Orville Wright Sets New World Mark for Airplane in Ft. Myer Test

By | July 28, 2009

We get a real kick out of the New York Times Traveler, which offers news from the paper from 100 years ago today. We’ve been reveling in the misadventures of that wacky President Taft. On July 28th, 1909, the top news story was, U.S. Senator Arrested in Racial Assault. But below that was an aviation story, the headline above.

It read that Orville Wright set a new world record on July 27th. He carried a passenger on his aeroplane, Lt. Frank P Lahm of the Signal Corps for 1 hour, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds, beating his brother Wilbur’s record by 3 minutes and 9 seconds. The average height of the flight was 50 feet.

Lt. Foulois and Orville Wright in 1909. (Photo courtesy of the Goodier Collection, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base, and Wikipedia)

The article reports he is to attempt the speed test. carrying Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois of the Signal Corps over the requisite ten mile course on July 28th. The flight did not take place till July 30th, when they made the first cross-country flight from Ft. Myer, near Arlington National Cemetery, to Alexandria and back, a distance of ten miles, after which the 1909 Wright Flyer was purchased by the War Department.

As soon as the record breaking flight of July 27th was completed, Orville was congratulated by President Taft, who commented that he hoped Wright’s brother wouldn’t be jealous. He raised his hand to both Wrights, and returned to the White House, leaving the brothers to bask in the glory of their triumph with other well-wishers.

The absolute control maintained by Mr. Wright over the machine is remarkable. He directs it the way a skillful jockey would direct a racehorse. When we dipped or rose the descent or ascent of the machine scarcely had begun when his wrist moved the levers to meet it. It was the same way in making the curves. He seemed instinctively to know what was going to happen next and to meet the conditions almost before they had met us. I am convinced of one thing, however, and that is that no one without experience can jump into the aeroplane and fly.” – Frank P Lahm, Signal Corps

Brigadier General Frank P. Lahm, the second to solo in the Signal Corp’s first plane, died of a stroke in Sandusky, Ohio, on July 7, 1966 at the age of 85. Major General Benjamin D. Foulois, at the time of his death at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., on April 26, 1967.

1909 Wright Flyer, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

1909 Wright Flyer, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

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