The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955 Page: 343
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The Origin of Military Aviation in Texas, 1910o-193 343
sion in the office of the Chief Signal Officer, Brigadier General
James Allen, on August 1, 1907. This division was placed under
the command of Captain Charles deForest Chandler, who had
been active in the Signal Corps balloon program, and the division
was given control of all matters pertaining to "military balloon-
ing, air machines, and kindred subjects."2
The establishment of the Aeronautical Division of the Signal
Corps was the forerunner of the purchase of the Army's first
airplane. After a series of events involving Signal Corps specifica-
tionsO and the submission of proposals by the interested manufac-
turers, the contract between the United States government and
the Wright brothers was signed on February io, 19o8, and the
purchase was completed on August 2, 1909. The preliminary test
flights had been delayed almost a year by the accident of Septem-
ber 17, 19go8, which killed Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge and
severely injured pilot Orville Wright.4
After the Signal Corps of the Army obtained an airplane,
little time was lost in establishing a school for pilot training. The
site selected for this first school was a field near the Maryland
Agricultural College" at College Park, Maryland. Wilbur Wright
was employed as an instructor and was assigned to the College
Park school. His three aviation students were Lieutenants Frank
P. Lahm, Cavalry; Frederick E. Humphreys, Corps of Engineers;
and Benjamin D. Foulois, Infantry. Pilot personnel was secured
from the various branches of the Army, but "this did not create
vacancies for replacements in those branches, and none could
2For a detailed account of the experiments with observation balloons, dirigible
balloons, and, in general, interest in aeronautical subjects by the United States
Army, 1860-1907, see Charles deForest Chandler and Frank P. Lahm, How Our
Army Grew Wings; Airmen and Aircraft Before 1914 (New York, 1943), 1-162.
sIbid., 296-297. Among other things, Signal Corps specification No. 486 covered
"the construction of a flying machine supported entirely by the dynamic reaction
of the atmosphere and having no gas bag." It was further specified that the
machine should be designed so that it could be quickly and easily assembled and
taken apart "and packed for transportation in army wagons," carry two persons
with a combined weight of three hundred and fifty pounds, carry enough gasoline
for a flight of one hundred and twenty-five miles, have a flying speed of at least
forty miles per hour in still air, be able to land in a field without requiring a
specially prepared spot, and should be "sufficiently simple in its construction and
operation to permit an intelligent man to become proficient in its use within a
reasonable length of time."
5Now the University of Maryland.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955, periodical, 1955; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101158/m1/410/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.