100 Years Ago Today

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

Archive for the category “Aviation”

Soldier’s Life Is Saved By Flying Doctor

Like the Wright Brothers, Maurice and Henri Farman started out as bicycle mechanics. Born to a British father and French mother, the two brothers spent most of their life in France. Early motorcycles and automobiles were often brought to local cycle mechanics and it made them very familiars with new developments in engines. The Farman brothers soon became interested in automobile races, competing for Renault in the Gordon Bennett Cup.

Maurice Farnam

Maurice Farnam

Interest in Flight was a natural progression. Gabriel and Charles Voison bought out early French aviation pioneer Louis Bleirot to form Appareils d’Aviation Les Frères Voisin (Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers) in 1906. One of their first customers was the Farman brothers for whom they built the 1907 Voison biplane. In this plane the Farmans set numerous official records for both distance and duration including winning the 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation in March 1908, becoming the first pilot to take a passenger into the air and making the first cross-country flight in Europe, flying from Châlons to Reims – 27 kilometers in 20 minutes. In 1909 the Farmans started a flying school and were soon manufacturing their own airplane designs. The 1909 Farman III became very successful. At the start of WWI, the Farmans had began working for the French military, designing the Farman HF 20, a reconnaissance plane.


The HF 20 Farman reconnaissance plane

On January 2, 1915, a mechanic in the military motor pool at Villacoubley was injured when he got caught in some moving machinery and was in danger of losing his life from excessive bleeding. A message was telephone to the military hospital near the St Cyr Aerodrome. The head doctor quickly grabbed his instruments and took the observer’s seat in Maurice Farman’s reconnaissance plane and took off. They flew 8 miles in five minutes. The doctor was able to suture the injured man’s arteries and save his life. This is the first time medical aid has been rendered by air.

1912 Paris Air Show

In 1908 a section of the Paris Automobile Show was dedicated to aircraft. In 1909 a dedicated air show was held at the Grand Palais in Paris during which 100,000 visitors turned out to see products a

nd innovations from 380 exhibitors. The show has been held every year since.

On November 10, 1912 the last day of the 1912 Paris Air Shoe (1912 Exposition Internationale AÉronautique – Salon de l’Aviation) took place. Exhibits include Balloons, dirigibles, monoplanes, biplanes, motors, military aircraft and motor design.

View from above of the French military stand at the 1912 Paris Air Show at the Grand Palais, Paris, France. The stand displays several small trucks outfitted with covered trailers for carrying an aviation squadron’s equipment.

1912 Paris Air Show
Grand Palais, Paris, France
French military exhibit

New Altitude Record Set For Two People

Henry Bingham Brown was born in Walpole New Hampshire in 1883. He began experimenting with flying in 1911.

On November 6, 1912 Brown set an altitude record for two people at 5,300 feet at the Oakwood Heights meet of the Aeronautical Society in Staten Island, New York. His passenger is Isabella Patterson from Vancouver, British Columbia. It also the highest flight taken by a woman. A crowd of 7,000 watched as Brown ascended to smash a record that had been 3,347 feet.

Henry Bingham Brown and Isabella Patterson after breaking an American altitude record (5300 ft)
Staten Island, New York
November 6, 1912

First Pilot Killed By Anti-Aircraft Fire

In October 1911 war broke out between Italy and the Ottoman Empire when Italy claim territory in Norther Africa. The first wartime use of a plane took place in Libya that month when Captain Carlo Piazza made the first reconnaissance flight in the history of war near Benghazi.


The same conflict saw the first pilot killed during wartime.


War between the Ottoman Empire and four Balkan states called the Balkan League has broken out.


Two weeks ago, the first bombing reconnaissance took place in the Balkan War.


On October 30, 1912 a Russian volunteer in the Bulgarian army air force became the first airplane pilot to ever be killed by anti-aircraft fire. The airplane flown by M Popov and was hit by Turkish shells while Popov was flying over Adrianople.

Bulgarian military airplane

The Italian-Turkish War Ends

At the Congress of Berlin in 1878 France and Great Britain agreed to their occupation of Tunisia and Cyprus. To appease Italy it was agreed that Tripoli in Northern Africa would be occupied by the Italians. This was reinforced by a 1902 treaty between Italy and France that called for intervention in Tripolitania and Morocco. After nationalists whipped up war fever, Italy attacked Ottoman possessions in Tripolitania in late September 1911. The Italian-Turkish War had begun.

Italy possessed a far more modern military force than the Ottoman Empire. They seized major cities and used the first aircraft during wartime.


The Italians dropped the first bomb from an airplane during war, used the first radio and many other advanced technological events. The Italian Navy attacked Turkey, shelling the Dardanelles and sinking Ottoman ships. Italy dug in at northern Africa, controlling only some coastal stretches which were almost under siege by Arabs and Turkish troops. The Italian occupation was brutal and repressive. The fighting had reached a stalemate even though Italy possessed superior weapons and a large troops advantage. The war was a financial disaster for Italy. With hostilities commencing in the Balkan War, the Ottoman Empire was desirous of a truce.

On October 18, 1912 the Treaty of Luasanne was signed between the Ottomans and Italy. Independence was granted to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica long enough for the North African provinces to come under Italian control. Libya, as well as the Dodecanese Islands were returned to the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Sultan would continue as the Caliph of Libyan Muslims.

Turkish and Italian delegations at Lausanne
October 1912

First Bombing Reconnaissance Mission In Balkans

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.

In January 1911 a ordinance officer with the Coastal Artillery Lt. Myron Crissy attended the Tanforan Airshow near San Francisco, California. He had designed and built an “aerial bomb” and was looking for a pilot to help him demonstrate it. Wright Brothers pilot Philip Parmalee took him aloft and the first bomb was dropped from an airplane.

In October 1911 war broke out between Italy and the Ottoman Empire when Italy claim territory in Norther Africa. The first wartime use of a plane took place in Libya that month when Captain Carlo Piazza made the first reconnaissance flight in the history of war near Benghazi.


In November 1911 the first use of an air-dropped bomb was carried out by Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti in northern Africa when he threw grenades from his Etrich Taube monoplane. He foray was spur of the moment and injured no one.

War in the Balkans broke out in October 1912. Bulgarian Air Force pilot Christo Toprakchiev suggested the use of bombs on Ottoman positions. Captain Simeon Petrov developed the idea and created several prototypes by adapting different types of grenades and increasing their payload

On October 16, 1912 during hostilities in the Balkan War, Bulgarian pilot Radul Minkov and his observer, Prodan Toprakchiev, performed the first reconnaissance and bombing from an airplane. They threw bombs from their Albatros F-2 biplane on the railway station of Karaagac near Edirne against Ottoman forces.

Bulgarian airmen prepare for a mission to drop a bomb by hand on Edirne from their Bleriot XI aircraft during the 1912 Balkan War

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

French Aviation Pioneer Dies In Car Crash

Although the Wright Brothers first flew an airplane in 1903, the event was barely reported. The feat was never widely acknowledge and only followed by other aviation pioneers. France was one of the earliest leaders in the new technology of aviation. Gabriel Voison had collaborated with Louis Blériot in 1905. Voisin bought out Louis Blériot and along with his brother Charles started a company called Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers in November 1906. This was the first commercial aircraft factory in Europe. One of their first customers was pioneer pilot Henri Farman who won on of the first air races, the “Grand Prix de l’aviation” for the first closed-circuit flight of over a kilometer. The Wright Brothers had not been recognized yet and this was seen as a major breakthrough in the conquest of the air. The Voisin brothers got many orders for similar aircraf. In 1908 the Wright Brothers came to France and gave some very public flight demonstrations that were widely received by the public and press. The fame that had eluded them in the US finally was found in France. Flight was taken as a practical reality and the Voison brothers were at the forefront.

On September 26, 1912 Charles Voison, master of the air, was killed in an auto accident. Woman aviator Baroness de Laroche was injured in the same accident.

Gabriel (L) and Charles (R) Voison

Air Mail In Illinois

Frederick J Wiseman of Santa Rosa, California, was the first person in the US to carry a letter sanctioned by a postal official. In February 1911 Wiseman made a flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa and brought along 50 newspapers, a sack of coffee for a grocer and three letters from the local postmaster. He had engine trouble and it wasn’t until the next day he completed his 14 mile flight. It would have been faster if he had walked.

The first airmail in the United Kingdom took place in September 1911 when Gustav Hamel of the Grahame-White flying school flew 19 miles in 10 minutes to a meadow on the royal farm at Windsor in Berkshire with a bag containing messages for King George V and other members of the British royal family.

The first “official US airmail” took place in September 1911 when Earle L Ovington was appointed by US Postmaster General Frank H Hitchcock to fly mail for the United States Post Office at the Nassau Island Long Island Aviation Meet. The 500 foot drop split the bag open scattering mail everywhere. Demonstrations of airmail began to take place at Air Shows where patrons would pay for the novelty of having a letter or postcard flown a short distance.

On September 26, 1912 the Postmaster of McLeansboro, Illinois established a postal sub-station at the Fair Grounds at McLeansboro where the Aviation and Street Circus was taking place. Aviator Horace Kearney flew from the fair grounds about one mile to a point close to the McLeansboro post office where the mail pouch was dropped from the plane. The mail was then retrieved and brought to the post office. Earle L Ovington was present and signed postcards as the “first” airmail pilot.

“Mail like the cost of living had certainly been high today”

The 5th Woman To Receive A Piliot’s License In America

Bernetta Miller was born in Canton, Ohio in January 1884. She moved to New York where she became interested in aviation. John Moisant had learrned to fly in France from French pioneer aviator Louis Bleirot. John Moisant died in a crash in 1910 but his brother Alfred opened the Moisant aviation school in Mineola, Long Island. The school had six Bleriot monoplanes. Alfred taught Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to receive a pilot’s license. Quimby became a celebrity and died in a crash in July 1912.


Moisant also taught his sister, Matilde E Moisant, the second woman to obtain to obtain a pilot’s license in the US.

Quimby and Mathilde Moisant in their pilot’s gear

On September 25, 1912 Bernetta Miller became the fifth woman in the US to hold a pilot’s license. She holds Aero Club of America license # 173. The Moisant company plans to use her as a demonstration pilot for the Blériot monoplanes that they are building under license.

Bernetta Miller in a Moisant aeroplane


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