In November 1910, a daring young aviator named Eugene Burton Ely took off from a makeshift wooden runway aboard the warship USS BIRMINGHAM (CL-2). It was the very first flight from a ship in the annals of Naval Aviation. Three months later, Ely demonstrated that an airplane could land, as well as take off, from a ship at anchor. On January 18, 1911, flying a Glenn Curtiss built areoplane, Eugene B. Ely made history again when he took off from Selfridge Field, a make-shift air field set up at the Tanforan Racetrack during the 1911 San Francisco Air Meet, circled several vessels of the Pacific Fleet at anchor in San Francisco Bay, then made a precise and perfect landing on an inclined platform on the cruiser USS PENNSYLVANIA (ACR-4). Less than an hour later Ely would again make history by making a perfect take-off from that same platform. With that, Naval Aviation and the Aircraft Carrier were soon to be born. Less than a month later, on February 15, 1911, the California National Guard established its first Aeronautical Detachment and Eugene B. Ely enlisted as its first private. In March 1911 he was appointed Aviation Aide to the Governor of California and later, in June of that year, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the California National Guard --becoming the National Guard's first aviator.
(c) Copyright 1996-2003
Naval History Research & Study Element
California Center for Militay History
To Learn more about California's Role in Aviation History just click the California Bear Flag.