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First Automatic Airplane Landing

Fokker Y1C-14B. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Fokker Y1C-14B. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The three occupants of the C-14B and their plane, which made history's first automatic landing, were Capt. Carl J. Crane, who invented the system, Capt. George V. Holloman, who flight tested it, and Mr. Raymond Stout, a Wright Field civilian electronic engineer who assisted in developing the system. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The three occupants of the C-14B and their plane, which made history's first automatic landing, were Capt. Carl J. Crane, who invented the system, Capt. George V. Holloman, who flight tested it, and Mr. Raymond Stout, a Wright Field civilian electronic engineer who assisted in developing the system. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capts. Holloman and Crane were awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1937 for their historic flight; they were also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was presented to them by Maj. Gen. H.H. Arnold on Aug. 2, 1939. Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is named in honor of Col. Holloman, who was killed in a B-17 crash on Formosa (Taiwan) in 1946. Col. Crane retired from the Air Force in 1949. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capts. Holloman and Crane were awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1937 for their historic flight; they were also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was presented to them by Maj. Gen. H.H. Arnold on Aug. 2, 1939. Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is named in honor of Col. Holloman, who was killed in a B-17 crash on Formosa (Taiwan) in 1946. Col. Crane retired from the Air Force in 1949. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first automatic airplane landing occurred on Aug. 23, 1937. A Fokker C-14B took off from Wright Field and after its automatic equipment was switched on, it turned toward Patterson Field several miles away, gradually descended and landed using a ground radio system consisting of five transmitting beacons. This was a low-budget project and succeeded only because of the persistence of the few pioneers involved in adapting old equipment no longer needed for other projects, and in some instances, even buying materials with their own money.

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Please note Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.

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