Frank Purdy Lahm

//Frank Purdy Lahm

Frank Purdy Lahm

Inducted in 2009

One of first trainees for military aircraft

November 11, 1877 – July 7, 1963

Frank Lahm spent two years at Michigan Military Academy preparing for West Point, where he entered in June 1897 and subsequently served in France. Upon his return to the United States in 1903, Lieutenant Lahm was stationed at West Point as an instructor in French. The son of a balloonist, he trained at West Point, served in the cavalry, and transferred to the signal corps in 1907. A pioneer aviator, he trained with Wilbur Wright, and in 1909 became one of the army’s first two certified pilots.

Lahm’s father had joined the Aero Club of France and owned the balloon the “Katherine Hamilton,” named in honor of his daughter. In the summer of 1905 young Lahm completed the requirements of six ascensions, including one at night and one alone, to win his Federation Aeronautique Internationale license as a balloon pilot. In July of the same summer Lahm became a first lieutenant. In 1906 young Lahm won the International Balloon Race, flying across the Channel from Paris, France to Yorkshire, England. It was in the home’s garden that Lahm’s father introduced Frank to Wilbur and Orville Wright.

After practice hops, Orville Wright, with Lieutenant Lahm as a passenger, made the first official test flight on July 27, 1909. He and Lahm established a world’s record for a two-man flight – one hour, 12 minutes and 40 seconds. In October 1909 Wilbur Wright trained Lieutenants Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys. With little more than three hours apiece flying time, Lahm and Humphreys were pronounced pilots on Oct 26. When Lahm and Humphreys crashed November 5, the Army lost its entire air force, one plane.

Frank Lahm was a president of the First Flight Society. The airport in Mansfield, OH is named for him.