TDIH 1914: Orville Wright nearly drowns

On August 20, 1914, Orville Wright and student pilot U.S. Navy Lt. Kenneth Whiting were trying out a modified Wright Model G Aeroboat on the Great Miami River in Dayton. Orville was at the controls and 30 feet in the air when one of the wings broke and sent the plane (and the men) into the river.

According to the Library of Congress’s Wilbur & Orville Wright: A Chronology (p. 207), Orville “narrowly escaped drowning” in the accident. The passenger Whiting also survived apparently unscathed.

Probably because the incident turned out all right in the end, Bishop Milton Wright’s August 20th diary entry refers to it by saying only that “the flyer took a dive.”

Although we do not have any photographs of the modified Wright Model G Aeroboat from the August 1914 flights, we do have several photos of the Wright Model G Aeroboat from some flights on the Great Miami River in 1913:

Wright Model G Aeroboat taking off on the Great Miami River, 1913 (photo # ms1_20_3_8)

Wright Model G Aeroboat taking off on the Great Miami River, 1913 (photo # ms1_20_3_8)

Wright Model G Aeroboat  on the Great Miami River, 1913 (photo # ms1_20_3_12)

Wright Model G Aeroboat on the Great Miami River, 1913 (photo # ms1_20_3_12)

You can view more photos of the Wright Model G Aeroboat on CORE Scholar.

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Camp Whiteside, Tennessee

On August 15, 1864, William Patterson rejoined the 1st OVI at Camp Whiteside, Tennessee — just outside Chattanooga.  In this August 20, 1864 letter to his mother, William reports that five companies have been mustered out, a sixth one will be gone tomorrow, with four companies remaining.  His company will be the last to go which he expects to be about October 7.  William also writes that the regiment is doing very little, except guarding a bridge in the mountains.  However, they are healthy with plenty of vegetables and fruit available to eat.

Finally, William indicates he received a letter from Robert, who is doing well.  In addition, he saw two officers from the 61st OVI, who gave glowing reports of Robert’s performance in the field.

Transcript of William Patterson letter, August 20, 1864.

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Kenneth Whiting, pioneer naval aviator

If you have been following the snippets of Bishop Milton Wright’s diary that we’ve been posting on Twitter and Facebook, you may have noticed the relatively frequent mention of one “Lieut. Whiting” in several entries in the summer of 1914:

Sunday, July 19: …Lieut. Whiting & wife called an hour, about 4:00.

Sunday, July 26: …Lieut. Whiting & wife dined with us, after one o’clock and remained till nearly bedtime.

Thursday, August 13: Katharine & Orville went down with Lieut. Whiting’s and came home at 4:30…

And this one yet to come (more on this in a later post):

Tuesday, August 18: …Orville and Lieut. Whiting tried the airship on the River.

Perhaps you have wondered, Who was this “Lieut. Whiting”?

Milton is referring to 33-year-old naval Lt. Kenneth Whiting. Whiting came to Dayton in late June specifically to attend the Wright Flying School and was trained personally by Orville Wright. He completed his training and was designated Naval Aviator #16 in September.

Kenneth Whiting seated in Wright B Flyer, 1914 (photo # ms1_20_8_4)

Kenneth Whiting seated in Wright B Flyer, 1914 (photo # ms1_20_8_4)

Whiting had a long career in naval aviation. He commanded the 1st Naval Air Unit in World War I. In the interwar years, he was instrumental in the development of the aircraft carrier and is sometimes called “the father of the aircraft carrier.”

Whiting and Wright center, 1940 (ms1_23_12_17)

L-R: Edward P. Warner, Captain Kenneth Whiting, Orville Wright, and General Henry H. Arnold, at Wright Memorial during the dedication ceremony, 1940 (photo # ms1_23_12_17)

The Kenneth Whiting Papers, 1901-1943, can be found at the Special Collections & Archives of the United States Naval Academy, of which Whiting was a graduate. The online finding aid includes additional details about Whiting’s life and career before and after his time learning to fly with Orville.

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