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31 07, 2014

Wiley H. Post

Inducted in 1970

First To Fly Solo Around The World, 1933

1898 – 1935

Between July 15 and 22, 1933, in a single engine Lockheed Vega equipped with a Sperry automatic pilot, a radio direction finder and other new devices, Wiley Hardeman Post made a high-speed flight around the world. The solo flight in the “Winnie Mae” lasted seven days, 18 hours and 49 minutes and covered 15,596 miles. It was perhaps the most remarkable display of flying endurance of the decade.

Earlier, in 1931, ex-barnstormer Post and navigator Harold Gatty had thrilled the nation by dashing around the world in the Winnie Mae. The flight was not only a great technical achievement, but also one that demanded extraordinary fortitude. The Vega was airborne over 106 hours; neither Post nor Gatty had an opportunity to sleep. The flight’s elapsed time of eight days, 15 hours and 51 minutes far surpassed the previous record of […]

7 07, 2014

General James H. Doolittle

Inducted in 1969

First To Make An All-Blind Instrument Flight From Take Off to Landing, 1929

1896 – 1993

Beginning in the 1920s, “Jimmy” Doolittle compiled an impressive record as an air pioneer. He initially earned national attention in September 1922 when he made the first transcontinental crossing of the United States in a single day, traveling 2,100 miles in 21 hours. In 1927, Doolittle was the first pilot to complete an “outside loop,” a gravity-defying maneuver many considered impossible.

In 1928, Doolittle was released by the Army to head the Full Flight Laboratory. He quickly became involved with the problems of flight in poor visibility, especially with a project to develop instrument flying to combat the menace of fog. Newly developed radio aids, in conjunction with the Sperry gyro-horizon and directional gyro, gave Doolittle the equipment he needed to succeed. On September 24, 1929, flying in a hooded cockpit of a Consolidated NY-2 […]

7 07, 2014

Glenn Hammond Curtiss

Inducted in 1969

Pioneer Aviator, Designer and Manufacturer, 1911

1878 – 1930

After starting a career as a bicycle racer and builder like the Wright brothers, Curtiss’ interests shifted to motorcycles. In 1907, riding an 8-cycle machine he designed and built, Curtiss set a world speed record of 136.3 mph. He then joined Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association as an engine builder. Curtiss designed the AEA’s third plane, the “June Bug,” and in July 1908 piloted the first official public flight in the U.S., flying one mile. This won him the 1908 Scientific American Trophy. He was awarded the Trophy again in 1909 for flying 24.7 miles in 52 minutes, and later that year won international air race meets in France and Italy. In 1910, he won the Trophy again for the first flight from Albany to New York.

In 1909, Curtiss established America’s first aircraft manufacturing company, and his planes flew on […]

7 07, 2014

General Charles E. Yeager

Inducted in 1968

First Person To Pilot An Aircraft At Supersonic Speed, 1947

1923 –

On October 14, 1947, Captain “Chuck” Yeager, a World War II fighter pilot, became the first to break the sound barrier in a needle-nosed Bell X-1. The four rocket motors of this tiny research craft could gulp an entire supply of fuel in two and one-half minutes. To save fuel, the Bell X-1 was carried aloft by a B-29. The craft was released over Muroc Dry Lake, California. Yeager leveled the craft and fired its rockets. “Boy, it sure went,” he later recalled.

At 37,000 feet, the X-1 flew nicely, but began to buffet as it approached the sound barrier. When an airplane travels at the speed of sound, the air particles ahead are compressed into a “wall of thick air.” Early engines could not supply enough power to push through this invisible wall and assaults on the barrier […]

7 07, 2014

Amelia Earhart

Inducted in 1968

First Woman To Fly Solo Across The Atlantic, 1932
First Pilot To Fly Solo Hawaii To California, 1935

1897 – 1937

Amelia Earhart made world headlines with the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman when she flew a Lockheed Vega from Newfoundland to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, May 20-21, 1932. This was exactly five years after Lindbergh’s first solo flight from New York to Paris. For her accomplishment, Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Four years earlier, in 1928, Earhart had received international notice by becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, but as a passenger. On June 17, 1928, Earhart had flown aboard a Fokker C-2 Tri-motor piloted by Wilmer Stutz from Newfoundland to Wales. Thereafter, Earhart began to set records as a pilot herself.

In 1929 Earhart won third place in the first Women’s Air Derby race from Los Angeles to Cleveland. In 1930 she set an international speed […]

7 07, 2014

Jacqueline Cochran

Inducted in 1968

First Woman To Pilot An Aircraft Supersonically, 1953

1906 – 1980

On May 18, 1953, aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to pilot an aircraft supersonically. She broke the sound barrier, flying 625.5 miles per hour, in an F-86 Sabre and thus joined the previously male only “supersonic club.” Years later, on June 3, 1964, Cochran piloted an F-104G Starfighter at twice the speed of sound, establishing a woman’s world speed record of 1,429 miles per hour.

Cochran learned to fly at age 22 in order to expand her cosmetics business. She soon caught racing fever and competed in numerous races during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Cochran won several air records, including the women’s west to east transcontinental speed record and altitude records. She became the first woman to make a “blind” landing and the first to fly a warplane across the Atlantic Ocean. From 1938 to 1940, […]

7 07, 2014

Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd

Inducted in 1968

First To Fly Over The North Pole, 1926
First To Fly Over The South Pole, 1929

1888 – 1957

Lieutenant Commander Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett were the first airmen to fly over the North Pole in the “Josephine Ford,” a Fokker Trimotor equipped with skis. Shortly after midnight on May 9, 1926, navigator Byrd and pilot Bennett lifted off a snow-packed runway at Kings Bay, Spitsbergen in Norway. They headed across the formidable arctic wasteland and at 9:02 a.m. crossed the top of the world, 800 miles from their take-off point.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1929, pilot Bernt Balchen, Byrd and a crew of three climbed aboard the Ford Trimotor that Byrd had named “Floyd Bennett” after his old comrade who had died in 1928. At 3:29 p.m. they left the ice pack, headed due south at a speed of 90 miles per hour and climbed to 8,000 feet. As […]

6 06, 2014

Charles A. Lindbergh

Inducted in 1967

First Non-Stop Solo Flight From New York To Paris, 1927

1902 – 1974

Charles Lindbergh was not the first pilot to fly across the Atlantic: there were 12 prior crossings, five of them non-stop. However, Lindbergh’s solo flight from New York to Paris in May 1927 electrified the world and directly impacted American aviation, air transport and popular attitudes toward flying.

Lindbergh’s hazardous lone journey started in the early morning of May 20, 1927, with little pre-flight notice. At the heart of the Ryan “Brougham” NYP plane, called the “Spirit of St. Louis” for his sponsors, was a single 220-horsepower Wright Whirlwind engine. Lindbergh was counting on its efficiency and reliability to enable him to win the $25,000 Orteig prize for the flight. To save weight, the Ryan high-wing monoplane carried no radio or parachute; every possible ounce was eliminated to provide space for fuel. For instance, Lindbergh used a periscope […]

25 04, 2014

Wilbur & Orville Wright

Inducted in 1966

First To Achieve Successful Powered Flight In A Heavier-Than-Air-Machine, 1903

Wilbur Wright: 1867 – 1912
Orville Wright: 1871 – 1948

The Wright brothers made the world’s first four successful airplane flights on the cold, windswept sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Their “Flyer” lifted from level ground to the north of Big Kill Devil Hill at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903. Orville piloted the 605-pound machine during the first flight, traveling 120 feet in 12 seconds.

Although Wilbur achieved the best results of the day on the fourth and final flight, 852 feet in 59 seconds, it is Orville’s earlier flight that is best remembered. As Orville later described:
“This flight lasted only 12 seconds, but it was nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without a […]

11 04, 2014

First Flight Society Friends Agreement Signed with National Park Service

April 11, 2014

The NPS recognizes the long and valuable tradition of philanthropy in the national parks. Friends groups have played a critical role in the success of this country’s national parks, and it is the policy of the NPS to support and strengthen its relationships with the First Flight Society, and to encourage innovation and creativity to meet mutual goals.

In 1927, a group of forward-thinking northeastern North Carolina business and civic leaders began an effort to preserve the original site of the Wright brothers’ flights of December 17, 1903. The group formally organized on August 16, 1927, as the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association and set about the task of acquiring the site where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their four historic flights in 1903. The Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association was formally incorporated in 1943. Its name was changed to Kill Devil Hills Memorial Society in 1951 and in […]