On this day November 14, 1910


Aviator Eugene Ely performs the first take off from a ship in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He took off from a makeshift deck on the USS Birmingham in a Curtiss pusher.

In October, Ely and Curtiss met Captain Washington Chambers, USN, who had been appointed by George von Lengerke Meyer, the Secretary of the Navy, to investigate military uses for aviation within the Navy.

This led to two experiments. On November 14, 1910, Ely took off in a Curtiss pusher from a temporary platform erected over the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham. The aeroplane plunged downward as soon as it cleared the 83-foot platform runway; and the aircraft wheels dipped into the water before rising.

Ely’s goggles were covered with spray, and the aviator promptly landed on a beach rather than circling the harbor and landing at the Norfolk Navy Yard as planned. Following this flight, Ely was made a lieutenant in the California National Guard to qualify for a $500 prize offered to the first reservist to make such a flight.

Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely landed his Curtiss pusher airplane on a platform on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay, using the first ever tailhook system, designed and built by circus performer & aviator Hugh Robinson. Ely told a reporter: “It was easy enough. I think the trick could be be successfully turned nine times out of ten.”


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