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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