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DUBIOUS HONORS
Text By Wynne Dough
The events to be immortalized on an Icarus monument are still up in the air, but you probably won’t see any mention of these.
1906 May 22 The Wright brothers obtained a patent for their flying machine — on their third try. Six years earlier, someone had seriously recommended shutting down the Patent Office because there was nothing left to invent.
1908 Muriel Matters, an enfranchised Australian, dropped suffrage fliers from an 80-foot dirigible onto the British Parliament, inaugurating the political use of aircraft.
1911 The flower of Teutonic manhood was so upset by the idea of a woman pilot that several specimens drained Melli Beese’s fuel tank and sabotaged her steering before her check flight. She flew anyway and earned her license.
1913 Circa November 30 Mexican Civil War mercenaries Phil Rader and Dean Ivan Lamb exchanged pistol fire and so became the first reported aerial combatants.
1918 May 15 The U.S. Postal Service started airmail service, but quickly suspended it after the pilot got lost.
1920 April 27 Daredevil Ormer Locklear was fined $25 for “reckless aerial driving” over Los Angeles. He was killed August 2 in a stunt for his second movie, The Skywayman.
1921 November 12 Wesley May performed the first air-to-air refueling when he jumped from one aircraft to another with a five-gallon can of gasoline over Long Beach, California.
1937 April 26 German and Italian bombers in the service of Gen. Francisco Franco destroyed the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, but missed their supposed target, a bridge.
1938 July 17–18 Douglas Corrigan filed a flight plan for California, took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, and landed in Ireland the next day. “Wrong Way” Corrigan’s “compass failure” let him get around the authorities who’d refused him permission to cross the Atlantic. He received a hero’s welcome on his return to New York.
1939 July 6 Eastern Air Lines used autogiros to carry mail five miles from Philadelphia to Camden, New Jersey, roughly the distance from Manteo to Wanchese.
1947 Around July 8, an extraterrestrial vessel crashed outside Roswell, New Mexico; a large number of people, including the senior staff of Roswell AAF, mistook balloon debris for alien wreckage and corpses; a prankster fooled a lot of people; or many hallucinated a close encounter. These four summaries are about equally interesting, and at least one of them is true.
1947 November 2 Howard Hughes himself took the controls of the Hughes Aircraft H-4 flying boat, nicknamed the “Spruce Goose,” on its only flight — one mile, which was less than seventeen times its wingspan. It’s still the largest airplane ever built.
1949 January 25 The U.S. Air Force adopted blue uniforms.
1955 November 1 In an effort to collect his mother’s insurance money, John Graham blew up a United Airlines DC-6 over Colorado, killing his mother and forty-three others and inspiring a generation of terrorists.
1956 February 17 Tony LeVier accidentally made the first flight in a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter during taxi tests at Edwards AFB, California.
1959 June 8 The U.S. Post Office put 3,000 stamped envelopes into a Regulus I missile fired from the USS Barbero. It landed twenty-one minutes later at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Mayport, Florida.
1966 August 11An anonymous F-8 pilot released a paper airplane at a record altitude of 50,125 feet over Florida. The drone was never recovered.
1969 BAC and Aerospatiale unveiled the first supersonic airliner, the Concorde, for moving business travelers between holding patterns at Mach 2.2 (1,450 mph). It’s been largely replaced by the fax machine.
1979 June 12 Bryan Allen, pedaling the Gossamer Albatross, became the first human being to propel an aircraft across the English Channel by himself.
1988 October 25 The pilot of a U.S. Navy S-3 Viking from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt received a ticket for overshooting a runway in southern England and landing on a public road.
1990 July 24 The Strategic Air Command ended “Looking Glass” — more than twenty-nine years of continuous airborne alert — as a Boeing EC-135C landed at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Figures on the amount of coffee consumed are still classified.
1994 Vicki Van Meter, age twelve, flew a Cessna 210 across the Atlantic, becoming the youngest pilot to make a transatlantic flight and opening the door for toddlers and infants. The present record-holder won’t be conceived until 2017.
1999 September 23 The Mars Climate Orbiter sailed off into deep space because of software developed by two autonomous NASA teams hundreds of miles apart. (One used metric units of measure while the other stuck with U.S. measurements.)

A Monumental Undertaking / Voice in the Sky


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