage to the fore. At the start of their Libyan campaign in 1911, Italy mobilized the Italian Aviation Battalion and aircraft under the command of Captain Carlo Piazza, a well-known racing pilot. They sent by steamship to Tripoli : Two Blériot XIs, three Nieuport monoplanes, two Farman biplanes, and two Etrich Taube monoplanes.

On October 23, 1911, Captain Carlo Piazza made the first reconnaissance flight in the history of war near Benghazi in a Blériot XI.

Captain Piazza’s Blériot XI during the Campaign of Libya, 1911.
Photograph courtesy Le origini dell’Aeronautica Militare Italiana.

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