On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, introducing the era of air travel.
In 1904, the motorcycle racer Glenn Curtiss, grandson of a Methodist-Episcopal clergyman, supplied a motorcycle engine to propel the California Arrow, enabling it to become the first successful dirigible.
In 1907, Curtiss set the world record of 136.36 miles per hour with a V-8 engine he designed, becoming "the fastest man in the world."
Alexander Graham Bell encouraged Curtiss to join his Aerial Experiment Association, and in 1908 Curtiss built his famous June Bug.
He received U.S. Pilot's License #1 from the Aero Club of America.
In 1909, the Wright brothers built the Wright Military Flyer, the world’s first military plane.
In 1910, Glenn Curtiss made the first long-distance flight, from Albany to New York City, winning a prize of $10,000 from publisher Joseph Pulitzer.
The same year, he simulated the first aircraft bombing runs, was the first to use firearms in flight, made first radio communication with aircraft, and was the first to take off from a Navy ship, earning him the title "Father of Naval Aviation."
On October 11, 1910, in an impromptu meeting, 26-year-old aviator Arch Hoxsey, a mechanic for the Wright brothers, invited former President Theodore Roosevelt to join him for a flight in a Wright Model AB at Kinloch Field outside St. Louis, Missouri:
“Colonel, I’d like to have you go up with me,” asked Hoxsey, who mentioned that he and Roosevelt shared the same birthday, October 27. “After I told him that he smiled ... As soon as I saw his smile, I knew I had him.”
Taking off, they flew a few passes over the field and landed. Roosevelt “smiling his most expansive smile,” vigorously shook Hoxsey’s hand, saying “It was great! It was the finest experience I ever had.”
A little over two months later, December 26, 1910, Hoxsey set the altitude record of flying 11,474 feet, reporting that the sub-zero temperature and wind chill at that height was “the most terrifying cold I ever felt.”
Sadly, five days later, trying to break his record, he lost control and crashed to his death.
In 1911, Glenn Curtiss developed the first retractable landing gear and the first pontoon aircraft -- the first aircraft purchased by the U.S. Navy, and carried out the first catapult launch from a ship.
He created the first flying school, in Miami, and trained the first American female pilot, Blanche Stuart Scott.
Curtiss established the first military flying school in San Diego at the Naval Air Station North Island -- "The Birthplace of Naval Aviation."
Curtiss and the Wright Brothers had a decade long legal battle over the patent of "ailerons" used to control rolling and banking. This delayed further development, allowing Europe and Japan to make advances in aviation.
The two companies eventually merged in 1929 to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.
In 1916, at the time Henry Ford was pioneering assembly-line mass production of his Model T automobile, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company began the first mass-produced aircraft, the "Jenny" biplane, of which 6,000 were purchased by the Army for military training.
In 1916, the Curtiss Model J was the first aircraft used in a U.S. military operation, carrying out surveillance of Pancho Villa's forcesin Mexico.
During World War I, the airplane was used in reconnaissance replacing the Zepplin.
It was used in combat, with famed pilots being Germany's Red Baron and America's Eddie Rickenbacker.
Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin, was a courageous fighter pilot, but was sadly shot down and died.
After the War, the Army sold thousands of surplus "Jenny's" at bargain prices, resulting in it becoming the "backbone of American postwar civil aviation."
The Post Office Department formally established domestic U.S. Air Mail on May 15, 1918.
During the Roaring Twenties, "barnstorming" became the first major form of civil aviation in history.
Barnstormers would "buz” villages and drop flyers inviting people to see dare-devil aerobatic stunts.
Barnstormers performed nose dives, loop-the-loops, spins, barrel rolls, wing walking, parachuting, trapeze, target shooting, dancing on plane's wings, hitting golf balls, playing tennis, and flying through barns.
Notable barnstormers were “The Five Blackbirds” (an African American flying group); Wiley Post, who later discovered the jet stream and designed the first pressure suit; and Upside-Down Clyde Pangborn, who later flew the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean.
Barnstormers, such as Charles Lindbergh, offered short plane rides for a fee of five dollars.
One person who took a short ride with a barnstormer was Amelia Earhart at Long Beach, on December 28, 1920.
"By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly."
Eventually, after some high profile accidents, the government passed regulations designating the minimum altitude at which stunts could be performed.
This resulted in them being so high up that spectators could not view them, leading to the popularity of barnstorming declining.
One of the greatest feats in aviation was on May 20, 1927, at 7:52am.
25-year-old Charles A. Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, in his silver monoplane named The Spirit of St. Louis.
Thirty-three and a half hours later he landed in Paris, completing the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Lindbergh was decorated by the President of France, the King of England and President Calvin Coolidge.
The son of a Congressman, Charles Lindbergh was a test pilot for a St. Louis firm, performed feats of barnstorming and became an Air Service Reserve cadet, flying mail routes to Chicago.
At the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, February 1, 1954, Charles Lindbergh stated:
"It was not the outer grandeur of the Roman but the inner simplicity of the Christian that lived through the ages."
On the Bicentennial of Air and Space Flight, February 7, 1983, President Ronald Reagan said:
"We Americans have always been at our best when we've faced challenge ...
Whether ... Daniel Boone or Charles Lindbergh ... I've always believed that mankind is capable of greatness ... But it depends on us.
God gave angels wings. He gave mankind dreams. And with His help, there's no limit to what can be accomplished."
President Jimmy Carter stated MAY 20, 1977:
"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic transatlantic flight of Charles A. Lindbergh.
In his solo journey from New York to Paris on MAY 20, 1927, America's "Lone Eagle" inaugurated a new age of aviation ...
... Celebrated around the world, this momentous event established Lindbergh as one of our country's most heroic figures.
It symbolized the continuing devotion of our people to the exploration of new frontiers and demonstrated what can be accomplished when innovative and promising technology is guided by a courageous and determined man.
... Linking two continents, the 33 1/2-hour flight of the Spirit of St. Louis was a landmark in aviation history."
In 1957, CinemaScope produced the movie The Spirit of St. Louis, starring Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh.
President Gerald Ford remarked at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, July 4, 1975:
"We need to remind ourselves that America is really 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' And we should be proud of it ...
The pioneer spirit ... The Wright brothers mastered powered flight at Kitty Hawk. The age of flight was born ...
... From the first Atlantic crossing by the 'Lone Eagle,' Charles Lindbergh, to the American astronauts who announced that the Eagle had landed, when touchdown on the Moon, America's leadership was again established ...
The modern world places a premium on creativity and individuality ... Individualism is a safeguard against the sameness of society ..."
"A government too large and bureaucratic can stifle individual initiative by a frustrating statism.
In America ... our sovereign is the citizen, and we must never forget it.
Governments exist to serve people. The state is the creature of the populace ..."
"There is a quotation that I learned in my early days in Sunday school, that the beauty of Joseph's coat is its many colors.
And that is the strength of America ... We are not Americans alone by birth or blood, by oath or creed ...
We are Americans because we deliberately chose to be one nation, indivisible, and for 199 years, with God's help, we have gone forward together, and we will in the future ...
We have, on this Independence Day of 1975, a free government that checks and balances its own excesses and a free economic system that corrects its own errors ...
This is the amazing history Americans have written ... It still remains, in Lincoln's words, 'The last, best hope of earth.'"
In the summer of 1931, Charles and Anne Lindbergh flew from Long Island, New York, to Alaska.
They reached Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of Alaska, on the Arctic Ocean.
Point Barrow is where, four years later, Will Rogers and Wiley Post flew, but dangerous weather cause their fatal crash on August 15, 1935.
From Alaska, Charles and Anne Lindbergh flew across the Bering Strait to Siberia.
Leaving the Russian city of Petropavlovsk, Charles had to make a risky, blind descent in a fog, landing their sea plane near Ketoi Island.
Their anchor broke, and they drifted dangerously close to crashing on rocks, till they were rescued by a Japanese boat and towed to Buroton Bay.
They flew from there to the Yangtzee River in China, but their plane was damaged while being lifted onto a British ship, ending their expedition.
At the height of public attention, tragedy struck in March of 1932.
Called the "crime of the century," Charles and Anne's infant son was kidnapped and held for ransom, only later to be found dead.
The U.S. Congress responded by making kidnapping a federal crime if the kidnapper crossed state lines.
Distraught, the Charles and Anne moved to Europe in 1935, later to return in 1939.
Anne Lindbergh's moral fortitude inspired others.
Phyllis Schlafly wrote in the book, The Power of the Positive Woman (NY: Arlington House Publishers, 1978):
"Some positive women have nevertheless succeeded at this seemingly impossible task ...
... Among those who come to mind is Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of one of America's 20th-century heroes, Charles Lindbergh, and mother of six children ...
... During the 1930s, Anne Lindbergh earned a reputation as a flier and adventurer in her own right.
She later became an extremely successful author."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote in Gift from the Sea (1955):
“Don't wish me happiness. I don't expect to be happy all the time ... It's gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”
“I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.”
"I want, in fact -- to borrow from the language of the saints -- to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible."
Anne Lindbergh wrote in War Within & Without: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1939-1944:
"One writes to capture and crystallize one's joy, but also to disperse one's gloom.
Like prayer -- you go to it in sorrow more than joy, for help, a road back to 'grace'.”
In her chronicle of their 1931 expedition to China and Japan, Anne Lindbergh wrote in North to the Orient (1935):
"Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. 'You must not go - I cannot bear to have you go!
But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you.
God's hand will over you' and even - underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible -
'I will be with you; I will watch you - always.' It is a mother's good-by."