Friday, December 18, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Two Pioneers from 1912


April 3 1912: Calbraith Perry Rodgers 
Cal Rodgers was the first person to buy a private airplane and the first American to make a transcontinental flight across North America, from September 17-November 5 1911.  Rodgers was competing for a $50,000 prize offered by yellow journalist publisher William Randolph Hearst for the first transcontinental flight in under 30 days. 
            Rodgers had purchased a Wright EX biplane, A smaller version of the Wright “B” which was the first Wright craft that resembled “conventional” craft –short nose, long tail, and bearing a passing resemblance to the Curtiss JN “Jenny,” though the Wright EX was still a “pusher” with the prop mounted behind the wings.  Arriving in Pasadena at the end of his transcontinental flight, Rodgers and his spouse decided to stay in southern California. 
            On April 3, 1912, Rodgers was flying his second craft—a Wright “B” – when he flew into a flock of seagulls. The birds so fouled the controls that Rodgers could not regain control and he crashed in the surf just short of his landing destination – oddly enough, where he had landed to complete his transcontinental flight.  Cal Wright was the first aviator killed by a bird.

July 1, 1912Harriet Quimby, Woman of Speed and Daring
Well, 1912 was a bad year for aviation pioneers in the U.S. On July 1, Harriet Quimby died in a plane.  She was the first American woman to be licensed as a pilot.  She was also a noted author and screenplay writer. Two weeks after Cal Rodgers’ death, on April 16, Quimby had became the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel.  In July, along with aviator William Willard, she was flying in an air show near Boston, over Dorchester Bay. The two fell out of their Blériot biplane and tumbled 1,000 feet to their death, which is an aviation mishap but not a plane crash.