Pioneers and Inventors

Since shortly after the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Florida has attracted entrepreneurs, inventors, and investors, not to mention the U.S. military and scientists, interested in the possibilities of flight.

Florida's flat landscapes and long stretches of beach proved excellent locations for early flight testing. Its strategic position as the southernmost state of the continental United States, with a jutting peninsula going into the Atlantic toward Latin America and with ample ocean ports, has destined Florida to be a hub for Air Force and Naval Air activities.

Photograph of Wright Brothers' flight (ca. 1910)

Image Number: GR0629

Cadet Rissler in plane from Carlstrom Field: Arcadia Region, Florida (192-)

Image Number: N027821

Carlstrom Field was a flight training site for the U.S. Army Air Service (called Army Air Corps beginning in 1926).

Charles Lindbergh with the "Spirit of St. Louis": Jacksonville, Florida (1927)

Image Number: N027973

Spirit of St. Louis: Jacksonville, Florida (1927)

Image Number: RC15174

Charles Lindbergh's visit to Jacksonville a few months after his trans-Atlantic flight.

Day of Griscom's flight with Wilbur Wright flying the plane (1909)

Image Number: PR00445

In April 1909 the Wright Brothers traveled to Centocelle Field outside of Rome, Italy, in order to provide flight training to two Italian lieutenants. Spectators included Italian King Victor Emmanuelle III, financier J.P. Morgan, and the United States Ambassador to Italy, Lloyd C. Griscom. This flight included Ambassador Griscom as a passenger.

Preparation for Lloyd C. Griscom's ascent with Wilbur Wright (1909)

Image Number: PR00441

Takeoff for Lloyd C. Griscom's ascent with Wilbur Wright (1909)

Takeoff for Lloyd C. Griscom's ascent with Wilbur Wright (1909)

Image Number: PR00440

Ornithopter and inventor George R. White at Saint Augustine (1927)

Image Number: PR00456

Ornithopter: wing-flapping, foot-propelled flying machine made by George R. White. Trial flights were conducted in St. Augustine. The ornithopter weighed 118 pounds, was 8 feet in length, and had a wing span of 29.5 feet. The frame was made of chrome molybdenum covered with a non-inflammable transparent celluloid fabric. It crashed on test flight, but was later improved.

Ornithopter and creator George R. White at St. Augustine (1927)

Image Number: PR00436

Ornithopter and creator George R. White at St. Augustine (1927)

Image Number: PR00457

Ornithopter and creator George R. White at St. Augustine (1927)

Image Number: PR00458

Ornithopter and creator George R. White at St. Augustine (1927)

Image Number: PR00437

With the state's prominence as a tourist location, and the later location of aeronautical and aerospace industries there as a result of the development of Cape Canaveral as a spaceport, Florida has remained an attractive choice for commercial, scientific, and recreational flying interests.

Gates Flying Circus (ca. 1927)

Image Number: PR00469

Gates Flying Circus performed on Daytona Beach. They flew Standard J-1s with Hisso engines, and enlarged the front cockpit to hold four passengers. Steel ladders were permanently bolted on both sides of the passenger cockpit so that new passengers were loaded while others disembarked. Starting at top and reading around the picture are Clyde E. Pangborn, Chief Pilot; Ivan R. Gates, General Manager; Jack Ashcraft, Pilot; Eddie Brooks, Pilot; Bill Wunderlich, Acrobat; George Daws, Director of Exploitation; Chance Walker, Pilot; Freddie Lund, Pilot; A. F. Frantz, Chief Aerial Acrobat.

Pilot for the Mabel Cody Flying Circus holds steady as Bugs McGowan transfers from the car to the plane (1921)

Image Number: PR00465

A pilot for the Mabel Cody Flying Circus flew her plane above Sig Haugdahl, in his Miller 8 Special automobile, on Daytona Beach while Bugs McGowan transferred himself from the car to the plane.

Burgess N-10 looping and performing acrobatics above Pensacola (1918)

Image Number: PR00607

Mabel Cody performing stunt over Vilano Beach: Saint Augustine, Florida (1924)

Image Number: RC06267

A pilot for the Mabel Cody Flying Circus flew her plane above Sig Haugdahl, in his Miller 8 Special automobile, on Daytona Beach while Bugs McGowan transferred himself from the car to the plane.

Jess Dixon in his flying automobile (ca. 1945)

Image Number: PR75950

Accompanying note: "Built by Jess Dixon of Andalusia, Ala. Can fly forward, backward or straight up or hover in the air. Runs on road or flys across country. 40 H.P. motor, air cooled, speeds to 100 m.p.h."

Aerocar on display at the EAA Fly-in: Lakeland, Florida (1990)

Image Number: DM2839

Photo by Dale McDonald.

Men and early biplane: Kissimmee, Florida (ca. 1910)

Image Number: RC07966

Stuntman hanging from wing of flying Jenny: Daytona Beach, Florida (1923)

Image Number: RC13137

Louis "Bugs" McGowan, pilot and stuntman, hangs from lower wing of Bill Lindley's "Jenny" after completing a race car to airplane transfer on Daytona Beach. McGowan died trying to perform a new stunt six months later.

Harold Neumann with Miss Chevrolet in Miami, Florida (1936)

Image Number: RC15155

The Howard DGA-5 plane held the "Inverted Speed Record" in the 1930s. It was one of two similar planes, "Mike and Ike," designed by Texas-born pioneer aviator and aeronautical engineer Benny Howard. This plane, "Ike" (NR56Y), was sponsored by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors and was known as "Miss Chevrolet." Mr. Neumann, born in 1906, was named the fastest airplane pilot in 1935 after winning the Thompson Trophy race in the National Air Races in Cleveland. He died on July 5, 1995.

Clarence Chamberlin at Cowan's Beach Airport: Daytona Beach, Florida (1928)

Image Number: RC15173

Two weeks after Lindbergh landed in Paris, Chamberlin took off from New York in a Wright Bellanca named "Miss Columbia" and headed for Berlin, Germany. His sponsor, Charles A. Levine, accompanied him as passenger. Chamberlin ran short of fuel and landed 100 miles short of Berlin in Eiselben, Germany. He was the first pilot to carry a passenger across the Atlantic, a world's nonstop distance record of 3,911 miles.