View Full Version : The First Aircraft Carrier Landing

The Sailor
28-12-2007, 03:38
Now it is 18 January 1911, and Eugene Ely is experimenting again. This time he is making the first-ever shipboard landing, aboard the old armored cruiser Pennsylvania, with a special platform built on her deck. After landing, he turned the aircraft around and took off again.

Pennsylvania had cruised to San Francisco Bay, California, where she anchored for the Eugene Ely's historic flight. Ely landed his Curtiss pusher biplane on board the ship on the morning of 18 January 1911, the first airplane landing on a warship. The landing deck, 120 feet long and 30 feet wide, was inclined slightly to help slow the plane as it landed, and had a thirty-degree ramp at its after end. She then sailed to San Diego Bay, California, and on 17 February 1911 additional test flights were conducted. Glenn Curtiss the designer of the Curtiss Hydroaeroplane was on board for these tests.

A very brave man and far ahead of his time. Look what he started.

The old cruiser's final chapter was written when she was used in bombing tests on 8 October 1931. This photograph below shows the explosion of the first 500-pound bomb in the test series.
The new era of aviation which she helped promote was also to be her ending.

28-12-2007, 14:52
Good subject Sailor. May I add a little more to the subject?

1. About to land, note the sandbags attached to the arrester wires.
2. Landing.
3. Down catching the seveth arrester wire.


28-12-2007, 15:06
Here is the build up for the first ship landing.

1. Fitting the deck.
2. Another view.
3. The finished job.
4. Stood by.
5. Taking off.

The Sailor
29-12-2007, 06:03
Terrific photos Bob. Where the hell do you find them all?

Before I joined this forum, I new nothing of seplane barges during WW1. Although I had that art work for a long while. I thought that it just showed early naval aviation. I knew nothing of barges being towed around with sea planes on them.
One gets to learn a lot on forums. Not only from reading other people's work, but more so when researching information to do one's own posts.


The Sailor
11-02-2008, 01:13
I thought I'd follow on from the first take off post to show that he could land back on as well.

23-11-2011, 07:05
Just found this thread... remember that, after landing aboard and before he took off, he had lunch with the ship's CO and senior officers... and his wife, who was guest aboard!

Shortly before 11 AM on the morning of 18 January 1911, after the usual weather-driven delays, Ely took off from Tanforan racetrack. Pennsylvania was anchored off the San Francisco waterfront, in full view of thousands of spectators ashore, on ships at the city piers, and in a flock of small craft gathered around the cruiser. The little Curtiss pusher biplane came into view, flew around ship to check arrangements and set up the landing course, and then came in toward Pennsylvania's stern. Ely was prepared to handle the existing tailwind, but apparently did not expect the updraft that struck his lightly-loaded plane just as it reached the platform. Fortunately, he responded quickly, dove and snagged the arresting gear about halfway up its length. The Curtiss pulled ropes and sandbags to a smooth stop before reaching any of the safety barriers.

Ely's wife greeted him with and enthusiastic "Oh, boy! I knew you could do it". Pennsylvania's Commanding Officer, Captain Charles F. Pond, took the pilot and important guests below for a celebratory lunch. While they dined, the landing platform was cleared and the plane turned around in preparation for takeoff. Then the Elys, Pond and the others posed for photographs. The pilot then remounted his machine and, about an hour after the World's first shipboard airplane landing, made history's second successful takeoff.

Unfortunately, only 9 months and 1 day later, on October 19, 1911, while flying at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, his plane was late pulling out of a dive and crashed. Ely jumped clear of the wrecked aircraft, but his neck was broken, and he died a few minutes later.

The full story and many pics can be found in the NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER's Online Library of Selected Images:
-- EVENTS -- The 1910s -- 1911