October 26, 2009
A hundred years ago today, the U.S. military got its first pilot. On October 26, 1909, Frederick E. Humphreys, a 26-year-old Lieutenant with the Army Signal Corps, soloed for the first time in a Wright Flyer at College Park, Maryland, under the watchful eye of no less an instructor than Wilbur Wright. That same day Lieutenant Frank P. Lahm also soloed, winning Pilot Certificate No. 2 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Both had been in training since October 8, only weeks after the Army purchased its flying machine from the Wrights. By November 5, the airplane was out of commission, its wing damaged during a low-altitude turn, which left the country’s fledgling air force temporarily without a vehicle.
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