Orville and Wilbur Wright developed the principles of manned, powered flight, first demonstrated on 17 December 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with their Wright Flyer. But it was Glenn Hammond Curtiss who in large measure was responsible for the “selling” of aviation by putting his early flying machines to practical use.1
In 1908, 30-year-old Curtiss designed, built, and flew his own airplane. He won nationwide attention in May 1910 by capturing the New York World’s $10,000 prize for being the first aviator to fly from Albany to New York City. He made the 1421/2-mile trip in 2 hours, 50 minutes. Somewhat prematurely, the World claimed: “The battles of the future will be fought in the air! The aeroplane will decide the destiny of nations.”
1. Curtiss aircraft are best described in Peter M. Bowers, Curtiss Aircraft 1907-1947 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), and Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, United States Navy Aircraft since 1911 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1976), pp. 91-154, 424-428.
2. Subsequently, naval aviation moved back to Annapolis and then, in January 1914, to Pensacola, Florida.