Today in 1909: US Army Signal Corps Accepts First Powered Aircraft


On Aug. 2, 1909, the Aeronautical Division of the US Army Signal Corps accepted its first powered aircraft, know as the Wright Military Flyer or the Wright Model A, designated Signal Corps No. 1. The aircraft was a unique 1908 prototype of the Wright Brothers’ 1905 Flyer III, with a shorter wingspan and higher speed. The aircraft was demonstrated at Fort Myer, Va., on June 25, 1909, and after extensive testing met Army specifications that it could fly at 40 mph with two people for 125 miles. The Army accepted the aircraft on Aug. 2 and paid the Wrights $30,000, valued at about $800,000 today. The 1st Aero Squadron — America’s first heavier than air flying unit — was established on March 5, 1913 and remains in service today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif. The Signal Corps No. 1 aircraft is on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington. The only production Model A in existence is displayed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. That aircraft was demonstrated by the Wrights in September 1909 at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008.

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