Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Wright 1909 Military Flyer

The Wright 1909 Military Flyer became the first military heavier-than-air flying machine. Upon purchase by the Signal Corps for $30,000 on Aug. 2, 1909, the U.S. Army designated the Wright 1909 Military Flyer as Signal Corps Airplane No. 1, and it remained the only Army airplane for nearly two years.

In October 1909, Wilbur Wright used Signal Corps No. 1 to give flight instruction to Lts. Frank P. Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys. In 1910 Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois taught himself how to fly in Signal Corps No. 1 while stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. By March 1911, after several crashes and repairs, the Army retired Signal Corps No. 1. It is now on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

This airplane on display is an exacting reproduction constructed by museum personnel in 1955. It is equipped with an engine donated by Orville Wright and chains, sprockets and propellers donated by the heirs of the Wright estate.

Engine: 4-cylinder Wright of 30.6 hp
Maximum speed: 42 mph
Maximum endurance: 1 hour
Span: 36 ft. 6 in.
Length: 28 ft. 11 in.
Height: 7 ft. 10 1/2 in.
Weight: 740 lbs.

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Find Out More
Yesterday's Air Force: 1909 Wright Flyer (Air Force TV) (00:04:25)
Other Resources
Logbook of Signal Corps No. 1: The U.S. Army's First Airplane (Provided by AFHSO)