Trivia Testers : The First Woman to Fly Across the Atlantic

The First Woman To Fly Across the Atlantic
Who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic?

  1. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  2. Beryl Markham
  3. Amelia Earhart
  4. Jackie Cochran

Answer: C. On June 17 and 18, in 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic. (However, she was only a passenger!) To her distress, the media gave her all the attention. She did cross the Atlantic alone on May 20-21, 1932 in a Lockheed Vega, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from west to east (from Newfoundland to Great Britain). In 1936, Beryl Markham became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from east to west, flying from England to Cape Breton Island, Canada. Jackie Cochran was the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound (with a little help from her friend Chuck Yeager) in an F-86 Sabre, in 1953.

Skeletons In Aviation’s Attic?
What possibly inauspicious connection might there have been between the Wright Brothers and Lt. Thomas Etholen Selfridge, who became the first casualty of heavier-than-air flight on September 17, 1908?

  1. The Army was at first disinterested in the Wright Brothers’ offer, and although Selfridge, as a younger man, had wanted to work with them, they had actually turned him down. But more than that, they were somewhat jealous of Selfridge, who came from a rather well-to-do San Francisco family, and who had in 1903 graduated in the top third of his class at West Point (along with one Douglas MacArthur, who was, incidentally, the valedictorian).
  2. Alexander Graham Bell, along with Canadians F. W. “Casey” Baldwin and John McCurdy (Canada’s first pilot), as well as US Army officer Thomas Selfridge in 1907 founded the Aerial Experiment Association (note the similarity of its initials with a certain present-day organization) in order to implement Bell’s theories of manned flight in multicellular tetrahedral kites. (Their funding came from Bell’s wife.) But the Wright Brothers regarded Selfridge with a jaundiced eye, as he represented: the competition!
  3. They were somewhat annoyed that Selfridge had made the first solo flight by a U.S. Army officer, prior to the training that was being arranged under contract with the Signal Corps, in the new ‘White Wing’ (the AEA’s second airplane) on May 19, 1908 at Hammondsport, NY.
  4. There may be some truth to all three, but most of all, there was one more member of the AEA that I didn’t mention in choice B: Glenn Curtiss. Orville Wright, who was the pilot of that fateful flight, was suspicious of Lt. Selfridge because of his close association with Curtiss, who had, the Wright Brothers believed, recently infringed upon their patent.

Answer: D, of course. Selfridge did fly with the AEA several more times, but this was before he was actually assigned to the Signal Corps’ Aeronautical Division, at Fort Myer Virginia. (It was actually Selfridge who convinced Bell to move to Hammondsport, New York, where Glenn Curtiss was building a 40-horsepower, 8-cylinder gasoline engine.) History often has twists of fate, and this event certainly had its share. In September of 1908, Orville went to Fort Myer to demonstrate the Flyer to the Army. Selfridge had made arrangements to ride along with him on September 19, but then he received orders to go to the Missouri State Fair and Military Tournament for a Dirigible exhibition (which meant that he would lose his chance for the flight). However, at the last minute, another officer traded him for that flight. That morning, Orville flew alone around Fort Myer, but he wasn’t satisfied with one of the propellers. He replaced it with a newer, longer version in time for the flight with Lt. Selfridge. (The new type of propeller had never been flight-tested.) It is believed that prior to that fateful flight, Orville had (most ominously) written to Wilbur saying “I will be glad to have Selfridge out of the way.” Little did he know. The Flyer circled Fort Myer several times at about 150 feet. During their fifth time, there was a loud bang and one end of the propeller blade broke off. To bring the Flyer under control, Orville shut down the engine and was able to glide to about 75 feet, but then it nose-dived into the ground. Selfridge died three hours later, and Orville was hospitalized for three months.

On January 11, 1928. The USS Saratoga, the first carrier in the United States Navy, sailed from Philadelphia for her shakedown cruise on January 6. Five days later, her air officer Marc A. Mitscher, future World War II hero (and Admiral), 1910 graduate of the US Naval Academy, and 1916 graduate of the Navy’s first formal flight school at Pensacola (Naval Aviator #33) landed the first aircraft on board a carrier.

First Trap
The first powered aircraft to land aboard a ship was:

  1. earlier: on October 26, 1922. Lieutenant Commander Godfrey de Chevalier, flying an Aeromarine, made the first landing aboard USS Langley underway off Cape Henry, Virginia. (He died less than one month later in the Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, VA from injuries suffered in a plane crash near Norfolk.) The first carrier take-off had just been made nine days earlier (with a Vought VE-7SF, flown off the Langley, but by another pilot). The Langley had been commissioned just over a half-year earlier at Norfolk, having been converted from the collier USS Jupiter as the Navy’s first aircraft carrier. The engineering plans for this conversion included catapults fitted on both forward and after ends of the deck.
  2. on January 3, 1918. During World War I, Great Britain’s Royal Navy refurbished a partially completed cruiser, equipped with horizontal smokestacks like exhaust pipes, a hydraulically-mounted wheelhouse (designed to retract under the deck when launching airplanes), and initially tested on that date. Renamed the HMS Argus, it wasn’t ready before the end of WWI, but it was the world’s first”through-deck”aircraft carrier.
  3. on Jan. 18, 1911, at 11:01 AM, to be exact.., Eugene B. Ely, a civilian pilot flying a Curtiss pusher biplane, landed on a custom-built 119 foot long platform on stern of the the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, at anchor 13 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay. A few months earlier, on November 14, 1910, he had become the first person to take off from a ship, from an 83 foot platform over the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham, in port (but not at anchor) in Hampton Roads, VA. As his Curtis Biplane swooped down toward the stern (downwind, no less) both pilot and crew waited anxiously, hoping that the hooks on his plane’s underside would snag the crude rope and sandbag rigging that was strung across the deck. It worked, and carrier aviation was born…well, sort of.

Answer: D. If you took the question to mean landing aboard an aircraft carrier proper, then you might insist that it should be choice B. The definition of an aircraft carrier itself obviously changed as both designs and operational techniques were refined over the years, but I very deviously did not commit to that term, specifically. (And in fact, the very first aircraft carrier predated even the improvised modifications to the USS Birmingham and USS Pennsylvania by several decades. How on earth, you ask? Ah, but that’s the subject of another Trivia Tester!)

( Picture From 1911 ) ( Picture From 1922 )