Inducted in 1986
The First Civilian Pilot, 1910
1888 – 1953
The Wright brothers realized that if the science of aviation were to develop, it would first be necessary to win public acceptance of flight throughout the United States. This required that a demonstration team be assembled to fly exhibitions. The first pilot hired for the team was Walter Richard Brookins, a Dayton native and long-time student and friend of the Wrights.
Brookins learned to fly in 1909 at the Wrights’ flight school near Montgomery, Alabama, on what is now a portion of Maxwell Air Force Base. He made his first solo flight after only two and one-half hours of instructional flying. This qualified Brookins to be appointed the Wrights’ first instructor to train pilots for the new Wright Exhibition Team.
Brookins soon became one of the most legendary exhibition flyers in America, setting world records for altitude, cross-country flight and endurance. In 1910 in New Jersey, he flew to an altitude of 6,175 feet in a Wright biplane, becoming the first to fly a mile high.