The First U.S. Aircraft Carrier                       Back to War / Back Home

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Check out the original life preserver the pilot is wearing; its bicycle inner tubes. They had no idea what would happen.
Check the sand bags holding in place the landing strip.

Eugene Ely takes his Curtiss pusher airplane off the deck of USS Birmingham on 14 November 1910.  It was the first airplane takeoff from a warship. He flew for two miles before landing on a Willoughby Spit beach.
It was a big success so they decided to continue the experiment. But this time, a plane had to land on a ship.

On 18 January 1911, Eugene Ely lands with the same plane on USS Pennsylvania, making this first landing on a warship in history and a historical event.
Notice his "life vest." (Bicycle inner tubes!)

On October 19, 1911, while flying at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, his plane was late pulling out of a dive and crashed.[2] Ely jumped clear of the wrecked aircraft, but his neck was broken, and he died a few minutes later.

In 1933, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in recognition of his contribution to naval aviation. An exhibit of retired naval aircraft at Naval Air Station Norfolk in Virginia bears Ely's name, and a granite historical marker in Newport News, Virginia, overlooks the waters where Ely made his historic flight in 1910 and recalls his contribution to military aviation, naval in particular.  (Ely was in the Army National Guard.)