In 1908, Orville Wright arrived in Arlington to show his “flying machine” to military officers at Fort Myer.
The army had requested bids for a plane that could hold two men and fly for at least one hour for observation and reconnaissance purposes. Orville and his brother Wilbur built the machine and Orville brought it to Fort Myer for a demonstration. Orville made several flights in the first two weeks of September, setting new endurance records and impressing his audience, which included interested members of the public. However, on his last flight on the 17th, the plane crashed. Wright was injured and Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge was killed. The Selfridge Gate of Arlington National Cemetery now stands near the crash site.
Despite the crash, the US Army was interested in Wright’s machine. The brothers made improvements to the plane when it was repaired, and did a new round of flights at Fort Myer during the summer of 1909. The new machine was bought by the Army and called Signal Corps Airplane No. 1.
Silent film footage of a 1908 flight have been recently found at Fort Myer. The Virginia Room holds maps and reports documenting Fort Myer at the start of the 20th century.
What About You?
Were you or a family member stationed at Fort Meyer? Did you ever attend one of their public events? Let us know what you remember!