Eugene Burton Ely

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Eugene Ely
Takeoff from USS Birmingham
Landing on USS Pennsylvania

Eugene Burton Ely (born October 21, 1886 in Davenport or York Township , Iowa , † October 19, 1911 in Macon , Georgia ) was an American aviation pioneer , to whom the first departure from and the first landing on a makeshift aircraft carrier is ascribed.


There are contradicting information about his place of birth. In addition to the former, some sources also mention Williamsburg , Iowa. What is known, however, is that Ely grew up near Davenport, Iowa. He attended Iowa State University , which he left with a degree in 1904. He then moved to San Francisco , California , where he devoted himself to motorsport, which at the time was still in its infancy. He moved to Portland , Oregon in 1910 . Here he found a job as a representative at E. Henry Wemme (1861-1914), a successful businessman. Shortly thereafter, Wemme managed, which came in the early days of the automobile and the airplane in these businesses as an investor in appearance, one of the first four-cylinder Curtiss D - biplanes of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and obtained the exclusive rights to sell the Pacific Northwest.

Since Wemme couldn't fly himself, Ely offered him his services, believing that flying was as easy as driving a car. During a first attempt at flight, Ely crashed. He bought the Wemme wreck because he felt responsible for the loss of the plane . Within a few months he had repaired the plane and learned to fly. He initially flew in particular in the Portland area. He took part in an air show in Winnipeg , Canada , before moving to Minneapolis , Minnesota , in June 1910 to join the service of Glenn Curtiss.

In October 1910 Ely and Curtiss met the Navy officer Washington Chambers (1856-1934), who was active at the time as a commissioner for the development of naval aviation. At this meeting, two flight attempts were agreed. On the first attempt on November 14, 1910, Ely took off from a platform that had been erected on the light cruiser USS Birmingham . Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely landed his plane on a platform on the battleship USS Pennsylvania , which was anchored in San Francisco . This was the first time that the catch hook system developed by Hugh Armstrong Robinson (1881–1963), which is still in use today, was used.


On October 19, 1911, Ely was killed in a crash during an air show in Macon, Georgia . His body was transferred to Williamsburg, Iowa for burial.

In 1933 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in recognition of his achievements in naval aviation.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Handelsblatt of January 17, 2011 (accessed on March 29, 2011)
  2. a b Naval Historical Center, January 5, 2003 (accessed March 29, 2011)
  3. a b Center for Military History ( Memento of the original dated February 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. in December 2010 (accessed March 29, 2011)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. a b c , grave of Eugene Ely (accessed March 29, 2011)

Web links