- In December 1902 a Wright brothers built glider flew 600 feet. A World Record
- December 17, 1903 The Wright built the first successful powered airplane and Wilbur Wright flew 852 feet (260 m) in 59 seconds a World Record.
- October 5, 1905 Wilbur Wright flew for 39 minutes and a total distance of 24 1/2 miles. a World Record in what is called today “The world’s first practical airplane”
- WHAT'S GOING ON IN EUROPE? In 1906, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont set the first world record(**) recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale of France by flying 220 meters (720 ft) in 21.5 seconds. more than 4 years behind the Wrights.
According to the April 1907 issue of the Scientific American magazine the Wright brothers had the most advanced knowledge of heavier-than-air navigation at the time.
** Although the Wright Brothers were setting and breaking world records from 1902-1908, they did not publish these records. So nobody in Europe would be aware of what they were doing. The Wright brothers didn't seek public recognition for their innovations until after they received their patent in 1908. So they followed what was happening in Europe closely, and were silent when others were recognized as world record holders, right up until 1908 when they publicly demonstrated their accomplishments. After 1905 when a newspaper did publish an account of their longest flight, the Wrights declined to fly again for years until their patent was secure... such was their discipline in protecting their ideas and fear of others stealing them.
September 9, 1908 from the United Press.
WRIGHT BREAKS WORLD FLYING RECORDS TODAY AT FORT MYER, VA.
The Wright aeroplane, operated by the aviator, whose brother Wilbur has been conducting successful tests in France, sailed today over and around the parade ground at Fort Myer, Va., for 57 minutes and 31 seconds, exceeding by more than 26 minutes the world-breaking record made last Monday by Delagrange, near Paris.
By the spring of 1908 the Wrights had been granted a patent and had signed contracts to sell airplanes to both the U.S. Army and the French Army.
1909 the American Glen Curtis Won the first international air speed record with 46.5 mph (74.8 km/h) in Rheims, France
On April 6, 1917 the US enters World War I. From 1917 through Armistice, the American Expeditionary Force: Air Service, flew a total 2,698 planes, Of these less than one-fourth (667) were of American manufacture and none of those American planes were combat ships.
- The United States did not produce any aircraft of its own design for use at the front during World War I.
- Without European assistance the United States could not have gone into battle
Here are the thoughts of America's Top Ace in WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker on the contributions of America's aircraft industry to the United States Army Air Corps during WWI. Rickenbacker flew a French fighter plane called a Nieuport throughout the war, as did many American flyers.
From Eddie V. Rickenbacker's "Fighting the Flying Circus", End of Chapter 12.
** Discussing the Nieuport's issue where in dives the top wing would fly off ensuring in most cases the Plane could not fly and would drop out of the sky **
From the frequency of these accidents to our Nieuports it may be wondered why we continued to use them. The answer is simple—we had no others we could use! The American Air Forces were in dire need of machines of all kinds. We were thankful to get any kind that would fly.
The French had already discarded the Nieuport for the steadier, stronger Spad, and thus our Government was able to buy from the French a certain number of these out-of-date Nieuport machines for American pilots—or go without. Consequently, our American pilots in France were compelled to venture out in Nieuports against far more experienced pilots in more modern machines. None of us in France could understand what prevented our great country from furnishing machines equal to the best in the world. Many a gallant life was lost to American aviation during those early months of 1918, the responsibility for which must lie heavily upon some guilty conscience.
What happened? Why had American Airplane design and manufacture fallen so far behind the rest of the world in 1918 that it could not produce any combat aircraft for American forces when it clearly was still producing World Records as late as 1909.