100 Years Ago Today

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

Air Crash Kills Spectator In Washington

In the development of early Flight, the world’s military was reluctant to commit to any one plane design fearing they would have an air fleet that would become obsolete with any new technological advance. They preferred to send military advisers to observe early aviators. This brought about the Air Show where airplane designers could show off their new planes while an excited and interested public would pay to see this new thrilling invention. The first Air Show was in Reims, France in 1909 and the first US Air Show was in Dominguez Hill near Los Angeles, California in 1910.

The Wright Brothers at first shunned these Air Shows as a “mountebank business” and would show up not to fly but to prevent others from flying because their designs infringed on their copyrights. Competitors like Glenn Curtiss established flying teams that garnered much publicity and eventually the Wrights established their own flying team in 1910. One of their exhibition pilots was James Clifford Turpin. The Wrights disbanded their exhibition team in 1911 after accidents had claimed the lives of several pilots. Turpin rented a Wright Model C for his own exhibitions.

On May 29, 1912 Turpin was flying at the Meadows Racetrack in Seattle, Washington the scene of Seattle’s first powered flight in 1910. Turpin clipped a pylon avoiding a cameraman and pivoted into a grandstand, killing a spectator and injuring over two dozen including Turpin who survived. This is Washington’s first air fatality.

Turpin’s crash into the Meadows Racetrack grandstands captured in a photo – May 29, 1912

Photo: May 29, 1912

Air Crash Kills Spectator In Washington

In the development of early Flight, the world's military was reluctant to commit to any one plane design fearing they would have an air fleet that would become obsolete with any new technological advance. They preferred to send military advisers to observe early aviators. This brought about the Air Show where airplane designers could show off their new planes while an excited and interested public would pay to see this new thrilling invention. The first Air Show was in Reims, France in 1909 and the first US Air Show was in Dominguez Hill near Los Angeles, California in 1910. 

The Wright Brothers at first shunned these Air Shows as a "mountebank business" and would show up not to fly but to prevent others from flying because their designs infringed on their copyrights. Competitors like Glenn Curtiss established flying teams that garnered much publicity and eventually the Wrights established their own flying team in 1910. One of their exhibition pilots was James Clifford Turpin. The Wrights disbanded their exhibition team in 1911 after accidents had claimed the lives of several pilots. Turpin rented a Wright Model C for his own exhibitions.

On May 29, 1912 Turpin was flying at the Meadows Racetrack in  Seattle, Washington the scene of Seattle's first powered flight in 1910. Turpin clipped a pylon avoiding a cameraman and pivoted into a grandstand, killing a spectator and injuring over two dozen including Turpin who survived. This is Washington's first air fatality.

Turpin's crash into the Meadows Racetrack grandstands captured in a photo - May 29, 1912
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