Ely Eugene

Ely Eugene: First pilot to perform a ship board launch

As Eugene became airborne from the cruiser, the Birmingham sent a historic radio message “Ely’s just gone”

Ely  Eugene, a Iowa University graduate who had taught himself to fly in 1910, boarded his curtiss pusher biplane which was placed on a makeshift wooden surface on the American light cruiser USS Birmingham in November 14, 1910. In the mid-afternoon, the weather cleared slightly and the biplane rolled of the sloped platform into air. The biplane was equipped with floats under the wings in case Eugene had to make a landing on the water. Eugene, who was part of the Curtiss Exhibition team, instinctively caused the plane to dive as the plane left the platform in order to gain speed but he miscalculated slightly causing the plane to skip off the water, thereby splintering the propeller and splashing water over his goggles. Even flying blind, Eugene managed to land his crippled plane at a nearby beach which was under 3 miles away. Although, he only was airborne for under 5 minutes, his historic flight proved the importance of aviation in naval warfare.

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