100 Years Ago Today

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

First Enlisted Man Dies In An Airplane In Maryland

US Army Lt. Thomas Selfridge of San Francisco, California was transferred to the Aeronautical Division of the US Signal Corps in August 1907 days after it’s formation. His job was to observe the new marvel of Flight for the US Army by working with the leading proponents of the technology in the US, the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss. The Wrights set up demonstrations for the US Army at Fort Meyer, Virginia in September 1908. Wilbur took a flight with Lt. Selfridge as a passenger and official observer. A propeller split and shattered at an altitude of about 100 feet and the airplane crashed. Selfridge suffered a fractured skull and died, becoming the first airplane crash fatality in history.

Corporal Frank S Scott

That same year Corporal Frank S Scott joined the US Signal Corps.In 1911 an illness left him “unfit for duty” and he was assigned to the Army’s College Park Flying Field in Maryland, a meteorological station of the pioneer Army Aeronautical Division. Scott had a talent for mechanics and became chief mechanic of one of the Wright Type-B biplanes. Though not a pilot, he had hoped to fly in one of the Army’s aircraft.

2nd Lt Lewis Rockwell

On September 28, 1912 2nd Lt Lewis G Rockwell flew a solo flight. He landed and picked up Corporal Scott. The two men took off and after reaching an altitude of 150 feet leveled off and soared for about 10 minutes. Coming in for a landing, the airplane nosed downward, hitting the ground at full speed. Corporal Scott was dead and Lieutenant Rockwell was rushed to Washington’s Walter Reed Hospital, but died on the operating table. More than 300 people witnessed the crash. It was the first airplane crash that resulted in death for two or more US military personnel. Corporal Scott is the first enlisted man to die in an airplane accident.

The crash scene at College Park Flying Field in Maryland
September 28, 1912

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