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History of Flight Online Extra



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Sailors on Masts Watch Eugene Ely Land on History's First "Airplane Carrier"
Photograph from U.S. Navy, Official

Ely in 1911 proved carriers practicable by landing at 40 miles an hour (60 kilometers an hour) on the stern of the cruiser Pennsylvania, which had rigged a deck platform scarcely wider than his Curtiss biplane. Ropes stretched between sandbags arrested his speed. Shortly after, he took off and flew 12 miles (19 kilometers) to an airfield near San Francisco.

The world's first aircraft carrier preceded the Pennsylvania by half a century. During the Civil War the G.W. Parke Custis, a remodeled coal barge, carried an observation balloon to spy on Confederate positions across the Potomac.





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