Chesapeake Bay - 20th Century - The Mariners' Museum
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Introduction
Shipbuilding on the Chesapeake
Curtiss Flying School
Eugene Ely
Langley Field
German Ships in Hampton Roads
Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation
Fort Monroe and Coastal Defense
Fort McHenry
Camp Eustis
Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads
Suggested Reading

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Curtiss Flying School

In 1915, aviator and airplane manufacturer Glenn Hammond Curtiss opened a flying school on the Chesapeake Bay in the city of Newport News, Virginia. The Curtiss Flying School attracted a number of hopeful American aviators, and with World War I already raging in Europe, a large number of Canadians hoping to volunteer for the Royal Flying Corps. Other students included Italians, Swedes, and French.

Curtiss Aviation School, Hydroplane in flight
Curtiss Aviation School, Hydroplane in flight
The Curtiss Flying School was located on a 20-acre tract overlooking Hampton Roads. A 400-minute course was offered for the cost of $400-one dollar per minute. Several famous men traveled to Newport News for instruction, including world-famous ballroom dancer Vernon Castle and Geoffrey O'Hara, composer of the popular tune of the day,"K-K-K-Katy." (To hear the song, go to http://www.melodylane.net/ and go to MIDI World War I songs.)

Probably the most famous student was Major Billy Mitchell, who traveled from Washington D.C. each weekend to attend the school. Mitchell would eventually lead all American aviation units in France. One of the military's greatest supporters of air power, Mitchell successfully demonstrated his theories following the war. Off the coast of Virginia, Mitchell used captured German and outdated American warships as targets to prove the strategic importance of air power against naval strength. "No surface vessels can exist wherever air forces acting from land bases are able to attack them," Mitchell declared.

Aerial bombing of ex German warship off Hampton Roads, Virginia   Ex German warship sinking after aerial bombing.
Aerial bombing of ex German warship off Hampton Roads, Virginia   Ex German warship sinking after aerial bombing.
Glenn H. Curtiss and Lt. Ellyson in cockpit of their flying machine, 1910
Glenn H. Curtiss and Lt. Ellyson in cockpit of their flying machine, 1910

With the creation of more military flying schools in the region, including Langley Field in Hampton and the Norfolk Operating Base, and with a limited land area in which to expand, the Curtiss Flying School closed its doors in 1922.


Continue to: Eugene Ely

 

 

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