Category Archives: Aviation

Today Walter Brookins Stands Out A Mile

Walter Brookins
“I never think of the danger. I get so interested in what I am doing that I forget my own safety. You would too if you were up there with me, for it is a wonderful sensation.”

We’ve all heard of the Wright Brothers – the Americans from Ohio credited for designing and building the first aircraft. They made the first heavier-than-air human flight in December 1903 and together paved the way for the development of modern aeroplanes. This day back in 1910, however, belongs to the young boy who lived next door to Orville and Wilbur Wright; who’d known the brothers since he was four and who grew up dreaming of the  day Orville Wright would build him his very own aircraft to fly…

Walter Brookins was fascinated by the Wright Brothers. As a boy, he would venture next door to watch them work away on whirring motors and spluttering propellers. His fearless attitude and fierce curiosity at such a young age won the brothers over and it wasn’t long before Orville decided Walter would be the first person he’d train to fly in one of his machines.

Walter or “Brookie” as the Wright family called him, learned to fly in 1909 at the Wright Flying School when he was 20 years old. After only two and a half hours of instruction, he achieved his first solo flight. He used his natural aviation talents teaching others to fly when Orville wasn’t around, and eventually he became an aviation pioneer in his own right. In fact Brookins became the most daring member of the Wright Flyers team in several exhibition flights and meets.

"The Wright flyers put on three thrillers. Walter Brookins, whose name is now written in aviation history, added to his fame by making one of the most sensational short turns ever successfully accomplished. In a short turn exhibition he brought his machine up to such an angle that from the stands it looked like it was standing in end and he would be pitched to the ground one hundred feet below. The game youngster righted his craft with all ease, however and established a record for short turns that it is believed will stand for many a day. It is not believed by Brookins himself that he could ever tilt a biplane to such an angle again and get away with it. The trick made hearts stand still, and even the Wrights were amazed at the young fellow's daring." From The Indianaopolis News June 17th 1910.

On 14th June 1910 he made a world record flight, flying 1,335m high (4,380ft), and later set world records for both altitude and endurance. He smashed his own world record for flying at the highest altitude on July 10th 1910 in New Jersey, when he broke through the clouds 1,882m (6,175ft) high in his Wright biplane.

One hundred and five years ago today, he became the first person in history to fly at an altitude of one mile.

Read more about Walter Brookins and The Wright Brothers on Grace’s Guide.

Amy Johnson: One of the Greatest British Female Pilots

Did you know on this day back in 1903, one of Britain’s greatest female pilots was born?

Amy Johnson (1 July 1903 – 5 January 1941)  was a pioneering English aviatrix that set numerous long-distance records  and became a leading role model for women around the world.

"Believe nothing to be impossible"
“Believe nothing to be impossible”

Born in Hull, to a wealthy fish merchant, she was educated at Hull’s Boulevard Municipal Secondary School and graduated in 1925 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Sheffield University.

She was introduced to flying as a hobby, gaining a pilot’s A Licence No. 1979 on 6 July 1929 at the London Aeroplane Club under the tutelage of Captain Valentine Baker. In that same year, she became the first British woman to obtain a ground engineer’s ‘C’ licence.

Her father was one of her strongest supporters. With funds from her father and Lord Wakefield she purchased a second-hand de Havilland Gipsy Moth she named “Jason”, and with Jason she achieved global recognition when in 1930 she became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia, covering some 11,000 miles.

Only a year later in July 1931, she flew with co-pilot Jack Humphreys from London to Moscow within one day. This was a journey, never achieved before. They continued to Siberia and on to Tokyo, smashing another record time for flying to Japan from England in a de Havilland Puss Moth.

Amy set a solo record from London to Cape Town in 1932, and further record duo flight with her husband Jim Mollison  in 1934 as part of the Britain to Australia MacRobertson Air Race. Her last-record breaking flight was made in May 1936 flying again from London to South Africa.

Amy Johnson tragically lost her life on 5th January 1941 when the Airspeed Oxford aircraft she was flying from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington went off course and crashed into the Thames Estuary.  She was flying in very poor weather conditions and was way off course. Her body was never recovered. Even today there still remains much controversy over the cause of the crash, although in 1999 it was reported she was shot down after failing to give the correct identification code during her flight.

She was a remarkable role-model in the engineering and aviation world inspiring people across the globe.

“I am an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things. The first to qualify as a ground engineer. The first to fly to Australia single-handed. A million people lined the streets of London when I came home. I waved to them from an open-topped car like the queen, the queen of the air.” Amy Johnson

A collection of souvenirs of her was donated by her father at Sewerby Park, Bridlington and The Science Museum, London also has an archive.

Continue to read about Amy Johnson

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To celebrate the life and achievements of Amy Johnson, look out for the Amy Johnson Memorial Air Show at Herne Bay this year on Saturday August 15th. The show will feature the world famous Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Team amongst other must-see attractions.

 

 

 

 

On This Day in 1910…

Eugene Ely performed the first shipboard aircraft take-off and landing.

First airplane takeoff from a warship
Image sourced from Ancient US-Navy saylor (uploaded by W.wolny) (US Navy Photo #: NH 77601) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A keen salesman, racing driver and mechanic, Eugene Ely also had natural skills as an aviator that were to fame him as one of the greatest aviation pioneers in history.

Young and ambitious, in the early months of 1910 when he worked for Mr. Wemme as an auto salesman, he taught himself to fly using the Curtiss biplane Mr. Wemme had bought.

After mastering the art of flying the aircraft in only a few months, Ely never looked back.

He flew to Minnesota to attend an exhibition, and it was here he met Glenn Curtiss and became a well-known pilot within the Curtiss Exhibition Team receiving an Aero Club of America pilot’s license, No. 17 on the 5th October 1910.

In the same month, both Ely and Curtiss had made their acquaintance with Captain Washington I. Chambers who had recently been asked by the Navy to identify how the study of aviation could benefit problems in naval warfare. Chambers realised in order to prove aeroplanes could operate at sea, successful take-offs and landings from ships had to be achieved.

Naturally, Ely jumped at this challenge.

On November 14th 1910, Ely’s Curtiss aircraft was hoisted aboard the USS Birmingham at Norfolk before a temporary wooden platform and the ship readied for the experiment at Chesapeake Bay.  It was an unsteady take-off where the aircraft literally plunged off the edge of the ship’s bow. The wheels dipped and skimmed the sea, breaking off one of the propeller blades. Ely managed to steady the aircraft, remain airborne for a further 2 miles, and land safely on the sandy beach at Willoughby Bay.

He became the first man to take-off from a ship and land safely afterwards at just 24 years old with only a few months of flying experience.