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NEWS | March 11, 2024

Joint Base San Antonio celebrates one of many historical military firsts

By Summer Shuler 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston recently celebrated the 114th anniversary of military flight achieved when Army Lt. Benjamin Foulois made history, piloting the Army’s first aircraft Signal Corps Aircraft No. 1, on March 2, 1910.

“I wonder if Lt. Benjamin Foulois understood at the time, when he flew 150 feet and 50 miles per hour, the trail he was going to blaze with that historic flight,” noted JBSA and 502d Air Base Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Russell D. Driggers.

When Foulois climbed aboard the Army aircraft at Fort Sam Houston on March 2, 1910, he took to the air at 9:30 a.m. in a flight that lasted just seven and a half minutes.

Foulois made four flights that day, crashing on the last flight due to a broken fuel pipe. The premier flight became known as the "birth of military flight," and Foulois became known as the "father of U.S. military aviation."

"I made my first solo, my first landing and my first crackup – all the same day," Foulois once said.

“We chuckle at that now, but back then, it was amazing,” Driggers said. “The pace of change and the pace of progress is as unyielding now as it ever was. The demand for bold ideas and bold leadership is upon us as strongly as it ever was for Lt. Foulois and other aviation pioneers.”

Foulois achieved many firsts in his career. He achieved the first military flight by a military aviator, first solo takeoff, first solo landing, and the first of many crashes. He also demonstrated the use of the aircraft for aerial mapping, photography and reconnaissance, the use of a radio while airborne, and is credited with inventing the seatbelt.

Driggers noted that none of this would have happened without the boldness of ideas that is part of the American spirit.

It was also about pioneers, like Foulois, leveraging aviation and using airpower to harness the inevitable changes that came with warfare, all with the hopes of bringing a swift end to the conflict.

“Mission success is dependent on the excellence of our people, the strength of our partnerships, and the boldness and righteousness of our purpose,” Driggers said. “We have amazing people and partnerships here in San Antonio, and we enjoy a righteous purpose of defending this great nation. With that backdrop now more than ever, it’s going to take boldness of ideas and bold leadership.”